Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack — and a piece of your favorite baseball team while you’re at it?
Major League Baseball will soon allow investment funds to purchase small stakes in its clubs, Bloomberg reported. It’s a move that could let Wall Street firms, college endowments and high-net-worth individuals buy into the sport. One company that specializes in the business of sports, Galatioto Sports Partners, has already been reaching out to potential investors, Bloomberg reported.
MLB did not have a comment. Galatioto Sports Partners declined to comment about the report as well. But two sources close to the situation told CNN Business that MLB is starting to pitch the idea of letting funds buy stakes in teams.
Owning a stake in a sports team may sound enticing. But should investors buy into World Series participants, the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros, or other baseball teams, in the first place? How about football and basketball franchises?
Franchise values are surging
The business of sports is notoriously fickle. Teams have to spend big to win big — and those that don’t often wind up with poor performance on the field and weak attendance.
Still, baseball team values have soared in recent years. The same is true for NFL and NBA teams. The reason is fairly simple: In the time-shifted content world we live in, where many watch shows on DVRs or on demand services, sports is one of the few examples of programming that people still make an appointment to watch live — including the commercials.
That’s why the big TV networks (and even media upstarts like Amazon, Google’s YouTube and Facebook) are still willing to pay big bucks to the leagues and teams to air live games.
And that has boosted the value of sports teams substantially in the past few years. Every team in MLB, the NBA and NFL is now worth at least $1 billion, according to Forbes, which has extensively tracked sports franchise valuations for the past two decades.
The few examples of publicly traded sports teams have put up records that would make them worthy for consideration in Wall Street’s version of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown: A piece of the Atlanta Braves baseball team is publicly traded as a tracking stock of Liberty Media, the giant conglomerate run by mogul John Malone that also owns the Formula One auto racing league as well as stakes in satellite radio giant Sirius XM and concert promoter Live Nation.
Shares of Liberty Braves are up nearly 80% in the past five years, compared to a 46% increase in the S&P 500.
Madison Square Garden, the company that owns the NBA’s New York Knicks and hockey’s New York Rangers, is up 70% in the past five years too. That’s despite the fact that both teams — but especially the Knicks — have struggled in recent years. That proves even poorly run teams have benefited from surging values of sports teams.
That hasn’t always been the case. Investors have been burned before by pure-play sports stocks. Baseball’s Cleveland Indians, hockey’s Florida Panthers and the NBA’s Boston Celtics all at one time had publicly traded stocks that didn’t fare too well.
But times have changed since those companies were public. Sports teams have been able to increase in value even in the midst of tough economic conditions.
The Chicago Cubs baseball team, for example, was sold in 2009 — the height of the Great Recession — for a then-record price of $700 million to the Ricketts family of TD Ameritrade fame. (Including the Cubs’ Wrigley Field home and a stake in regional cable network NBC Sports Chicago, the total price of the deal was $845 million.)
The hard-luck franchise has since won a World Series and is now worth $3.1 billion according to Forbes.
So an investment in a sports franchise could wind up being just as lucrative as owning FAANG stocks or other Wall Street market darlings. And it’s a lot more fun to say you own a tiny piece of a baseball team than Facebook or Amazon.