Liverpool FC, join the party.
News that the European soccer giant’s American owners are considering selling means another sports team is on the market, attracting many of the same ultra-rich buyers.
FSG puts Liverpool up for sale
Industry insiders say they can’t remember a time when so many professional sports teams were up for sale at the same time, which now stands at at least half a dozen. And that doesn’t include the many limited partner (LP) holdings that are often on the market, or planned expansion in leagues like the MLS and NWSL, or the teams that are casually available at the right price.
“I’ve already sold two big LP stakes this year — one in basketball, one in baseball — I’m working on another big LP stake in baseball right now. Nobody’s ever going to read about it,” said one sports investment banker, who requested anonymity due to the confidential nature of the assignments.
There are individual circumstances behind each potential sale. The Washington Commanders are possibly for sale due to the long period of scandals under Daniel Snyder’s ownership. The Ottawa Senators are selling because owner Eugene Melnyk recently passed away. The Phoenix Suns are available because of the NBA’s lobbying campaign to force owner Robert Sarver to sell after it was discovered that he presided over an abusive workplace and used racial slurs.
Commanders co-owners Dan and Tanya Snyder hired Bank of America with the intention of “considering possible transactions” in connection with the franchise they have owned since 1999. (Geoff Burke / USA Today)
All this duly noted, owners are also clearly noticing the increase in the prices of sports equipment, as limited partner interests now require as much money as the purchase of an entire team required just a few years ago. Obviously, for Sarver and Snyder, the staggering sums they would pocket will help overcome reluctance to give up their beloved teams.
“Banner deal after banner deal, and so people are saying, ‘But, might as well sell now,'” said Andrew Kline, founder and managing partner of Park Lane, which operates a sports investment bank. “These prices that you’re seeing continue to happen are certainly encouraging people to put their equipment on the market.”
Kline also points to pent-up demand from the COVID-19 period when selling equipment in this environment was difficult as sports franchises suffered huge losses as fans were banned or limited from attending games. Thus, owners were less likely to put equipment up for sale because it could be seen as a distressed move resulting from financial losses, which would depress the price.
But why do prices keep going up if there are so many teams on the market? In classic economics 101, when there is a greater supply of something, prices moderate if not fall. Build a bunch of apartment towers in a small town with a large housing stock and the new houses won’t cost a fortune. But the sport has its own unique ecosystem.
First of all, no new sports teams can be created, this is exclusive waterfront real estate that rarely changes hands as there is an artificial limit to the number of teams set by the leagues. So while the Denver Broncos sold for $4.65 billion in August, the Chiefs will likely cost more than $6 billion, if Snyder sells, to a buyer looking to join the rarefied air they once breathed the NFL owners.
Buyer groups also don’t always overlap between leagues, those interested in hockey may not be the same as bidding on an EPL team (even though Fenway Sports owns the Pittsburgh Penguins).
“Somebody who’s a hockey-oriented fan, you know, was always interested in acquiring an NHL team is the one who’s going to buy the Senators,” said Randy Vataha, a sports investment banker who advised Melnyk on the purchase, but has no role in it. currently on sale. “I don’t think the buyer for that team is necessarily a buyer for the NFL team, and probably not for any of the other teams, is my guess.”
Bidders for EPL and NFL teams could overlap, as they did for the Broncos and Chelsea FC. Chelsea’s eventual buyers, a group led by Todd Boehly, also made a bid for the Denver franchise. But that in no way affected the record prices set by the two transactions, a success that may be short-lived with Liverpool and the Commanders perhaps changing hands next.
What’s driving the rise, regardless of league, is sports’ unique position in the fragmented media ecosystem as must-have live content. Cable operators want it as the last gasp that holds the traditional cable pack together, while the new generation of streamers want it to set their products apart from the competition.
“There has never been a better time in the history of the world to own sports rights,” Kline said. “You’re seeing these network deals, they continue to increase, because these networks are these massive entities. And I think what shows the best content is live sports.”
Here’s a look at the teams for sale, at least the known ones.
The team hired Galatioto Sports Partners to manage the process. Of the four major American sports leagues, the NHL is the only one without a billion-dollar sale, with the 2021 purchase of the Penguins from Fenway Sports at $900 million the highest mark. This deal is unlikely to exceed that given the smaller market and the Senators’ smaller stature.
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Angels of Los Angeles
Another team that hired Galatioto Sports, owner Arte Moreno, has struggled with ownership for two decades to field a competitive team and secure a new stadium. The last MLB team he sold was the New York Mets in 2020 to Steve Cohen for $2.2 billion. The Angels will have a hard time matching that.
Blum: Angels owner Arte Moreno owes everyone an explanation
The team hired Allen & Co. in April to get a buyer and the process has dragged on. One issue is the team’s litigation surrounding the rights fee received from cable outlet MASN, a case that has been in the works for nearly a decade. Allen & Co. has set a price target of $2.5 billion, which may be high.
The Ted Leonsis Group is the frontrunner to buy the Nationals, according to sources
The team likely won’t sell, but it hired Goldman Sachs this year to test the waters. The sons of ailing owner Peter Angelos are suing each other over the future of the team, so the litigation must be settled first.
Orioles hired Goldman to evaluate the sale
The team hired Moelis & Co. to advise on a sale. The unanswered question is how much of the team is for sale. Sarver owns 35 percent and the controlling shares, but only one LP has the right to collect his sale (together, this represents 40 percent). If a buyer only needs to acquire four-tenths of the equipment, he may be willing to pay a premium for it. There is talk that the team could earn more than $3 billion, although some in sports finance warn that Phoenix is not a top 10 market and that the regional sports network business on which the NBA is based is In danger.
Suns sale may set NBA record value, but will less than half the team change hands?
If Chelsea is being sold for $3.2 billion, there’s no reason this deal shouldn’t be worth a similar amount, if not more. Demand is more international than that of American sports properties, with buyers not only from the US, but also from Asia, the Middle East and Europe always in the mix for EPL clubs.
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Commanders of Washington
Whether Snyder really wants to sell is the million-dollar question, or perhaps better said the $6 billion. It may take just as long, if not longer, for Snyder to finally cave in and sell the team. Anything less and other owners would worry about their own franchise values and, ironically, might encourage him not to sell. That’s why Jeff Bezos makes so much sense here, but can Snyder top his venom for the Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon’s chairman?
Matthew McConaughey is “actively exploring” the Commanders offer
(Top photo of Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)