Could the Mets Just Go Public?

What’s the hottest current sports business model? At least for the moment, a few days after the Super Bowl, the Green Bay Packers’ nonprofit public ownership is looking a whole lot sexier than the traditional model of for-profit private ownership, especially when those owners aren’t exactly model. While Green Bay’s owners — Packer fans who bought shares in the team, an arrangement that goes back to 1923 — just won a Super Bowl last week, the Mets’ shoddy ownership has been perhaps the biggest story of the offseason. It’s hard to know exactly how much money the Wilpons have lost, but between the team’s debt and the allegations of Madoff-related malfeasance, some or all of the team is going to need to be sold.

A few days ago, Forbes’s Mike Ozanian noted that the aggregate book value of the Mets franchise is -$225 million: with $375 million in debt associated with the team and $695 million in debt associated with Citi Field, the franchise has $225 million more debt than assets. So while the Wilpons are trying to sell a piece of the team just to dig themselves out from under their Madoff-related mess, the team is in a pretty dire need for dough. What if they went public?

Though the Packers are the only team in America’s four major leagues to be owned as a public nonprofit, they aren’t the only such team in the world. Just yesterday, NotGraphs’ Bethany Heck wondered aloud why there weren’t more such teams. Moreover, when it comes to teams being traded publicly as Krikor Meshefejian wrote for the Illinois Business Law Journal, in the late ’90s, both the Cleveland Indians and the Florida Panthers were traded on NASDAQ. That didn’t necessarily effect their ownership structure as radically as it does in Green Bay — Indians owner Richard Jacobs still owned a controlling share, so while shareholders had a vote, he had final say. Finally, the Boston Celtics were publicly traded until nine years ago, and Fangraphs’ own Robert Sanchez was briefly one of their many owners. (Several other teams are wholly-owned subsidiaries of corporations that are traded publicly, such as the Seattle Mariners, owned by Nintendo of America.)

There are still a few minor league teams, English Premier League teams, and Canadian Football League teams who are completely publicly owned. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a liberal think tank, has a list of the six minor league baseball teams with public ownership: the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the Harrisburg Senators, the Memphis Redbirds, the Rochester Red Wings, the Syracuse SkyChiefs, and the Toledo Mud Hens.

According to the Institute, all are nonprofit but the Red Wings, and the Red Wings operate as effectively nonprofit; this means that none of the teams pays a dividend, and all proceeds from the games and from merchandise are spent on the team’s operations. That could be difficult if a team had trouble turning a profit, because the way to generate new capital would be to issue new stock, diluting the shares that were already held, which would damage the franchise’s credibility and value in short order. But for a cash cow like the Toledo Mud Hens (made famous by a story arc on M*A*S*H) or the Green Bay Packers, where the dollars are plentiful and each one of them goes right back onto the field, the arrangement has been close to ideal.

The Mets aren’t the only team that could use a serious rethinking of ownership. Last year, we learned that the owners of the Marlins and Pirates have been pocketing huge profits from revenue sharing while skimping on baseball operations. As Jeff Passan wrote of the Marlins, “The team fought to conceal the $48.9 million in profits over the last two years because the revelation would have prompted county commissioners to insist the team provide more funding.” And Forbes reported, “The Pirates earned $15.6 million in 2009 because they received $40 million in revenue sharing from their more successful competitors.” If a team were publicly owned, such malfeasance would not only be harder to cover up, because the books would be open, but it would also be contradicted by the desires of ownership, because the ill-gotten gains would be directed to the shareholders, nearly all of whom would be likely to vote for management who preferred championships to shareholder dividends.

Moreover, as Patrick Hruby wrote for ESPN:

Had the Baltimore Colts’ ownership structure been similar to Green Bay’s, they never would have left in overnight trucks for Indianapolis.

The Browns never would have left for Baltimore.

The Seattle Sonics never would have jetted to Oklahoma City.

Los Angeles might still have an NFL team. Or two.

