Mark it on your calendar: The Atlanta Braves were sold from Time Warner to Liberty Media on Wed. May 16, 2007 for a transactional value of $461 million. By unanimous vote at the Owners Meeting today in New York, the deal was approved.
“I am pleased to welcome Liberty Media as the owner of the Atlanta Braves,” said Commissioner Selig said at the announcement. “I am also excited that Terry McGuirk will remain in his role with the club, along with John Schuerholz, Mike Plant, Derek Schiller, Bobby Cox and others. They have made the Braves a model of consistency. I also want to thank Turner Broadcasting and Time Warner for their years of successfully owning the club.”
“On behalf of Liberty Media and the entire Braves organization, we want to thank Major League Baseball for their diligence and approval of this deal," Braves president Terry McGuirk said. "We are excited to move forward and to bring our fans more championship-caliber baseball and experiences at Turner Field in the years ahead. I look forward to staying on and continuing to lead this organization, and I am confident that fans will enjoy a world-class baseball experience. We will continue to strive for World Championships for our fans and the city of Atlanta.”
Along with the retention of the front office brass, it was announced that Henry Aaron will take on a more visible role with the organization.
The deal is a final break between Ted Turner and the Braves. Turner purchased the Braves on January 1, 1976 owning the team outright until merging Turner Broadcasting Systems, Inc. with Time Warner in October of 1996.
Time Warner has been working towards a sale of the club since December of 2005. At the time of the announcement, Arthur Blank the owner of the NFL Atlanta Falcons showed interest in the purchase, along with Colorado based Liberty Media. Talks were broken off with all parties except Liberty early in 2006, as Time Warner and Liberty worked through a complex swap of cash, stock, and a group of craft magazines, including Leisure Arts.
The sides agreed to the deal in February of this year, needing only MLB's ownership approval for the Braves to fully consummate the transaction.
In total, the cash-rich split-off will see approx. $770 million in taxes saved between Time Warner and Liberty Media.
UPDATE: The final financial figures released by the parties have, Liberty Media Corporation (Nasdaq: LINTA, LCAPA) ("Liberty") and Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) announcing Thursday, May 7th that they completed a transaction on May 16, 2007, in which Liberty exchanged approximately 68.5 million shares of Time Warner common stock, subject to a working capital adjustment, for a newly created subsidiary of Time Warner which holds the Atlanta Braves, Time Inc.'s Leisure Arts, Inc. and $960 million of cash.
While the figures have somewhat changed since this flowchart was initially created late last year, select the image below to see how the transaction will flow, with the Braves as a small part of the transaction.
With these details of the transaction, there have been concerns on how the Braves might be viewed by Liberty. The Braves are not being purchased by Liberty due to their interest in the Braves. With the Braves simply being a holding in a much larger deal, MLB has worried that the new owners would not tend to the running of the franchise as they see fit. As reported earlier today , provisions are in place that guarantee that player payroll will remain at least at the same level as it has in the past three seasons (about $80 million) and a commitment that current Braves president Terry McGuirk would remain in control of the team for Liberty.
As for Liberty's partial ownership of Toronto-based DonBest.com, a gambling information business, Selig said at the announcement that they were, "working internally to resolve that."
Odds are that Liberty will not hold onto the Braves any longer than they have to. They will be locked in till at least 2011.
"They have committed to 4 1/2 years ownership, minimum, which frankly is more than we get guaranteed from anybody else," Selig said to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
They will have to own the club for at least several years in order to avoid paying taxes on the sale, but beyond that, Liberty would seem to have little interest in owning the Braves. While Liberty continues to gobble up regional sports networks, and now owns the majority of DirecTV (another cash-rich split-off to avoid taxes), the direct ownership of a sports franchise breaks with their portfolio.