Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Miami Herald throws another softball to Genting and developer Jorge Perez … by gimleteye

The Miami Herald's Martha Brannigan is good reporter, but the paper she works for is a disaster. The latest example -- a Brannigan story last Friday about Genting, the former Miami Herald property and developer Jorge Perez, who proved that businessmen can have nine lives like cats so long as they are "too big to fail". To read the Herald story independent of history one would think that the Chinese Malaysian Genting, who purchased the former Miami Herald property now Rubble-By-The-Bay in 2011, had called Miami's homegrown billionaire developer (real money, yet?) because it found his name on a wisp of paper in a fortune cookie.

The Herald depicts Perez as a coy helper who may be able to transform the former Herald property on Biscayne Bay into something grand. The Herald's gee whiz tone is as though Genting just found Perez like a penny on the street.
Now, Genting is hitching its star to South Florida’s most prolific developer: Jorge M. Pérez. In an interview, Pérez, chairman and CEO of the Related Group of Florida, told the Miami Herald he was contacted in recent days by a senior Genting official and had preliminary discussions about the possibility of developing the Miami Herald site together.

“They called me to see if I’m interested in maybe developing together," said Pérez, who is currently leading a condominium construction boom in Miami. Pérez said the high-level Genting official, whom he wouldn’t name, told him he would follow up when he was in Miami.

“We’ll probably talk again." Pérez added: “It’s a great site." (Genting Seeks Development Ally, Miami Herald, June 13, 2014)
Puh-leeze. We wouldn't make this such a big deal if the Herald had just once noted the deep Perez/Genting backstory -- that ought to be legitimately highlighted every time the Herald publishes about Genting in connection with Jorge Perez. Why the paper doesn't ties back to the dismal but very profitable circumstances of the sale of the Herald to McClatchy, a publicly traded media giant.

Jorge Perez was one of the insiders who fit into plans for the Herald, from the first it became obvious that the media titan had vastly overpaid to buy the Herald, enriching past publishers, and that something had to be done to extract cash from its investment in order to pay reporters and other employees who work on a more modest rate; ie. selling the Herald site on Biscayne Bay.

In December 2011, Eye On Miami, was the only observer of record how Perez' monetary contribution to the Miami Art Museum for naming rights was nearly the same exact amount he received by selling to Genting senior subordinated debt of the Omni Center, adjacent to the Miami Herald property, that Genting needed for its planned casino footprint and that Perez and two other partners had purchased only six months earlier.

There was nothing illegal in the deal, but it was trenchant if you believe that the city's only daily newspaper ought to be nothing less than scrupulous disclosing its connections to gambling interests, especially when its corporate owner had made a significant gamble itself and found itself so beleaguered it had to mortgage the paper to a casino operator who had yet to secure legislative approval but was clearly planning to turn Miami into Atlantic City. Moreover, find a forty million dollar profit in a six month investment that doesn't smell of an insider trade and I have a bridge to sell you, too. This is all newsworthy! Perez, then nearly bankrupt as a result of the housing bust, got a museum named for him thanks to the neat profit he earned from Genting, but that story never, not once, was reported in the Herald. Now Perez is just Genting's developer ally? A savvy billionaire come to the rescue of casino operator who badly misread Florida politics connected to Miami's Republican delegation and gambling? That's what you would believe if you just read last Friday's story in the Herald.

Brannigan should have written about that shenanigan. Maybe she did. Maybe a Miami Herald editor re-directed the story from negative implications drawn around the naming of the Miami Art Museum. It should be named for Genting, not Jorge Perez.

As the Genting story unfolded in 2011, the Miami Herald was mostly silent. Here is a brief detour down Memory Lane in our archive (click the box, above left, and type in "Genting" or "Jorge Perez"):

"I wouldn't wait for the Miami Herald to print highly critical stories about the effects of gambling on Florida, any more than the Herald wrote critically of the massive fraud underlying the unsustainable building boom in downtown Miami that tied Herald executives, compensation, and prestige to speculators and facilitators (often one and the same) like Greenberg Traurig. For that insight, you will have to continue reading Eyeonmiami. But the Herald did print a story on the lobbying effort in the Tallahassee legislature, "Genting Malaysia Berhad said that they plan only to build a resort, since casinos are not authorized yet, but indicated its interest in continuing a push for a full-fledged casino."