So there are a lot of benefits to a fanbase from a team being owned transparently. The problem, sadly, is obvious: Major League Baseball has complete control over who gets to own a major league team, and nonprofit public ownership just isn’t the sort of thing they approve, as sports business expert Vince Gennaro told me in an interview: “The owners are very much handpicked.”

The Wilpons might consider selling a partial, non-controlling stake in the team, as the Indians did in the ’90s, but Gennaro points out that the teams are in very different situations: back then, Richard Jacobs’s Cleveland Indians were one of the hottest teams in baseball, selling out the recently-opened Jacobs Field every night for 455 consecutive games from 1995 to 2001, and “the wind was clearly at his back.” By contrast, the Wilpons would have to persuade their diehard fans to be silent partners of an ownership group currently being sued for a billion dollars — diehard fans who have been so slow to buy season tickets that, on Tuesday, the Mets announced a series of new partial season ticket plans that included free tickets. If a fan was uneasy about shelling out a few hundred or a few thousand dollars for tickets, it’s hard to imagine they’d be more willing to pay the same amount of money for little more than the pride of ownership.

Mets fans might get a better team if they owned the team rather than the Wilpons, but they may not get that choice any time soon. Their only hope right now is that the Wilpons are even more overextended than they’ve let on, with the end result that Major League Baseball would be forced to offer another ownership group the opportunity to buy the team. (Gennaro suggested Stu Sternberg, the successful owner of the Tampa Bay Rays — who would then need to divest ownership of the Rays, with someone else brought in to purchase that team — but it’s not hard to imagine a number of owners who might be able to do a better job than have the Wilpons.) Pure public ownership may work well when it works, but it’s a lot easier for a team to go from public to private, as a number of Premier League teams have recently done, than vice versa. Sadly, the Mets are likely to remain privately owned for the foreseeable future. Even if it’s no longer exactly clear by whom.

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Alex is a writer for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.

64 Responses to “Could the Mets Just Go Public?”

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  1. william says:

    One thing to keep in mind is that if a team registers to trade on a public exchange, they are required to fully disclose their financials on a regular basis. Not only would that be less than ideal for individual owners, but leagues wouldn’t be too happy if one team is reporting healthy operations while the commissioner is trying to claim hardship.

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  2. vivalajeter says:

    Another thing to keep in mind: That -$225MM is pure bunk. He subtracted out the $695MM debt for Citi Field, but did not include the value of Citi Field as part of the assets. If you add the value of Citi Field to the equation, they’re above ground by several hundred million dollars.

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  3. Darien says:

    You go a bit off the rails here:

    “If a team were publicly owned, such malfeasance would not only be harder to cover up, because the books would be open, but it would also be contradicted by the desires of ownership, because the ill-gotten gains would be directed to the shareholders, nearly all of whom would be likely to vote for management who preferred championships to shareholder dividends.”

    Can’t say I agree at all with your assertion that ‘nearly all’ of the shareholders would prefer championships to dividends. Seems quite likely to me that many shareholders would like to get some money back on their investments. Regardless, it’s pretty bad form to take a large, non-homogeneous group such as “shareholders” and assign to them one blanket set of desires or motivations.

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    • You make a good point. In the case of the Packers, the maximum number of shares that any one shareholder can own is capped, which means that the maximum possible dividend would be relatively small — of course, because they’re nonprofit, there are no dividends.

      In the case of a public team like the Indians in which a single owner continues to own the majority of the stock, that single owner still has essentially full control over operations, so the will of the shareholders is less important, because the majority owner can simply outvote them by herself. So that’s more or less akin to the private ownership model we currently have, except insofar as the books are open, as william notes in comment #1.

      The reason that I said the shareholders would prefer a championship to ill-gotten dividends is simple math: championships are indivisible, while even $20 million in profits would result in a very small real dividend to individual shareholders, unless those shareholders controlled huge amounts of the team — which would be impossible if the maximum number of purchasable shares was capped, as with the Packers.

