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Marlins To Be Sold For $150M

Commodities trader John Henry says he has reached a tentative agreement to buy the Florida Marlins from founding owner Wayne Huizenga for $150 million.

Henry, 48, also says he's likely to ask Miami Heat owner Micky Arison about investing in the Marlins after the deal is done, The Miami Herald reported Friday.

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"I have a handshake deal with Huizenga Holdings president Rick Rochon to buy the team," said Henry. "But nothing is signed, so it's not a done deal. We still have a number of issues to work out. We're shooting for Oct. 31 as a closing date."

Henry said he would be interested in adding Arison as a minority owner, but has yet to talk to him.

Arison was out of town and unavailable for comment Thursday, but he would consider investing in Henry's bid to buy the Marlins if the team built a domed stadium in downtown Miami, said Jay Cross, Heat president of business operations.

"If John Henry approached us about investing, would we entertain it? Yes," Cross said. "We would listen to anybody who approached us with an investment that would result in a sports entertainment complex in Miami."

Arison, however, would not help finance a ballpark with his own money, Cross said.

Under one potential scenario, Arison would become a limited partner in the Marlins and Henry would become a limited partner in the Heat.

"It's a theoretical possibility, but it hasn't been discussed," Cross said.

If the Marlins borrow money to build a stadium -- a very realistic scenario -- Arison as a limited partner would assume a share of the debt.

Henry has said he would like a stadium in downtown Miami, but would pay for it with private money only as a last resort. Other sites are also a possibility.

Elected officials will be contacted about getting public financing for a stadium, which could cost as much as $400 million, once the Marlins sale is complete, Henry said.

"If the Marlins build their wn stadium, they will play in a beautiful ballpark," Henry said. "However, the Marlins will not be able to compete on the field at all. Every major league team that has a ballpark built had some public funding."

After winning the World Series last year, the Marlins have the worst record in baseball this year -- worse than the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks. Florida lost its 99th game on Thursday.

Its payroll is third-lowest in the major leagues, but Henry promised to change that. He said he would increase the payroll from its current $13 million to more than $20 million. He envisions signing at least two quality pitchers for the 1999 season and wants to keep the Marlins' emerging young stars under contract.

"As these players develop and mature, we will have tremendous potential," he said. "By the year 2000, this team should gel into a very exciting year."

A deal with Henry became possible hen Huizenga lowered his price to $150 million from $165 million. Huizenga also relented on his demand for a 27-year broadcast deal between the Marlins and SportsChannel Florida, which he is selling.

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