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Braves Up for Sale


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Braves may be up for sale

Time Warner also could package Turner South network in deal



The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 12/14/05

Time Warner is pursuing a possible sale of the Braves.


The company acknowledged Tuesday it has put a for-sale sign on Atlanta's major league baseball team as well as the Turner South regional cable network.




In response to questions from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Turner Broadcasting senior vice president Shirley Powell said: "We have engaged an investment banking firm to help us assess strategic options for Turner South and a significant programming contributor to that network, the Atlanta Braves franchise, which may lead to a sale of one or both assets."


New York-based Allen & Co. is the investment banker hired to shop the team and Turner South, Powell confirmed. She said "no formal discussions" have been held yet with any prospective purchaser.


Among the people who could be interested in having such discussions is Falcons owner Arthur Blank, a longtime baseball fan.


"If Time Warner decides to sell the Braves, and if we are approached, we would look at it. And if it made sense we would pursue it," said Kim Shreckengost, executive vice president of the Arthur M. Blank Group.


Blank was traveling and unavailable for comment, Shreckengost said.


The Braves and Turner South are parts of Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting division. Time Warner put the Braves and Turner South up for sale once before ? in early 2003 ? but took them off the market after selling the basketball Hawks and the hockey Thrashers.


In an e-mail to Turner Broadcasting employees at 11:15 p.m. Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained by the Journal-Constitution, Turner CEO Phil Kent wrote: "As a publicly held company we have a duty to our shareholders to operate in the most effective, efficient, fiscally responsible manner possible. That duty includes planning for the long-term success of our company. It may also include making strategic changes to the portfolio of assets that comprise Turner Broadcasting. . . . The financial return we might realize [from a sale of the Braves and Turner South] could be reinvested in other assets to strengthen our networks and businesses and, ultimately, drive greater growth for Turner Broadcasting."


The Braves, who have won 14 consecutive division championships, have cut their financial losses substantially in the past two years, partly by reducing the player payroll from $100 million to $80 million. But the team still is not a money-maker for Time Warner, a publicly traded company that has been under increasing pressure to maximize shareholder value.


Billionaire financier Carl Icahn, a Time Warner stockholder, has been aggressively pushing the company to take steps to boost its lagging stock price.


Another likely reason for shopping the team at this time is that baseball franchise values have been increasing. Forbes magazine valued the Braves at $382 million early last year, but one team currently for sale, the Washington Nationals, has drawn bids from eight prospective ownership groups willing to meet Major League Baseball's $450 million price tag.


Stan Kasten, former president of the Braves, Hawks and Thrashers, is leading one of the groups attempting to buy the Nationals. He declined to comment Tuesday when asked if he'd pursue a Braves purchase if he fails to land the Washington team.


Packaging the Braves with Turner South probably would make both properties more valuable to a prospective purchaser. Turner South typically televises about 60 Braves games per season, but that number could increase to about 100 in 2008, when the number of games shown nationally on TBS is slated to be reduced.


A sale of the Braves probably would not affect the team's status as national programming on TBS in the foreseeable future. That national TV rights deal is negotiated between Turner Broadcasting and Major League Baseball, and it recently was extended through 2014, with the maximum number of Braves games that can be aired nationally on TBS reduced from 90 to 45 beginning in 2008.


Through a spokesman, Braves president Terry McGuirk declined to comment Tuesday on Time Warner's decision to pursue a sale of the team.





Maybe they will move them to Vegas instead! :D

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