Bush Condemned Property Via Eminent Domain to Build Rangers Stadium – And Made $14 Million Off the Deal

Governing elite: The recent Supreme Court decision that allows local governments to use eminent domain to evict property owners in order to use their property for private development set off a howl on the Right.

“It was the first time in Texas history that the power of eminent domain has been used to assist a private organization like a baseball team.”

To counter the ruling, Republicans in Congress are working on legislation that would cut off all federal funding to local governments who use eminent domain to evict property owners.

The president may have a hard time keeping a straight face when he signs the bill, however. In his past life as a baseball team owner, Mr. Bush profited from exactly this sort of eminent domain eviction – to the tune of $14.3 million.

The story was first rerported by Texas reporter Robert Brice in May 1997, late in Bush’s first term as governor of Texas:

Since he took to the stump three and a half years ago to run for governor, Bush has railed against “big government.” On the very first day of his campaign, November 8, 1993, Bush told supporters in Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas that “the best way to allocate resources in our society is through the market place. Not through a governing elite, not through red tape and over-regulation, not through some central bureaucracy.”

But through the Arlington stadium deal, Bush, who owns 1.8 percent of the Rangers, has been personally enriched by using the “governing elite” and the “central bureaucracy” not only to confiscate land for private purposes, but to get a huge public subsidy for a stadium that generates profits for himself and the Texas Rangers. Though Bush’s present ownership percentage of the team is relatively small, the asset represents a large part of his personal wealth; moreover, Bush’s deal with the team includes a provision that will almost certainly multiply his future ownership interest to 11 percent.

Briefly, here’s what happened on the Ballpark deal. Bush and his partners in the Rangers convinced Arlington officials to:

  • Pass a half cent sales tax to pay for 70 percent of the stadium;
  • Use the government’s powers of eminent domain to condemn land the Rangers couldn’t or didn’t want to buy on the open market;
  • Give the Rangers control over what happens in and around the stadium;
  • Allow the Rangers to buy the stadium (which cost $191 million to construct) for just $60 million;

Bush and company went into action on the stadium in late in 1989, when Bush’s father was still vice president and as the project was getting off the ground he became president. The younger Bush’s company exercised its considerable political clout and used the Texas state government to take the property for the stadium involuntarily from its rightful owners.

In April of 1991, the Rangers shepherded through the Legislature a bill [that] would create the Arlington Sports Facilities Development Authority, a quasi-governmental entity endowed with the power of eminent domain. Shortly after the bill was signed into law by former Governor Ann Richards, three parcels of land located near the stadium, nearly thirteen acres in all, were condemned by the ASFDA. The land was owned by … the heirs of television magnate Curtis Mathes.

Among court documents is an unsigned Rangers memo by a team representative, discussing the history of the Mathes tracts. The representative notes that in his first contact with the Mathes family concerning the land, on November 6, 1990, “I was not well received.” The memo goes on to say that the ASFDA’s appraiser assigned the land a value of $3.16 per square foot, for a total value of $1.515 million. “An offer was made by the Authority at this price. This offer was rejected & the Sellers countered with $2,835,000.00 for all three tracts, i.e.: $5.31 p.s.f.” In mid-December, the ASFDA offered the Mathes heirs just $817,220 for the three tracts, far below even what the ASFDA’s first appraiser had suggested. The Mathes family refused to sell, and the ASFDA seized the land through eminent domain.

Glenn Sodd, a Corsicana attorney who represents the Mathes family, says he has found little evidence that Bush was directly involved in the decisions to condemn the property for the stadium. But he adds, “What happened to my folks was pretty audacious. It was the first time in Texas history that the power of eminent domain has been used to assist a private organization like a baseball team.”

[In May 1996], a Tarrant County jury found that the sports authority’s offer of $817,220 for the Mathes property was too low, and it awarded the Mathes heirs $4.98 million, plus accumulated interest. For the past year, the city of Arlington and the Rangers have been arguing over who will pay the tab.

Bush sold his interest in the Rangers in 1998 for $14.9 million. He had invested a total of $606,302.27 [in 1989] and was one of two managing partners.


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  • Paula Cox
    November 5, 2005 - 3:42 pm | Permalink

    As a resident of Arlington, Texas, I believe one important thing was left out of this story. The Rangers refused to pay the difference to the Mathes family, which forced the City of Arlington to pay it in order to protect its bond rating. This in turn caused increased taxes and decreased services – all to make that little moron even wealthier than he already was.