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      • Joe says:

        What, then, is the incentive to own? You can decide not to purchase shares in your team, and if they win you still get to enjoy it without having paid for it. I don’t know a single investor in the world who doesn’t like either a) dividends or b) earnings to be plowed back into the company with the hopes of providing even greater future dividends. In my profession, if neither a nor b is satisfied, your company will soon be worth very little. It seems the only real incentive is pride of ownership, and if you’ve got a family to feed, that needs to take a back seat.

        To be certain, I am of the belief that if you are running a company, you are running it to achieve the greatest possible profit. The ONLY exception to this, of course, is if you are running a sports franchise, in which case you are operating to WIN. As far as I know, the only people who can really afford to own and “investment” that they know will never pay them back are already-wealthy owners like Mark Cuban, who grasp the concept of sports being for winning. Of course, winning generates greater profits…

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      • kick me in the GO NATS says:


        industries with strong Unions are never run for profits or growth. Why should baseball be different?

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      • The incentive to own is something akin to the incentive to buy expensive jerseys and season tickets. To many diehard fans, following the team involves expensive outlays of money. A share of the team is much more lasting than a $15 hot dog and fries at the ballpark, or a $99 jersey, or a $2000 season ticket package.

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      • Rich says:

        Lots of businesses are run for purposes other than profit, and perhaps more should be. In the case of sports, the example of Green Bay shows that shareholders (who don’t make a dime directly) have the incentive of supporting an organization out of sheer love for the game, support which in turn brings actual value back into the community and to the team. Fans/ owners can cheer the team knowing that their franchise will never be taken away, that the organization will have an enduring legacy tied to the city of Green Bay, and that their tax dollars aren’t subsidizing the private profit of a single owner, but authentic local culture.

        If baseball fans want this kind of thing for their favorite team, the first step is to deal with Bud Selig. He’s been pretty clear on his stance against community ownership. Those who want to read more about it might want to check out “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining The Games We Love” by Dave Zirin.

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      • Eric R says:

        “What, then, is the incentive to own? You can decide not to purchase shares in your team, and if they win you still get to enjoy it without having paid for it.”

        Wouldn’t it be wrapped up in that the value of the franchise should still increase, meaning each share should increase in value as well, right?

        From the Forbes data, if the team is worth $845M now and was worth $144M in 1996, that is a 12.5% annual increase, long-term. Wouldn’t that have been a solid reason to own part of the team?

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  4. Hank says:

    You can’t say the Mets are in dire need of cash (even without the Madoff mess) without looking at cash flow, which unfortunately is not public information

    Simply looking at book value and associating long term debt with needing cash is a misleading (and wrong) way to look at things from a business/economic perspective.

    I’m not saying that they aren’t in need of cash (pardon the double negative), just that a cursory look at book value and long term debt is not a viable way to assess that.

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    • Franco says:

      Right, I’m a finance guy and it’s hard to draw conclusions without seeing the books. Book value is terrible way to evaluate a baseball team, especially a privately owned one.

      There are some serious red flags though, such as the Mets bonds being downgraded to junk status last year. The rating agencies seems to think they have some cash flow issues and they get to see the books. This also happened before the big lawsuit and announcement that the Wilpons are looking for another partner.

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      • Bryan says:

        That, and a presumably $250 million sale of the business is hardly going to get them where they need to be with this lawsuit. They will have to magically find a ton of liquid cash to operate the company and settle this lawsuit. I think the 30 year run of the Wilpons is over for the Mets.

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      • Hank says:

        I completely agree, I just think the analysis written here is horribly misleading. The Bond rating is probably much more telling – I work in the semiconductor space and you could see as AMD’s bond rating was dropping they were also having cash flow problems and needed to do something. (it also helped that their books are public record so you could actually look at the cash flow)

        Liquidity and debt can and often do go hand in hand but this article makes it sound like they have to . For all we know the Mets could have a positive cash flow despite the large long term debt (unlikely but there is no way of knowing) – the bond rating changes does give us a clue (though was not mentioned in the article).

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      • Thanks, Hank and Franco. Believe me, I’d love better numbers to go on. But all w know about for certain is the debt and the lawsuit — the rest is rumor and innuendo.

