In baseball, the pecking order of team values has more to do with what goes on outside the ballpark than the number of fans that come through the turnstiles, buy beer or rent a party suite at the game.
The New York Yankees, worth at least $3.4 billion, have held MLB’s top spot since our first estimation of team values in 1998. That $3.4 billion represents just the enterprise value of the team and its stadium economics. But in reality, a big reason why someone would be willing to pay seven times revenue for the Yankees instead of, say, the MLB average of five times revenue, is the ability to extend the team’s brand, acumen and relationships beyond baseball into ventures such as Legends Hospitality, the YES Network, Major League Soccer and college football (full disclosure: I am co-host of Forbes SportsMoney on the YES Network).
Ancillary businesses are what separate the big boys (teams worth over $2 billion) from their less valuable rivals because MLB’s 30 teams equally share 27% of the league’s overall revenue, versus 65% for the NFL. This is why big market teams with business models that reach beyond the diamond dominate the top of our rankings.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, worth $2.5 billion, are the second most valuable team. What’s their side business? Cable TV. In 2014, Time Warner Cable TWC +0.07% agreed to guarantee $8.35 billion to Time Warner Cable SportsNet LA over 25 years. The Dodgers raked in $152 million in rights fees from SportsNet LA last season, the most in baseball. In theory, SportsNet LA is a regional sports channel owned by the owners of the baseball team via American Media Productions. Maybe it will be a real RSN in time. But right now it’s essentially a conduit by which money flows from TWC to the Dodgers.
Some Dodgers owners, like Magic Johnson and Peter Guber (who is an owner in the NBA champion Golden State Warriors), are owners of the new Los Angeles MLS team. And in time, the Dodgers could also make out big in the real estate business, as Guggenheim Baseball Management and former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt jointly own 260 acres of real estate around the team’s stadium.
The Boston Red Sox, ranked third, are worth $2.3 billion. The team’s parent, Fenway Sports Group, also owns Liverpool, the iconic English soccer team that posted a record profit last year, and half of Nascar racing team Roush Fenway Racing. In 2014 FSG got Buick to be the title sponsor to a sold-out match between Liverpool and AS Roma at Fenway Park. The cumulative value of the three sports assets is north of $3.4 billion.
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