In what will probably become an annual study, Bloomberg released MLB franchise valuations today. The timing, prior to the first World Series game, stands in contrast to Forbes’ release, which is usually on Opening Day. While there will continue to be heavy debate as to the veracity of the valuations (MLB financials are not public data), having a second set of numbers released is good at least for discussion purposes. Besides, the bubble effect we’ve seen with valuations the past several years has allowed Forbes to set a baseline for franchise sales, whether teams and leagues want to acknowledge the data or not.
There’s also a very useful, colorful, interactive info graphic that breaks down both franchise valuations and revenue sources. The former includes $110 million for each club’s 1/30th share of MLB Advanced Media, the league’s digital media arm. The latter indicates which teams have shares in regional sports networks, along with revenue sharing payers and receivers.
The A’s ended up 26th in the rankings with a $590 million valuation. That’s 26% higher than Forbes’ spring figure. Methodology is rather murky, but the two outlets seem to be using similar types of data (if not datasets). Bloomberg also has the A’s tied for 1st (with the Royals) among revenue sharing recipients with $36 million. That’s more than the $33 million the A’s brought in via ticket sales. The Giants, who were valued at $1.23 billion, paid in $21 million to the $480 million revenue sharing pool. The Giants may be worth more than twice the A’s value, but the media revenues aren’t as big a gap as you might think. Bloomberg has the Giants at $88 million via their evergreen deals with CSN Bay Area and KNBR, whereas the A’s pulled in $65 million thanks to new deals with CSN California and Entercom’s KGMZ over the last few years.
Curiously, quotes from A’s PR man Bob Rose and Giants control person Larry Baer provide some owner insight. While in the past Lew Wolff may have argued against the numbers due to perceived discrepancies in local revenue (Wolff thought they were overstated), Rose offers up the notion that the valuation may be low. If revenue is $175 million, Rose argues, then the team is worth 4x that amount, or $700 million. Previously I had multiples at 3x for low-revenue teams and 2x for high-revenue teams. Perhaps a rethinking is in order.
If Rose is correct, the cost to buy the A’s and build a stadium would cost upwards of $1.2 billion, not including land and infrastructure. Chances are they could get it, considering the attractiveness of MLB revenue streams. Of course, future value of the A’s would be heavily tied to whatever ballpark deal is made. If the A’s stay in a ballpark they largely have to pay for themselves, that would limit revenue potential. A publicly subsidized venue would make things easier on the A’s balance sheet.
All in all, it’s more reason for Lew Wolff and John Fisher to hold onto the club despite the ballpark territory stalemate. Then again, without a lease we may see that coming to a head soon enough.