        I don’t know for certain that the Mets are in dire need of cash. But I do know that the Wilpons are in dire need of money, or else they wouldn’t have offered to sell a substantial piece of the team.

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      • MC says:

        Hank –

        I too consider myself something of a finance guy; I guess one of the great things about finance is that two people can totally and fundamentally disagree on an issue.

        Surely after this mess, I sort of chuckle and scoff at anyone who still puts any faith in bond ratings. Bond ratings are basically for lazy people.

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  5. veloist says:

    take a look at Barcelona, probably the best football (soccer) team in the world right now. owned by the fans:

    Barca is owned by its ever-growing membership of 156,366 ‘socis’ (members), who pay 150euros each year and are represented by a randomly-selected group who meet with the board and vote on major decisions.

    now that’s how to run a sports club

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    • Rob says:

      Problem is, Barca are in deeper debt than the Mets if I remember correctly.

      But this is definitely something that is more common in Europe. The German Bundesliga actually has a rule stating that every team must be 51% owned by the fans (excluding Bayer Leverkusen, owned by Bayer pharmaceuticals, and Wolfsburg, owned by Volkswagon).

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  6. NEPP says:

    Well, for one, the other 29 Owners would never ever ever approve it and they have to sign off on such things.

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  7. Joseph says:

    Just a question about baseball and pro sports in general: how come the structure of these leagues always seem so inflexible? I mean, in what other field of commerce would it be impossible to take your company public without all of your competitiors agreeing to allow you to? I’ve never really understood how things got to be this way, and it seems like it really hurts the product. Why not be free to find the best way to structure a pro basbeall team?

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    • Franco says:

      We’d need some lawyers to dumb down all the details, but baseball works with some screwy anti trust laws passed by Congress making them a legal cartel basically. They can do a bunch of things that wouldn’t fly in any other industry.

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      • Mike says:

        The issue, to put it simply, is that the anti-trust laws do not apply in the same way to sports leagues as they do to other areas of commerce because collusion is seen as necessary to maintain the league. In order to play competitive games, each competitor has to collude on the rules, on who will air it on television, etc., so the courts have consistently held that sports leagues can collude on most aspects of the league. The only times they cannot collude is when it is clearly holding back competition, like back in the 70’s when UGA and OU sued the NCAA to force them to allow more games to be played on TV. If the league can make any reasonable argument for why a rule makes things more competitive, then it will be allowed.

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      • Jake says:

        Way back in 1922, the Supreme Court had some really bizarre reasoning in the case of Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs (259 U.S. 200). Essentially, the Court decided that since games take place entirely in one state, MLB wasn’t engaging in interstate commerce, so it wasn’t subject to anti-trust laws. Completely bizarre, but since the courts operate under Stare decisis (following the logic of previous decisions), the decision was repeatedly upheld. The Supreme Court repeatedly stated that if MLB was not supposed to have this legal monopoly, Congress should pass an act clarifying the position. Surprise of all surprises, Congress never did anything. In 1998, MLB and MLBPA pushed the Curt Flood Act through Congress, which clarified the legal position and gave MLB a legal monopoly over everything except its players.

        Wanna guess who did his graduate sports law research paper over the subject?

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  8. Coby DuBose says:

    The chances of the Wilpons getting hit with punitive damages (which is what it would take for the bill to reach $1billion) are pretty low. That claim is essentially posturing to position the administrator well for settlement talks. The Wilpons will likely settle, and it will be for some amount close to what they netted in the deal. That number is significantly less than $1billion.

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  9. matt w says:

    Last year, we learned that the owners of the Marlins and Pirates have been pocketing huge profits from revenue sharing while skimping on baseball operations.

    In the Pirates’ case, they’ve been “pocketing huge profits” by paying down debt and not distributing any money to the owners. What malfeasance! What ill-gotten gains!

    What a load of horse manure.

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    • Maybe I was being unfair to Bob Nutting and his ownership group. I haven’t seen specific reports that they’ve spent their profits paying down debt. They certainly haven’t put it on the field. But I apologize for stating as fact my own speculation. With the Marlins, certainly, the case is much clearer.

