By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog
TALLAHASSEE – Poor Stephen Ross. The New York real estate mogul and owner of the Miami Dolphins may be the poorest multi-billionaire living among us.
Ross’s net worth, according to Forbes, is $4.4 billion, yet, hat in hand, he went to Florida Legislature earlier this year looking for $289 million in public assistance to renovate the Dolphins’ Sun-Life Stadium.
Too much, apparently, for the 83rd richest man in America to raise privately.
The funding plan called for taxing tourists and visitors staying at Miami-Dade County hotels, as well as securing $90 million in state sales tax rebates. But the “economic development” bills ultimately failed.
To show just how badly Ross needed the taxpayer handouts, he is celebrating the start of the Dolphins’ 2013 season Sunday by giving his alma mater, the U of M, $200 million. That’s the University of Michigan by the way, not the University of Miami.
The generous personal gift is, of course, for the university’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business and the Stephen M. Ross Athletic Campus, or athletic department.
“Stephen Ross provided us with the resources and vision to develop our signature Ross building,” said Alison Davis-Blake, dean of the Ross School of Business in a news release.
“This historic gift is not only an investment in the University of Michigan, but also in our state.”
“Stephen Ross shares our vision for an Athletic Campus that provides every student-athlete access to world-class facilities to successfully train and compete at the highest level athletically and academically,” said Dave Brandon, the university’s director of athletics.
But Ross’s vast wealth and record philanthropic donation don’t seem to square with his desire for taxpayer stadium funding — a for-profit undertaking.
“It strikes me as peculiar timing that Mr. Ross decided to have this made known at this time,” sports economist Andrew Zimbalist told the Associated Press. “If I were in Miami, then I would have additional questions about why he needed public funding for his stadium.”
Ross has publicly stated the funding is critical for Miami’s chances of landing another Super Bowl. The city last hosted the game in 2010.
Norman Braman, a former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, told the South Florida Business Journal in January, “It’s still wrong. It’s still a subsidy. It’s still welfare for a multi-billionaire.”
Braman said, “It’s Marlins 2 revisited,” referring to the $642 million Miami Marlins baseball stadium, funded mostly by Florida taxpayers.
Ross reportedly spent $10 million pushing his government subsidy plan and blames House Speaker Will Weatherford for failing to bring the stadium funding bills to a vote.
After the embarrassing defeat, Ross, a New York resident, vowed to get more involved in Florida politics. He promptly started a political action committee, or PAC, called Florida Jobs First.
According to Politico.com, the PAC will support Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election bid and make a “non-partisan effort” in certain state races.
That will likely put a target on the backs of state Reps. Michael Bileca, Jose Felix Diaz and Carlos Trujillo – all Miami area legislators who opposed using taxpayer money for the Sun-Life project.
Weatherford is also said to be in Ross’s crosshairs. Weatherford has offered no official response to the 73-year old billionaire’s recent $200 million pledge to Michigan.
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