Steve Marzolf [editorial/content/strategy/copywriting]

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How to Buy … A Baseball Team!

Got a few hundred grand lying around? Ditch the fantasy roster and buy your own franchise. 





Pick a Winner: Buying into the majors, or even the minors, is tough. Of the five levels of minor league ball – rookie league, short-season A, A, AA, and AAA –short-season is the cheapest, but teams are still worth multimillions. Your best bet is to cherry-pick from one of the nine independent leagues sprinkled around the U.S. After getting a couple dozen friends together, an independent league team can cost each of you less than a nice Toyota. “That’s how an ownership group starts,” says Frontier League franchise co-owner Bill Bussing. “As the years progress, people leave, and pretty soon one person has a majority stake.”

Keep It Liquid: You should expect to bring your share of the investment to the table in cash, and have at least $200k socked away for first-year operating expenses – especially if you’re buying in the winter, when your initial income will be zero. “I’d be skeptical that a bank would rely on the franchise value itself for collateral,” says Bussing, who paid $800,000 for the Evansville Otters in 2001. One failing team drags down the value of its competitors, so the league will scrutinize your expenses. After all, if a league goes belly up, everyone loses their entire asset overnight. The resale market on jockstraps? Not great in a recession.

Find a Stadium: Do not try to build your own. Shouldering $1 million in annual debt service to build a $10 million stadium can cripple your franchise, so buy a team that has a rental agreement with the local town. Keeping ticket prices down requires at least 5,000 seats, and if the rent climbs past $3,000 per game, you’ll need good concessions to cover it. “Concessions can make or break a season,” says Bradley Wendt, CEO of the United League (a six-team Southern association stretching from Texas into Louisiana). “For every person who walks through your gate, you need to make at least $5 or you may as well hang it up.”

Staff Up: Unlike other minor league teams, indies recruit their own squads (usually sluggers passed over in the draft or released from other clubs). And at the Frontier League’s slave-labor pay range of $600 to $1,600 a month, players come cheap and easy: According to Wendt, of the 200 hopefuls who report to United’s tryout camp this year, only 10 to 15 will earn a spot on a team. Is it time to shutter your fantasy operation and rule the real game? “Everybody loves baseball,” Wendt says. “When I was managing director at Goldman Sachs, nobody wanted to talk to me at cocktail parties. Now? I’m the most popular guy in the room.”


Buying Home [Three teams bad enough to be affordable]

Shreveport Sports ($1,000,000) – The Sports’ pitchers have been atrocious – only two starters have winning records in the past two seasons. And forget run support: The club averaged 6.5 strikeouts per contest.

Laredo Broncos ($2,000,000) – Last in their league in batting? Check. Back of the pack in pitching? You bet. Is Laredo on the border of Mexico? Yup. Will you have to budget for bailing players out of a Tijuana prison? Possibly!

Orange County Flyers ($3,000,000) – The Flyers are skippered by Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, but their coyote mascot has his own email address. Interested? You can book him for “any kind of function.” Any kind.

Yakima Bears ($7,000,000) – A short-season Class A affiliate of the Arizona D-backs, the Bears are plagued by the dreary weather of the Northwest – and a pitching staff that pegged a league-leading 74 batters in 2007. 

Written by Steve

November 7, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Maxim

Tagged with , , ,