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  10. db says:

    Sports teams are not competitors in the traditional sense of the word, but joint venturers. One team cannot exist without the others. The Supreme Court granted baseball an anti-trust exemption in the early 20th century, but it applies only to baseball. Congress sometimes threatens to revoke it, but it will probably never happen.

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    • Jake says:

      Congress passed an act (Curt Flood Act of 1998) declaring MLB to have a legal monopoly. It was endorsed by the Union and the League (and negotiated as part of the 1997 CBA), and subsequently pushed through with very little resistance by anyone. There is no way for Congress to revoke the anti-trust exemption now.

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  11. Anthony says:

    Paying what debt? Didn’t the Pirates get the city to pay for like 110% the cost of the stadium by also having them pay for the infastructure? Plus it was cheap for a stadium? What debt did the Pirates have when the city paid for (according to my Sports Economics professor, he could be wrong though) 110% of their stadium? What debt do they have when they run a micro budget?

    I’m not trying to be a jerk but this is news to me and I honestly don’t buy it. I feel that if teams are going to use public money to pay for team expenses, then they need to show us where the money goes.

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    • joe says:

      The Pirates paid some debt and since the owner told us that’s all that happened… that of course is what happened. Of course paying debt doesn’t exclude paying themselves in one form or another as well.

      The “books” that were leaked have nowhere near the detail to assess the entirety of this… yes they did pay down some debt, but that doesn’t preclude some of the profit from being distributed in one form or another.

      The Marlins had a specific line item in their leaked statements about am extra distribution of money to the ownership group in their income statement, but the lack of one in the Pirates statements that were released is not evidence that they didn’t do the same (and I don’t mean to imply an illegality). There is just not sufficient information and you have to accept the owners’ word.

      There was one distribution of 20 mil; roughly half was to pay back a loan the owner made to the team when they were having issues, and the rest was to offset taxes the owners incurred by owning the team. The Pirates ownership group claimed this was a non-issue (why pay taxes out of their own pocket?)…. yet oddly they have since ceased this practice (so apparently now they think they should pay out of their own pocket or have found a different way to route the money to cover it.)

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    • matt w says:

      Paying what debt? Didn’t the Pirates get the city to pay for like 110% the cost of the stadium by also having them pay for the infastructure?… What debt do they have when they run a micro budget?

      The argument here seems to be that the Pirates can’t have any debt since the public paid for the construction of PNC Park. This is definitely not true; their debt was so bad in 2003 that they were forced to trade Aramis Ramirez to meet MLB requirements about earnings/debt ratios. (Of course, because Dave Littlefield is a moron, they completely botched that trade.)

      Here’s an article about the Pirates’ debt, which was around $120 million as of 2009 or so.

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  12. Anthony says:

    In my opinion, a salary cap and MINIMUM would be the best. It’s clear that the Pirates want to lose. Nobody loses for 20 straight years without meaning to. I understand that it’s simply not profitable for some teams to be above .500 for a long time (have to resign guys and the market simply can’t support it). However, TWENT STRAIGHT YEARS!?!?!?? You kidding me? You are trying to lose, trying to get shared rev. In my opinion, Selig should threaten to move the Pirates if they don’t produce 1 winning season in the next 4 years. I think having a team back in Brooklyn would be amazing. Split up the NYC market some more that way the Yanks are on a more level playing field, plus you wouldn’t have the deadweight of the Pirates.

    I don’t think the type of ownership has anything to do with it, but the structure of the league that allows crappy ownership. I think there should be 2 more American League teams, only 14 gives a team like the Yankees even more of an advantage. Add one team in the AL West like Portland or Vegas, and another in Brooklyn or Jersey. Salary Cap and Min, 10 playoff teams, draft caps, higher shared rev, TV deals made through the league not the team, lots of other little things I could go on about. Baseball has a lot of problems that allow ownership to suck. It’s bad for baseball to have 20 straight years of either the Red Sox or Yanks (or both) in the playoffs yet for almost 20 straight years the Orioles, Nats, Pirates, Royals, and until recently, Rangers haven’t made it. You can look at playoff teams and say “well baseball isn’t much different than the NFL in terms of parity” but when you use more sophisticated metrics for parity and look at the season as a whole (playoff teams aren’t the only important thing, having winning seasons and being in the race counts too) then MLB and especially the NBA suck compared to the NFL.

