Atlanta Braves For Sale

The Atlanta Braves baseball team are for sale, as Time Warner tries to get back to its core businesses.

Braves may be up for sale (AJC)

Time Warner is pursuing a possible sale of the Braves. The company acknowledged Tuesday it has put a for-sale sign on Atlanta’s major league baseball team as well as the Turner South regional cable network. In response to questions from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Turner Broadcasting senior vice president Shirley Powell said: “We have engaged an investment banking firm to help us assess strategic options for Turner South and a significant programming contributor to that network, the Atlanta Braves franchise, which may lead to a sale of one or both assets.” New York-based Allen & Co. is the investment banker hired to shop the team and Turner South, Powell confirmed. She said “no formal discussions” have been held yet with any prospective purchaser.

Among the people who could be interested in having such discussions is Falcons owner Arthur Blank, a longtime baseball fan. “If Time Warner decides to sell the Braves, and if we are approached, we would look at it. And if it made sense we would pursue it,” said Kim Shreckengost, executive vice president of the Arthur M. Blank Group.

[…]

In an e-mail to Turner Broadcasting employees at 11:15 p.m. Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained by the Journal-Constitution, Turner CEO Phil Kent wrote: “As a publicly held company we have a duty to our shareholders to operate in the most effective, efficient, fiscally responsible manner possible. That duty includes planning for the long-term success of our company. It may also include making strategic changes to the portfolio of assets that comprise Turner Broadcasting. . . . The financial return we might realize [from a sale of the Braves and Turner South] could be reinvested in other assets to strengthen our networks and businesses and, ultimately, drive greater growth for Turner Broadcasting.”

The Braves, who have won 14 consecutive division championships, have cut their financial losses substantially in the past two years, partly by reducing the player payroll from $100 million to $80 million. But the team still is not a money-maker for Time Warner, a publicly traded company that has been under increasing pressure to maximize shareholder value. Billionaire financier Carl Icahn, a Time Warner stockholder, has been aggressively pushing the company to take steps to boost its lagging stock price.

Another likely reason for shopping the team at this time is that baseball franchise values have been increasing. Forbes magazine valued the Braves at $382 million early last year, but one team currently for sale, the Washington Nationals, has drawn bids from eight prospective ownership groups willing to meet Major League Baseball’s $450 million price tag.

Stan Kasten, former president of the Braves, Hawks and Thrashers, is leading one of the groups attempting to buy the Nationals. He declined to comment Tuesday when asked if he’d pursue a Braves purchase if he fails to land the Washington team.

Atlanta Braves May Be for Sale (AP)

The Atlanta Braves may be on the market. A statement released by the team Tuesday said Time Warner is exploring the possibility of selling the Braves and the Turner South cable network, which carries many of the Braves’ games. “We have engaged an investment banking firm to help us assess strategic options for Turner South and a significant programming contributor to that network, the Atlanta Braves franchise, which may lead to the sale of one or both,” Greg Hughes, the team’s vice president of public relations and communications, said in the statement.

It is the first recent indication that Time Warner, formerly known as AOL Time Warner, is considering selling the Braves.

The move makes plenty of sense from a financial standpoint. Further, as a Braves fan, I’d love to see the move. Corporate ownership of a sports team, with the focus on the bottom line rather than winning, is a major obstacle in professional sports, especially the only major professional sport without a salary cap and meaningful revenue sharing.

FILED UNDER: General, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. JS Thomas says:

    As a baseball fan in general and a Braves fan in particular, I would love to see Time Warner sell them. Corporate ownership and winning baseball simply doesn’t mix. The best owners are the ones who share the same focus as the best players: a desire to win that trumps the desire to make money.

  2. Bogn says:

    Corporate ownership of a sports team, with the focus on the bottom line rather than winning, is a major obstacle in professional sports, especially the only major professional sport without a salary cap and meaningful revenue sharing.

    If you are so anti-capitalist, maybe you would like to see the MLB nationalized and run as a communist collective with massive government subsidies?

    Furthermore, every MLB team is fixated, first and foremost on the bottom line. The best team in baseball last year, the Chicago White Sox, are owned by a corporate entity and have been tremendously profitable.

    They became the most dominant team–not by being unprofitable–but by being smart business men. They assembled the right talent, made money, and prevailed on the field.

    Any problems with the Braves lie more in mismanagement than with who actually owns the team.

  3. bryan says:

    Wait, is this the same team that has won 14 straight division championships? How this doesn’t equate with an emphasis on winning is a mystery to me. james, perhaps you’d explain.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Bogn: The White Sox have been dreadful for most of the last century. Ditto the cross-town Cubs. As I argue below, sports is a business, to be sure, but one unlike other businesses. And, surely, the National Football League–by far the most profitable sports enterprise in the country–is not “run as a communist collective”?

    Bryan: They’ve done quite well at winning division titles by assembling solid, versatile lineups. It has been a decade since they’ve been truly competitive for a World Series ring, though.

    Were Ted Turner still the owner, he’d shell out a few million late in the season to sign a key free agent to fill a hole. Time Warner won’t do that because have a fixed budget they’re willing to spend on their “product.” Turner saw the team as more than a profit maker but as an extension of himself. In this TW era, the Braves are constantly having to let their stars, even home grown ones like David Justice, Tom Glavine, and Rafael Furcal go, though, because they can’t afford to sign them under the corporate scheme.

    The Braves have done reasonably well despite these shackles because of a great organization, headed by a great GM and manager. With a $100 million budget vice $80 million, though, they’d almost certainly be better.

  5. ICallMasICM says:

    having to let their stars…..’David Justice, Tom Glavine, and Rafael Furcal go’

    Which of these would you have kept at the time?

    Justice was coming off a year that he missed the almost the whole season. He had 2 good years after he left in ’97 and ‘2000. He was out of baseball after ’02. Glavine hasn’t had a winning season since he left. Furcal is a low on base guy for a leadoff hitter and made a lot of errors every year before last year. He’s never hit .300 or had more than 61 RBI and he got superstar money.

    The guy I can’t figure them letting go was Mazzone.

  6. James Joyner says:

    They traded Justice for next to nothing. Glavine went to a horrible team, although I agree his better days were behind him. Furcal wasn’t worth the going rate if you have an $80 million payroll but would have been nice to keep.

  7. ICallMasICM says:

    Cleveland Indians traded Alan Embree and Kenny Lofton to the Atlanta Braves for Marquis Grissom and Dave Justice; 3/25/97

    It would seem odd that Justice is the only one who isn’t still hanging on out of that group.

  8. James Joyner says:

    Yep. Lofton was one of several players who came to the Braves and promptly had the worst year of their career (Reggie Sanders and Dan Kolb come to mind). Grissom was an Atlanta native and Justice was developed in the Braves farm system. Embree was actually a pretty decent contributor, though.

  9. J Bryans says:

    People often forget stars put people in the stands. The Braves are known for resurrecting careers because they won’t spend money to get a star quality first baseman or left fielder. They consistantly rely on young players and over the hill players to win baseball games. Time Warner has shown they have no interest in the team winning because they know that die hard fans such as myself, will still fork over a hundred bucks to watch the AA braves team play.

  10. Travis says:

    We need to petition Ted to buy back his team.
    Any ideas on where to start?