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Inside the 2009 Forbes MLB Franchise Valuations PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 23 April 2009 01:48

MLBNow in their 12th year, Michael K. Ozanian and Kurt Badenhausen have published the 2009 MLB franchise valuations for Forbes, and with it, the downturn in the economy has cast its shadow across the league.

(See historical Forbes valuations from 2002-2009)

The 30 clubs are valued at $14.475 billion, compared to $14.149 billion in 2008, an increase of 2.18 percent. However, the increases come mostly by way of the two New York clubs, both of which see new ballparks opening this year. The two clubs skew the average value of an MLB franchise to $482 million, with only 8 clubs seeing values higher than the league average (Yankees - $1.5 billion, Mets - $912 million, Red Sox - $833 million, Dodgers - $722 million, Cubs - $700 million, Angels - $509 million, Cardinals - $486 million).

As further reported by Forbes:

Team values increased an average of 1% over the past year to $482 million, an all-time high. Fueled by more ticket sales and television money, league revenue increased 5.5% to $5.8 billion (our figures are net of revenue used to finance stadium debt). Operating income (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) rose 1.8% to $501 million--another record.

Ten clubs see their values decrease from last year. They are:

  • Washington Nationals: $406 million, down 12 percent
  • Atlanta Braves: $446 million, down 10 percent
  • Seattle Mariners: $426 million, down 9 percent
  • Detroit Tigers: $371 million, down 9 percent
  • San Francisco Giants: $471 million, down 5 percent
  • Houston Astros: $445 million, down 4 percent
  • Cleveland Indians: $399 million, down 4 percent
  • Texas Rangers: $405 million, down 2 percent
  • Oakland Athletics: $319 million, down 1 percent
  • Pittsburgh Pirates: $288 million, down 1 percent

To add to these 10 clubs seeing declines in franchise value, 3 clubs (Cardinals, Orioles, and Blue Jays) see their values remain flat compared to last year.

The declines are the steepest since 2004 when 13 clubs saw decreases in valuation. And, to further place the declines in perspective, no club had decreased in valuation since 2005 when the Oakland A’s saw a 1 percent drop in their total franchise value.

Yankees Franchise Value

The Yankees are now worth $1.5 billion
and given the growth over the last few
years, don't expect it to level off any
time soon,
(CLICK TO SEE IN LARGER VIEW)

As mentioned, the New York clubs are what is offsetting the valuation declines for the league. The Yankees are now worth $1.5 billion, an increase of 15 percent over last year. (see the chart to the right to see how the Yankees have grown in value over the last 5 years). The Mets are coming up quick on $1 billion value, as well, posting a franchise value of $912 million, an increase of 11 percent from the year prior.

In the profit and loss department, based upon operating income, the Florida Marlins show a profit of $43.7 million. That comes on the heels of a $35.6 million operating income last year.

With a slap to the face of the revenue-sharing system, and a clear sign that Jeffery Loria loves living on welfare, he has now officially gotten the Marlins for free. As noted by Ozanian and Badenhausen:

Before the 2002 season Loria, who then owned the Montreal Expos, bought the Marlins for $158 million while MLB paid $120 million to take ownership of the Expos. The Marlins price was later reduced to $143 million, as stipulated in the purchase agreement, when the Marlins did not get a new stadium within five years. But during his seven years of owning the Marlins, Loria has received more money from baseball's revenue redistribution system than the amount he paid for the team. Now that is real money ball.

On the other side of the coin are the Detroit Tigers who see losses of $26.3 million. The reason?  Ozanian and Badenhausen cite the high player payroll that the Tigers carry (the club broke the Luxury Tax threshold last year), as well as the steep declines in season ticket sales due to the cratering of the auto industry in Detroit and owner Michael Ilitch’s gamble to raise ticket prices for "premium games" by $2 to $7 and many season ticket holders getting a similar price hike. The reason for the increase? The Tigers saw record attendance last year. As noted in the report, season ticket holders have fallen from 27,000 in 2008 to a reported 15,000 this year, and Ilitch’s gamble on ticket prices will have backfired if the team isn’t doing exceptionally well in the standings by the summer.

Overall, matters could have been far worse for MLB. If not for the Yankees and the Mets, building massive cathedrals of excess, the league would have surely seen a decline.

What will truly be interesting is next year. The Twins are adding a new stadium to the fold, but the declines at the sponsorship level, and the league bracing for attendance declines, possibly as high as 20 percent, it may be 2010 that the league sees the largest impact to the franchise value due to the faltering economy.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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