    Sorta off topic rant, sorry.

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    • joe says:

      Play a 16 game baseball season and rig the schedule (by design) to favor last place teams and what would the more “sophisticated parity metrics” look like in baseball?

      I’m sick of people assigning NFL parity to revenue sharing and a cap as the main reason for parity…. it’s certainly a factor but it’s hard to say how much of one it is.

      You think a significantly smaller game sample size might have a huge impact and lead to more variation? (I would think on a site like this most people would have an appreciation of how significant a 16 game vs 162 game schedule is).

      If not shorten the schedule, how about we tailor the out of division schedule such that the Rays and Yanks (as the top 2 finishers last year), play a more difficult schedule than the Orioles and Rays (the bottom 2 finishers in the division) Similarly the M’s and will play more games in the AL East against Toronto and Baltimore, while Texas will play more against NY and TB… that’s ‘fair’ right? Why should teams in the same division actually play similar schedules… the NFL model is much more equitable and just.

      Now play different schedules within a division and play just 16 games… you think you might get an increase in your “sophisticated parity metrics”? Or should we call it what it is…. an increase in randomness (and before I get flamed it’s obviously not all randomness)

      Revenue sharing and a cap have an impact but it is not the panacea people keep portraying it as. People draw comparisons with another league which has 1000’s of different competitive variables and somehow can conclude that they’ve isolated the one variable that primarily controls parity.

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    • Bill says:

      The Pirates need to make some Vlad Guererro type signings to placate the fans, win a few more games, yet not sacrifice the future. That being said, just two years ago, they spent more on the draft than any other team. They are still a long way away from recovering from the extreme incompetence of their previous GM. (Remember the Matt Morris trade) So, it doesn’t make an whole lot of sense for them to be spending a ton of money. The real test will come next off season when Cutch and Alvarez are producing and it becomes evident that it time to start spending money again. The revenue sharing money that’s been pocketed needs to be spent at this point.

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      • matt w says:

        Yeah, I think they’ve spent more on the draft total over the last three years than any other team (this may involve some funny accounting with the Strasburg and/or Harper contracts, but then again they didn’t get the chance to pay for Strasburg or Harper).

        Another point is that you can look up to the all 0-3 year team article and find three Pirates in the NL starting lineup, with two more just missing. Their cheap players are also their best players.

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  13. ken says:

    Man, supposing these were publicly traded companies, you could have sabrmetric shareholder proposals and proxy contests. awesome.

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  14. anthony says:

    you make good points about the sample size and yea, rev sharing/cap/min isn’t the whole answer. Like I said, adding a team in brooklyn or even jersey would be an awesome way to help level the playing field.

    as far as sample size, it’s not the big of a deal. Baseball’s win% are closer, in baseball 90 wins likely gets you in the playoffs and I’m pretty sure most teams are between 90 and 70 wins, that’s the equivelant of most NFL teams being between 7 and 9 wins.

    Season to season, over the course of decades, baseball lacks parity compared to the NFL. If you use actual parity metrics and use a few decades, you have a large enough sample size. We’re not talking about a 5 year period, we’re talking about 20 years. 16 games a year to 162 is a lot in a season, but from season to season, regardless of fluke years in the NFL, the Pirates, Royals, and Nationals should have had at least a few .500 seasons by now.

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  15. anthony says:

    not only all that but there’s a reason that baseball has 162 game season and the NFL has 16. the sport demands it. In both you can fluke your way into a postseason spot, maybe even a championship. In baseball, you need 162 games because baseball is a game that the players who are great and the players/teams who aren’t are only marginally better in small samples. 600 at bats in a 6 month season means there’s only 5 hits more a month for a .300 hitter vs a .250. A 90 win team only wins 11 out of 20 games. Football isn’t like that, the better team will usually win. the length of the 2 seasons aren’t all that relevant because they’re relative to their sports.

