Forbes: Diamondbacks valued at $584m, up 31%

Christian Petersen

Forbes magazine has produced their annual survey of baseball franchise values, and in it, the Diamondbacks saw their value increase by close to a third last year, and are ranked 19th. Mind you, they weren't the only ones to see a sharp uptick.

The report saw an overall increase of 23%, the biggest since the magazine began their reports in 1998. The obvious reason for the increase was the ballooning income from television rights, and while Forbes acknowledges this, it also points out a couple of other areas which are providing an increasing share of funding. The first of these is MLB Advanced Media, which covers the sport's online presence. Products like MLB.TV and the MLB At-Bat application have proved to be a goldmine, which brought in an estimated $650 million in revenue last year. The At-Bat app was downloaded 6.7 million times, and is the top-grossing sports app of all time.

It's important to note that each of the 30 teams owns an equal stake in MLBAM, making it particularly valuable for smaller market teams, such as the Diamondbacks. The same goes for Baseball Endowment L.P. (BELP), an investment fund sent up to handle the profits from the Expos, which MLB bought on behalf of the other teams in 2002 for $120 million. The franchise was sold four years later for almost four times as much, and the profits have been invested, and quietly providing income for everyone ever since. As a result of things like this, gate revenue accounted for less than a quarter of Arizona's revenue last year: $44 million of $195m.

Unsurprisingly, the Yankees are still the most valuable team in baseball, at $2.3 billion and with revenue last year of $471 million - the Evil Empire (TM) are now worth just about twice what they were six seasons ago. The Dodgers are second, at just over $1.6b - though that is still less than the two billion dollars paid for them by the Guggenheim Baseball group in May last year. They have only taken two years to double their value, fueled by the $7 billion deal with Time Warner for television rights, and at this rate, it may not be long before they surpass the Yankees, who have been #1 for sixteen seasons in a row.

The biggest increases were all for teams at the bottom end of the overall value list, with the 28th-placed Athletics up 46%, the #27 Pirates increasing by 43%, and the last-placed Rays improving by 40% to $450 million. Oakland, Tampa and the Kansas City Royals are all worth less than the Yankees annual revenue. It's also worth looking at the debt to value ratio of teams, some of which are at the eyebrow-raising level. The Padres, Mets and Cubs all have debt of half or more of their entire team value, though for the Cubs that's an improvement, as the current figure of 58% is down from 75%. It's also a special case, as the main team lender there is the owner, the Ricketts family.

Focusing in on the Diamondbacks, team revenue was up $9 million to $195 million. However, operating income [defined as "Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization," should you be interested] dropped sharply, from $27.4m to $7.6 million. The great majority of that difference appears to be due to the increase in personnel costs, which went up from $86m to $103m. All told, however, since Ken Kendrick and associates bought the team in 2004 for $238 million, they have seen their investment grow by an average of about 10% per year, which is not bad, considering that period includes the worst depression since...well, the Depresssion.

Forbes report, "The Diamondbacks have proposed shifting ownership of $354 million Chase Field from Maricopa County to the city of Phoenix so that the team would have more say in the stadium's management. Critics of the plan are concerned that the city would have to pay for renovations... The D-backs have been filling 48,600-seat Chase Field less than 60% during baseball games. The team would like to reduce the number of seats and charge more for tickets," though that is an idea which has been tossed around for some time.

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