  • November 5, 2005 - 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Continue Reading





    · He lets stand a minimum wage, that is not a living wage, while CEOs steal an obscene, unconscionable amount of millions of dollars, while people starve to death around the world. And this (all for one and none for most), is our global humanity millionaire mindset at its sickest.

    CONCLUSION A… MULTI-MILLIONAIRES in Government ARE OUT OF TOUCH WITH the LIVES OF the AMERICAN PEOPLE. And the people watch Democracy in Decline.

    He has made the judgments of Millionaires Class without taking the environment into the equation. Millionaires with a million dollars in their pockets can not understanding the plight of the heroic common man who has not the necessities of life. Thus he can not help the poor or set a moral tone.

    · He has NOT made HEALTH CARE available to all the people of the United States. He, the Millionaires in government, can afford health care while the middle class and the working class poor do not have basic health care and the People Die from his Abominable neglect.

    · He, the millionaires, have no idea what it is like to, Not Have Health Care, and even more important, yearly Preventive Health Care Check Ups. It is the difference between having your teeth pulled with or without Novocain.

    · He has Cronies that sell PRESCRIPTION DRUGS at a HIGH Price and contribute to his campaign. And the people choose between drugs, energy, food and death and is a crime against Humanity.

    · He allows the multi-millionaires to get rich FAST, And the poor get poorer even FASTER.

    · He allows People with mental problems live on the street or in Jail and this is a Health Care Crime.

    · He allows the prison system become a growth industry instead of a National Health Problem.

    · He allows the People to rot in jail for non-violent drug charges, While he himself has used the same DRUGS including the national epidemic use of alcohol, confirmed by the Bush, Cheney, lifestyle that includes four Driving Under the Influence Criminal Offenses. And all drugs, in its root, are a Addiction Health Situation.

    · He, the Millionaires in government today let Military Veterans live in cardboard boxes on the street, with minimal health care and this is EVIL. This and his corruption of the election process is a great injustice against those Men and Woman whom have lived and died for democracy from the first Revolutionary War Patriots, through WW I, WW II, Korea, Vietnam and the Oil Gulf War. And… And…


    He has combined with other millionaires to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws.

    · For the Millionaires came and corrupted American Democracy, and WE did not stand up. And then they came and corrupted my community, my environment, and WE did not stand up. And then they came to corrupt my family and my soul, and there was no one left to stand up… with… us. With you and I


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  • thesadsack
    November 6, 2005 - 9:12 am | Permalink

    You gotta love these liberals. They wanna cry about George Bush making some money. Hey, I’ve got a news flash for them: it’s called capitalism. Ever heard of it. Nothing wrong with making money in this country. I’m for the free market system & Capitalism with a capital “C”. Anyone who wants to cry about “millionairs” should understand that if they would get some self-esteem, stop crying about “millionairs”, maybe they could make a few million themselves. But there will always be those who see themselves as victims rather then players. And those who hold that particuar self image are destined to live this life on the outside looking in. I stand up an cheer the man or woman with enough gumption to move and shake a few million for themselves. Without millionairs none of us has a job.
    So if you want to espouse that communistic nonsense, why not move to Cuba or North Korea, where they still officially promote that failed economic philosophy?

  • John Hoctor
    November 6, 2005 - 10:56 am | Permalink

    Bush is a scumbag plain and simple, he’s pimped off the gubermint since he hit the delivery table in New Haven. Get him out brothers and sisters.

  • true capitalist
    November 7, 2005 - 9:22 am | Permalink

    You gotta love these liberals. They wanna cry about George Bush making some money. Hey, I’ve got a news flash for them: it’s called capitalism.

    Uhhh, nothing capitalist about it. MLB is specifically excluded from anti-trust regulation – the only industry given this privilege. It’s the perfect socialist (or fascist, or cronyist, depending on your which part of the elephant you touch) arrangement: competition is restricted to a handful of players; everyone shares equally in the revenue distribution from television revenues; etc. No one is exposed to local competitors. Milton Friedman, who rails against the AMA (and with good reason), would absolutely HATE the MLB.

    Moreover, they used eminent domain to condemn private land not for a public purpose but a private one, because the city of Arlington didn’t get to benefit from the sale of the stadium, which was the sole reason for the deal being profitable. Nor was it as profitable for everyone as it was for Bush. I believe the actual ROI for most investors was about 2 or 2.5 to 1, not exactly eBay territory, considering that the Mathes family had to be screwed out of their land for the deal to work. But Bush got a special reward in the form of additional stock which made it look like a great investment. Since his involvement made the deal work, and the whole point of his involvement was to make him successful at something, this odd little maneuver was undertaken.