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  16. Max says:

    Alex, please file this article right next to your article on the Winter Classic.

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  17. Glen says:

    Ok lets get to all the points here. The Mets as a team should have never be owned by wilpon. Doubleday bought the last place team in 1981 for I think 22 million. And wilpon working at a law firm then was named President of the club. Now even though wilpon grew up poor in Brooklyn. He in 1981 was doing nicely for himself but he did not have 2 million let alone 22 million to buy the Mets. Yet by the earlier 1990’s with the Met’s worth well over 100 million he suddenly had the money to buy half the team from Doubleday. Where did he get all the money. The President of a baseball team normally is not going to make 50 million dollars in a ten year period and his Daddy didn’t own the team. Where did that money come from it came from Wilpon’s Best friend Madoff several years after that with Madoff’s backing Wilpon bought the other half of the team. The Mets were one of the reason’s why Madoff lasted as long as he did. The money from the bonds due to not just these two sales but also to start up the Team’s cable channel and building citi-field were key to showing investor’s how safe and how much money was to be made with Madoff. Wilpon’s ownership and wealth was built by a man that stole it all from other people. The team should be sold and those people that Madoff rip-off should get the money.
    As for parity, the pirates and the NFL. First comparing the NFL to MLB and the NBA and NHL is not possible the NFL plays 16 games in places that seat 80,000 to 100,000 NBA and NHL it’s 82 games a year with around 25,000 seating and MLB has 162 games with seating that is 40,000 to 60,000. The Yankees avg over 45,000 seats sold a game KC was 19,000 KC has the lowest ticket prices the Yankees the highest. There is no way to compare MLB to the NFL and then there are the TV and Radio deals some teams the red sox and both NY teams own there own cable networks which run 24/7 even when the baseball season is over. As for parity I think it sucks. Why do I want to see a different team win ever year. I want to see ownerships that want to win all the time. If they all wanted to win and spend the money then guess what there would be parity. But there are plenty of teams out there that just want to pocket the money. Yes the pirates have lost for 20 years so what they just got a new place to play baseball in. And there ownership has made huge profits the last three years and not put any money back into the team. Yankee’s your either a winner or you hate them and guess what, Having a team like that is good for any sport because every other team out there wants to beat a team like that, it’s good business. I am also a Knicks and Rangers fan, Knicks have not won it since 1973 and the ranger’s won one cup in the 90’s and the other cup’s they won were before 1940. I hate the lakers and Celtics and the Canadians. Now why is it that these two big market NY teams don’t win like the Yankee’s will that’s simple because I hate the ownership of the Knicks and Rangers more then lakers,Celtics, and Canadian. MSG is always sold out the seat’s are the highest priced in any sport, and yet the teams don’t do crap they never sign a big ticket free agent and they hide behind the salary cap rule’s because the ownership knows win or lose that they will always sell out. Why pay big bucks for the best product when you know it will lower your profits. This is what parity has brought to football two teams playing in NJ that say they play in NYC and no teams playing in LA the two largest markets. Why because NFL teams rape city’s into building them new homes. NYC and LA are so big that they can force the other three sports MLB,NBA and the NHL to pay the cost’s of building there own homes. The Biggest mistake the SF Giants made was leaving NY the Yankees are worth 1.6 billion and the Met’s 800 plus million what are the SF Giants 200 million? Bad move until last year the last time the Giants won the WS was in 1954 when they were playing in Harlem. You want parity in MLB and the NBA and the NHL and stop seeing teams hop from city to city in the NHL and the NBA then stick several more Baseball teams, basketball teams and hockey teams in NYC, Long Island and northern NJ and do the same in LA below is the top three metro areas ceanus reports.
    1) New York-Newark-Bridgeport, NY-NJ-CT-PA – 21,976,224
    2) Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA – 17,775,984
    3) Chicago-Naperville-Michigan City, IL-IN-WI – 9,725,317
    If some small city’s with less then one million people can’t support one team and there is almost 22 million people in the NYC metro area it makes sense to move or put more teams in the NY metro area and the LA metro area. You want parity several more teams in each of those sports in NYC and LA can bring ticket prices down since people will have more teams to go to and lower there profits. Meaning less money to spend on high salaried players. And as for the pirates not having a winning team in 20 years. Well a Cubs fan can tell you they have not won a WS since 1908. And there are several Football teams that have never won a Super bowl, and the same for the other three sports as well

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  18. Nardi says:

    Why do people keep making it like the Wilpons are broke just because they are being sued for $1 billion?

