Punit Shah

Florida real estate executive Punit Shah (left), seen here with Carla Shah and Derek Jeter, is a member of the group chosen to purchase Major League Baseball's Miami Marlins. The Indian American is a minority owner of the club in a group headlined by Jeter. (photo provided)

Former Major League Baseball star and future hall of famer Derek Jeter got all the headlines when the Miami Marlins were sold to his group, but an Indian American real estate executive is part of the ownership group as well.

Punit Shah, the chief executive officer of Tampa, Fla.-based Liberty Group, a company founded by his father more than 30 years ago, is a minority owner of the Marlins baseball organization.

"It is an exciting feeling to be part of the ownership group that now owns the Miami Marlins Major League Baseball team," Shah told India-West, adding that it was great when the long process of closing the sale was completed.

"(Professional sports teams) rarely sell. My most memorable moment was standing side by side with the rest of the ownership group in the Owner’s Suite during the final game of the (2017 MLB regular) season, the night before we closed. That’s when the realization of the deal sunk in," Shah noted.

Naples financier Bruce Sherman owns the highest equity stake in the team at 46 percent, while Jeter owns about 4 percent, according to reports. Shah didn't disclose the percentage of the club he owns.

The sale, which closed Oct. 4, went for $1.2 billion.

The Indian American said that, while he knew his athletic ability wouldn't put him into the field of professional sports, he knew from a business perspective he could get there.

"I reset my goals to the business side of professional sports and desired to one day own a professional sports team," he explained to India-West. "The opportunity to partner with a world-class athlete as Derek Jeter, combined with the incredible upside that the Miami Marlins present in a gateway city to the United States, simply was too attractive to pass up."

Jeter, who is serving as the team's CEO, according to Shah, has the leadership to improve the overall operations of the club, stadium and value to the community.

He would not comment on the direction the ownership group would go in now that they have the reigns of the franchise.

Shah, though, did say that Jeter "has purposely built the ownership group to help increase the awareness of the team and give the city of Miami the game-time experience the fans deserve."

As CEO of Liberty Group, Shah has overall executive control of the investment and management divisions of the company and serves as the sole general partner of Liberty's private equity funds.

Liberty Group has owned and managed over $425 million in commercial real estate, including multi-family developments, senior living facilities, and 54 hotels representing more than 4,800 guest rooms affiliated primarily with Intercontinental, Starwood, Marriott and Hilton Hotels throughout the United States.

Liberty Group has also raised two private equity real estate funds, Liberty Hospitality Fund I & II, with over $250 million in combined debt and equity capital.

Shah's professional honors include receiving the Florida’s Governor’s Enterprise Award, the Tampa Business Journal “Under 30” Award, Florida Business Review “Under 40” and Entrepreneur of the Year awards, having been named as ‘25 People to Watch in Florida’, Boston University Alumni of the Year Award and serving on the Global Board of Directors of the Intercontinental Hotels Group Owner’s Association.

The Indian American credits a lot of his success to his mentors.

"Amongst the most impactful leader that helped me understand the correlation between hospitality and sports is a gentleman named Tod Leiweke, who is currently the chief operating officer of the National Football League," Shah told India-West. "During his time in Tampa, he served as the CEO of the Tampa Bay Lightning National Hockey League team and we met frequently. He would walk through the arena and know everyone that worked there, from the professional athletes and coaches, to the cleaning crews, on a personal level," he said.

"(Leiweke) demonstrated to me how important culture is in any organization, and that his goal was to provide a terrific guest experience to the fans at the end of each game, regardless whether the team won or lost," Shah said.

A second-generation hotelier, Shah is a graduate of the Boston University School of Hospitality where he now serves as an advisory board member and established the Punit & Carla Shah Family Scholarship.

Additionally, Shah is a graduate of the Harvard University Economics Honors Program, and Political Science and Executive Real Estate Development and Leadership programs at Cornell University and Emory University.

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