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Baseball said to strike out IPO plan
Report: Wall St. pitches $3B IPO for MLB.com parent, but owners reject deal ahead of labor talks.
September 27, 2005: 6:46 AM EDT
SportsBiz SportsBiz Column archive Sports Illustrated email Chris Isidore

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Major League Baseball is reportedly passing up a chance at billions of dollars from an initial public offering of its profitable online service because owners didn't want to open their books and receive the big payday ahead of upcoming labor talks.

The New York Post reports that numerous Wall Street firms pitched to take Major League Baseball's Advanced Media public in an offering that could have been worth $3 billion, or $100 million a team. But it reported the baseball team owners couldn't be convinced that reaping a few billion dollars was worth it considering that the contract with the Major League Baseball Players Association is due to expire Dec. 19, 2006.

The paper reports that the online service, which sells not only licensed merchandise but also audio and video coverage of ball games online, was started with the 30 teams committing to pay $1 million a year for four years. But the site became profitable sooner than expected, limiting investment to about $70 million to $75 million.

A spokesman for MLB.com told the paper the IPO was looked at, "but after a thorough, careful and deliberate analysis of the issues, (we) decided to shelve the potential offering at this time."

The paper reports that despite the reluctance of baseball owners, several of the Wall Street firms have made detailed proposals to the board of MLB.Com for an IPO.

The most recent baseball labor agreement was reached in 2002, the first reached since the 1960's without a work stoppage. The players union agreed to management demands for a so-called luxury tax designed to limit player pay after baseball argued very few teams were profitable in the face of rising team payrolls.

But in addition to profits from the Internet operations, baseball has seen strong attendance gains and more lucrative television rights deals in the years since the last labor pact.

For a look at one problem ahead for baseball's labor talks, click here.

For more news on the business side of sports, click here.  Top of page

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