    I could sue Alex or any of you commenters for $1 billion – it doesn’t mean I’m winning jack squat.

    The Mets could easily win the lawsuit or settle for something like $50 – $100 million, and if that’s the case they are definitely not losing the team, and might not even have to sell any part of it.

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  19. Ron says:

    I’m not sure I’d want to buy shares in any team just for the vanity points. Most fans would want to believe they have some small influence on the direction of the team. But how many Mets fans do you think would donate $100 to the “Albert Pujols” fund? If the Mets don’t sign Pujols, you get your money back. If they do sign him, you get a certificate to hang on your wall, and an “I Helped Sign Albert Pujols” T-Shirt. Almost like being GM for a day. How cool of a business model would that be?

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  20. Adrock says:

    Hi Alex. I just wanted to disagree with Max. This article has sparked a very interesting discussion and I think any misconceptions can be laid at the feet of slimy financiers / weaknesses of the data / source material.

    Keep up the good work!

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  21. Patrick says:

    You mentioned the English Premier League and Barcelona, and there are a number of other teams, but the Bundesliga in Germany actually requires 50%+1 community ownership. Another thing to consider is that in the NFL it’s actually illegal to have a community owned club (the Packers were grandfathered in), and I’m sure in most of the other American sports leagues this is also the case. American owners have a legal monopoly, so they’re never going to passively support change like that, unfortunately.

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  22. Sun king says:

    Why is it bad for owners to make money? Yeah, it sucks for the fans, but they can just stop giving any money to the team and eventually it will no longer be profitable to lose 100 games a year. The revenue sharing alone would not be enough to sustain profitability. Your arguing that sports should be non profit is akin to me saying that since I enjoy fangraphs the writers should make no money for the general welfare of the website and to keep it competitive with other websites

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  23. Thinker says:

    New York really has had a terrible 10 year stretch of not being able to pull things off.

    Olympic committee laughed NY out of the room in 2005.
    Financial collapse 2006-2009. Nobody asked tough questions of investment banks
    Total inability to rebuild 9-11, embarrassing
    Xanadu Project in Meadowlands.a complete joke.
    Lebron James dissing New York, after 3 years of hype of how NY money talks
    Mets going broke thanks to involvement with Madoff ponzi scheme

    Does anyone in New York ever ask tough questions of fellow New Yorkers?

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  24. Richie says:

    I’ve actually read, although I haven’t looked up the rules themselves that MLB requires that “no more than 49% of a team can be distributed by way of a public offering, and voting rights of publicaly-held shares must be restrictd.”

    See A Piece of the Rock (or the Rockets): The Viability of Widespread Public Offerings of Professional Sports Franchises, 5 VASELJ 201, 209 (2006).

    Thus, the only 49% of the Mets could be purchased by IPO. Also, a poster above mentioned the Packers and they are correct that they were grandfathered as the NFL has even more strict rules against public ownership than MLB.

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  25. Dhalgren says:

    Anyone here who thinks that owning shares in a sports team should involve dividends clearly does not know history. The Celtics and Packers fans who buy each other shares for Christmas and Bar Mitzvahs know full well it is not an investment. It’s just a way to directly support the team. Owning a sports team is almost always a losing proposition. But with public ownership comes transparent books and an honest source of income. The Celtics and Packers have both won multiple championships as public companies. The Mets need to do the same. This week, they are offering 4% shares of the team for $20 Million each? Please. Give the team to the fans. The owners have clearly screwed this one up beyond repair. Hand over the keys.

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