    But as a capitalist actually competing in a market-driven business, Bush was a huge failure, as has been so well-documented that even Republicans can’t deny it.

    So to recap: because he failed as a capitalist, friends brought Bush into a cronyist/socialist enterprise; so much for capitalism. They used government to take property away from the Mathes family (so much for property rights), then made this property the crux of an unimpressive ROI.

    Free market capitalism is great. Cronyism and lemon socialism suck.

  • BK Bubba
    November 7, 2005 - 10:57 am | Permalink

    I have no trouble with people working hard and making their fortunes. I DO have a problem with people creating their fortunes by screwing others out of theirs.

    Bush and his ilk are con artists, plain and simple. With their wealth they think they are entitled to screw the rest of us and be exempt from retribution.

    For sadsack, the are not practicing capitalism, it is more like cronyism and graft.

  • Jim
    November 7, 2005 - 11:41 am | Permalink

    George Bush is nothing more than a thief and a prevaricator. He used his family connections to engage with impunity in the hideous practice of insider trading so that he could build a huge nest egg. He used his 9/11 generated windfall political capital to ramrod through Congress a war plan that was hatched before he even took office. He’s tried to take our Social Security and has deregulated corporations who pollute the environment.

    This imposter claims to be a man of the people, and the people who voted him in are his dupes.

  • Jim
    November 7, 2005 - 11:48 am | Permalink

    To thesadsack:

    Yes, I do love liberals. It was liberals who helped women get the vote. freed the slaves, gave them the vote, gave millions of hard working low income seniors a safety net called Social Security, created medicare, passed initiatives to protect our environment, all this while eventually balancing the budget.

    The only problem is, the runaway capitalists whom you praise have all but undone them all. NO true Liberal has a problem with anyone making money, but they should not do it on the backs of the poor.

  • Rachele
    August 18, 2007 - 9:33 am | Permalink

    I have been in touch with a person who was one of the victims of this incident in Texas who was told to come to a meeting about road improvements and instead was met with armed gaurds and a judge who shouted all their homes “taken.” They were then given a 24 hour notice to vacate and $6,000 each to move wich came with a gag order to not tell the public what was going on lest they be sued for the $6,000 back. They were homeless and bankrupt as they were left with the mortgages.

  • Rachele Ketchem
    March 6, 2008 - 11:18 am | Permalink

    I thnk it is low class that the government has adopted “third world” practices of grand theft to leave hard working tax paying citizens homeless and bankrupt as Bush was a party to doing to over 100 families for an ugly stadium. = JUNK VALUES!

  • Sean
    July 21, 2012 - 10:27 am | Permalink

    sadsack, i guess your form of capitalism is:
    using the gov’t to emminent domain the land needed for a private business

    have the gov’t to pay for said building.
    then buy building from gov’t for a huge gain.

    Sounds more like fascism to me.

  • Monica Blackwelder
    February 7, 2016 - 11:01 am | Permalink

    Bush is an idiot and so is whoever is pushing this crap..Without eminent domain there would be no NASA Space Program….I should know because the Federal Gov. took my grandmothers land to build the launch pads.. The Half Moon Bay Marina and Fish Camp in Merritt Island, Fl. The rest of her Land is the Merritt Island Wild Life Refugee, how do you people think Interstate Highways, Hospitals, Schools, Malls, and Air Ports get built..and Donald J. Trump is not the only one who ever took land to build a stadium…

  • DGLesgart
    February 7, 2016 - 2:37 pm | Permalink

    The issue here is Bush’s hypocrisy criticizing and attacking Trump for the Atlantic City ED issue while Bush himself used the very same laws to enrich himself.
    I see nothing wrong with Eminent Domain. The people are being PAID, large sums of money for their properties, money that would otherwise not be there if it weren’t’ for the large development needing their land. It is a false narrative. And Bush is Busted!

  • Thornton Crowe
    February 7, 2016 - 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Interesting how Bush forgot to mention his own Eminent Domain deal… and for a stadium?! Yes, that was in the best interest of the public!

    Just what every unemployed person in America needs. Right?

  • Jj Dunlap
    February 7, 2016 - 4:49 pm | Permalink

    This should be put out to the media,that is only fair after all Jeb went after Trump in the Debate last night and people boobed trump. So we need to be fair. Now let us put this out to CNN Fox MSNBC NBC ABC CBS put it out please. I want to see how fair you are . Thank you.

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