Business of Baseball Reportby Brian Borawski
June 01, 2005
Let the Bidding Begin
Major League Baseball began accepting bids for the Washington Nationals on Tuesday. As with anything related to baseball’s front office, they’re a little behind schedule as the league had originally hoped to begin this process in December. Estimates on the value of the franchise vary; Smith College economics professor Andrew Zimbalist told The Washington Post that the franchise could sell for between $350 and $400 million. He also said that the value could go as high as $500 million if the sale includes MLB’s current 10% position (which will go up to 33% over the next 28 years) in the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN).
The Nationals were purchased from Jeffrey Loria for $120 million back in February 2002. While an exact number will never be known, the Expos have supposedly lost “millions” since the league took over ownership of the team. However, the Nationals are expected to turn a profit of close to $20 million this year, which could cause Bud Selig and company to slow the process down a little to make sure they’re getting the best offer they possibly can.
Regardless, the league looks to triple or even quadruple its initial investment. If the deal gets done late this year, that’s a pretty good return on a four-year investment. The one wild card is still the MASN/Comcast dispute, which I’ll get to in the next section. Whether or not the transaction can be closed with the lawsuit lingering is a major question, and it will be interesting to see how the bidders take it into account.
The Orioles Strike Back
The Baltimore Orioles filed their motion last week in response to the lawsuit Comcast Corporation filed against them in April. In the response, the Orioles accused Comcast of trying to intimidate local cable and satellite providers from televising Washington Nationals games and other sports broadcasts that were produced by MASN.
The Orioles are also claiming that Comcast’s lawsuit isn’t valid because the language of their agreement states that the Orioles are required to allow Comcast to match any offer before the Orioles move to another "network or third party." They’re taking the position that MASN isn’t a third party because they simply formed their own regional network
Nothing I’ve been able to find singles out when the next round of legal arguments will take place, so we’ll have to wait and see how this all plays out. I doubt if Peter Angelos will give up without a fight. MASN should be a major cash cow for him, so I can see him fighting this until the very end.
Preserving Busch Stadium
With the current Busch Stadium set for implosion at season’s end, one man has made it his mission to preserve one of the unique characteristics of the stadium. Ninety-six arches circle the top of the stadium, and many feel that this crown separates Busch from the other stadiums of its era.
While it might prove too expensive to remove the arches, the campaign has caught the attention of team officials. The push to preserve the arches might not be successful, but the team did say they were optimistic that there will be a memorial of some kind to commemorate the arches.
No News Isn’t Necessarily Good News
It’s been a pretty light week with regard to business news around the league. I haven’t read much of anything on the stadium situations in Miami and Minnesota, but that doesn’t mean something isn’t going on. Hopefully by next week I’ll have something to report on these big ticket items, especially with the Bob DuPuy “or else” ultimatum that isn’t an ultimatum coming up soon.
Brian Borawski is a member of SABR's Business of Baseball Committee and writes about the Detroit Tigers at his own website, TigerBlog. He welcomes comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail.