Here in the DC area, there is one major sports franchise that is clearly up for sale and another major sports franchise that everyone in the area hopes is truly up for sale. The MLB Washington Nationals is the first franchise looking for a new owner; the Washington Commanders is the other franchise that almost every sports fan in the area hopes will be sold ASAP. I have no dogs in either of those fights; it matters not a whit to me who owns either franchise but having thought about the “franchise marketplace” a bit, it seems to me as if there are a lot of opportunities for billionaires around the world to “buy in” if that is what they want to do.
Here is a compilation off the top of my head of the sports teams/franchises that are reported to be up for sale at the moment. I am not talking about pickleball teams in pickleball leagues that have no established relevance in the sports world. I am not talking about National Women’s Soccer League franchises that may some day get TV deals that allow their “Game of the Week” to attract more than a million viewers. I am talking here about big name and big-time franchises:
- Washington Commanders – NFL: Forbes says this club is worth $6.5B so bids in the neighborhood of $7B are not out of the question. There is plenty of reported interest in buying the whole club; from what I read there is little to no interest in anyone buying into a minority interest in the team with Danny Boy Snyder still in charge of the whole shooting match. This story has at least a half-dozen twists ant turns to go before it gets into the home stretch regarding a team sale. I’ll believe it when the ink has dried on the contract…
- Washington Nationals – MLB: The current owners took a fiscal hit during the COVID pandemic because their major source of wealth was commercial real estate. Do not feel too sorry for them; the franchise is valued at $2.5B and will likely go to a bidder that goes slightly north of that figure.
- Liverpool Football Club – EPL: The Liverpool team is currently owned by the same folks who own the Boston Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Penguins and a few other sporting endeavors. Liverpool is in no imminent danger of relegation in English football; in fact, as of today they are a full 9 points clear of the relegation zone. I have read reports that say the club could be worth $4.1 – 4.5B and that such a bid would be sufficient to take control of the team. Please do not take anything I said above as authoritative about the value of EPL franchises.
- Inter Milan – Italian Serie A: Reports say this franchise is worth $1.2B and other reports say that the club hopes only to sell a minority interest in the team. My “knowledge” regarding Italian soccer football cannot be understated, but Inter Milan is one of the most recognized teams in the top Italian league along with clubs such as Juventus, Roma, and Lazio.
- LA Angels – MLB: Here is another way for someone to self-identify as one of only 30 people who own a franchise in MLB. The price tag is reported to be in the $2.5-2.8B range. As compared to the Washington Nationals franchise that has a similar valuation, the Angels are in a much larger market than the Nationals will ever experience. However, the Angels have been the “poor relatives” as compared to the Dodgers for at least the last 30 years. Indeed, the Nationals face some competition for interest from the Baltimore Orioles only about 50 miles away, but that is nothing as compared to the domination exercised by the Dodgers in SoCal. [Aside: Some folks say that the Orioles might also be up for sale if/when Peter Angelos passes on. That could put a third MLB franchise on the market.]
- Phoenix Suns – NBA: The league forced the sale of the team based on a lot of “sleazy reports” about the current owner and the workplace of the team’s front office. Forbes says the franchise is worth $2B; the NBA wants/needs the sale price to be higher than that because when Steve Balmer bought the Clippers at a forced sale about 8-10 years ago, he paid $2B for that franchise. The NBA surely hopes the value of one of its franchises on the open market does not sell for less than the last one that was up for sale.
- Ottawa Senators – NHL: Last I saw, this franchise was valued at $700M – – which is pocket change for the folks who are trying to pick up the Washington Commanders’ franchise in the NFL. One thing that might keep a lid of some sort on the price tag here is a condition of the sale that the team remain in Ottawa. Without the threat to move from Ottawa to somewhere else on the globe – – Sioux Falls, SD, USA? – – a new owner here would be missing out on one of his/her more valuable negotiating postures to get concessions from local politicians.
Notwithstanding the valuations placed on some of these properties and/or the prices they could bring, there is added value in scarcity. It seems that there are an unusual number of sports franchises available at one time and I wonder if that suggests that there will be a downward pressure on the bids from prospective buyers. It is not as if there are hundreds of “customers” out there searching for these commodities. Could be interesting…
Finally, today’s rant has focused on an upper level of professional sports; so, let me close with this definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm about a more minor level of sports:
“Little League: A youth sporting event that provides a socially acceptable way for adults to scar their children with the burden of their parents’ shattered, unfulfilled dreams.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………