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Business drama unfolds at Miami Arena auction


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Business drama unfolds at Miami Arena auction

Susan Stabley

August 13, 2004

South Florida Business Journal


Moments after Palm Beach County investor Glenn Straub outbid parking lot magnate Hank Sopher for the Miami Arena on Tuesday, the new owner was shuffled backstage by auction officials to sign documents.


Sopher, whose $25 million proposition to the city March 2 for the 15-year-old arena sparked the auction, conceded to Straub's $28.01 million offer after 23 minutes of heated bidding.


A swarm of media milled around, asking Sopher and Miami Mayor Manny Diaz: Who was that guy? The man was a mystery in Miami.


Not so in Wellington, where Straub is not a stranger, but the controversial owner of Palm Beach Polo and Country Club. Nor is he unknown in Dania Beach, where he is the president of Broward Yachts.


When Straub returned before the news cameras, he disclosed he had just spoken with Mayor Diaz for the first time. Instead of announcing plans for a massive redevelopment, he said he wants to use the 347,177-square-foot facility and keep most of its employees. He said he's eying a niche market for conventions and events too small for the AmericanAirlines Arena and too big for area hotels, hoping to book the 16-year-old building 105 days a year.


"I would say the price is a very fair price," Straub said. "Buying from the government works for us."


The underused 14,696-seat arena opened in 1988 as the venue for the Miami Heat, then the Florida Panthers and the University of Miami's men's basketball team, before those teams moved to newer facilities. The sale of the arena frees up funding that could be used for a proposed Florida Marlins ballpark next to the Orange Bowl. Convention development tax dollars would be rerouted from paying off the debt on the arena.


Sopher was the only other active bidder and a third of his required $3 million deposit will be held in escrow as a backup if Straub does not close on Sept. 21. The pair bid against each other during a live auction held at the arena by Pompano Beach-based Fisher Auction Co.


Sopher attempted to scare off his challenger with counter bids that raised the price in big leaps, sometimes by more than $100,000.


Straub matched each, typically upping the ante by $10,000 at a time. At one point, Sopher switched seats, so he could turn and lock eyes with Straub.


Sopher finally conceded with a handshake and an offer to partner on any future development.


"He's not a speculator like us," he said of Straub.


E-mail Miami-Dade real estate/international business writer Susan Stabley at sjstabley@bizjournals.com.

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Odd, I thought the county was hoping to use the new Marlins stadium for conventions and other events.


Yes, the Arena has been sold to a private party. The city owned the Miami Arena.


Here is the convention chain now:


Miami Arena

AA Arena/Office Depot Center

Convention Centers


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Guest Moneyball

minor league teams don't work down here. look at the hockey's manatees they left before the season was over. i think this guy has no plan and he's nuts.

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