Well, three years after its plan to legalize gambling through the Florida legislature went up in smoke, Genting is now defaulting to its original story line for the former Herald site. The Perez Art Museum should have always been named for Genting, recognizing Jorge Perez on a plaque or sidewalk stone. Give him a cigar and a pat on the back, but don't name a museum for the man who otherwise represented the lack of planning and foresight that is weighing down Miami's economic future. If county commissioners approved that, there would be glimmer of honesty in the public record.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget the backstory a decade earlier on how the PAC ended up across the street from the soon-to-be gone Herald. A very sorted tale of back room deals and self serving editorials turned out making the Herald millions.

I found this old quote from executive editor Doug Clifton defending the clear lack of objective reporting on the site selection and land swap.

"We are honorable people. Integrity, credibility, and veracity mean more to us than profit.... Our record for telling you the truth is long and distinguished. It would be a horrible breach of ethics to do anything less than report the story fully -- all sides, all points of view."

Well? Seems history proved that to be total load, lets see where Perez lands in 15 years on the BS o'meter.

BTW ... His PAMM? ...wonderful building, wish I could say the same for the collection. Face it, nice Saturday afternoon but nobody's traveling to Miami just to view that collection

Anonymous said...

Yes thanks for reminding about Clifton's huffing and puffing. It was as hard to take at the time as it is today. It highlights the problem of a city with only one daily newspaper. Who remembers? Who offers a point of view that differs from the editorial line that follows the publishers' interests.

Anonymous said...

The publishers got rich and experts at toeing the line with a smile.

Anonymous said...

Gimleteye should disclose if he's a close friend to Martha Brannigan. The whole thesis of this post is that Brannigan maybe wrote a cutting article noting the conflicts of interest at play here and the meanie Herald editors watered it down to a puff piece with a gee-whiz tone towards a local billionaire. That's a lot of assumptions.

Here's a new thesis: maybe Martha Brannigan is a terrible reporter who couldn't find her own behind with two hands unless it came packaged in a press release, who seemed to only realize we're in a real estate boom in MAY of this year, and who has neglected to write about any of the sweetheart taxpayer-backed deals developers are getting at Brickell City Centre, Miami Worldcenter and in the city of Sunny Isles Beach, just to name some of the most egregious. Yes, the Herald is waaaaay too soft on developers: Andres Viglucci just wrote something today that took Wynwood developers at their word that big new condos won't change that neighborhood's character. And the Herald is debuting a potentially very profitable real estate conference business that benefits from uncritical coverage.

Brannigan is no hero in that equation, just the kind of don't-rock-the-boat reporter the Herald wants.

Al Crespo said...

The big question is, who initiated this story? Did Genting tip off the reporter, or did Perez? My guess is that is was Perez, which means he initiated this story for a reason. What's the reason?

Anonymous said...

Perez is a condominium pitch-man. The only thing worse than owning a condominium is owning a time share. The Herald knows this, but is going to continue to be soft on the condominium market until it all collapses. Miami can have one of the largest real estate collapses in history.

Anonymous said...

Miami Art Museum is costing the taxpayers $400 mil to $500 Mil. Yup, kiddies, we have to pay debt service on the $100 mil in GOB bond money used to pay architects and lobbyists and construction. Then, there is the $100 site Miami Art Museum finagled. Yet, the low rent board gave condo salesman Perez the naming rights for $5 Mil? Really? $5 Mil?

Geniusofdespair said...

Letter to the Herald Editor today from Jorge Perez:

No place for gambling in Miami

Re the June 14 story Genting seeks ally on bayfront site: While I think the former Miami Herald site is one of the premier locations for a mixed-use development, and I would love to be involved in such a possible project, I am against gambling in Miami, particularly in a downtown location.

I, as well as many others, have worked hard over the past three decades to make Miami a true international world center, known for its great natural beauty, culture and amenities. We have come a long way in achieving our vision but have a lot to do. Gambling should not be part of that equation.

Jorge Perez, chairman and CEO,

The Related Group, Miami

Read more here: