08 April 2005

Forbes 2005 MLB valuations + KFRC going bye-bye

As they have since 1998, Forbes has just published its yearly franchise values list. Not surprisingly, the Yanks and Red Sox are at the top of the list. An exploratory article accompanies the rankings.

The A's slipped in value $1 million to be worth an estimated $185 million, which is slightly higher than the Wolff/Fisher group's $180 million purchase price. Was this a hometown discount? We may never know.

The A's reportedly received $116 million in revenue in 2004, which when factoring in the $19 million revenue sharing payment they received, is probably correct. With revenue sharing, they pulled in a nearly $6 million profit. Without it, they'd run more than $13 million in the red, though it'd be more likely that they'd slash payroll enough to stay more-or-less in the black. It does make one wonder where the rest of the money goes. Every team claims $40 million or more every year in player development and other non-payroll operations-related costs, but it's not as if the A's draft players that demand huge signing bonuses. They don't have any stadium debt, and rarely do they venture into the expensive non-draftee foreign markets (Japan, Cuba). Perhaps there's a directive from the commish that teams who get large revenue sharing payments cannot extend their payroll as a result. That would make sense, but then what would the owners do with the extra cash? Well, it certainly does not suck to be them.

Then again, they may want to pocket that change, since KFRC will no longer broadcast A's games after this season. That makes one less high-power AM station available, thereby driving down the price of broadcast rights. On a related note, It's about time the A's and KNBR started getting along again. On and off for a few years, KNBR wouldn't broadcast A's highlights on radio because of a competitive situation between KNBR's parent, Susquehanna, and CBS/Infinity, which owned KFRC.

Rick Hurd's Q&A with Lewis Wolff

In the CoCo Times interview, Hurd inquires about Wolff's relationship with Selig:

CCT (Hurd): You mentioned at Friday's press conference that Mr. Selig approached you about buying into the A's. Would you have been as enthusiastic about it were it not for your friendship with him?
Wolff: Well, he helped me get involved because he knew me, and he knew Steve and Ken and what their situation was. What you have to remember is you can't really get involved in baseball unless the commissioner lets you. My friendship with him was not the big issue. The big issue was that with this particular team, the downside risk isn't that huge, but the upside potential is.

CCT: But it seems like without a ballpark solution, this franchise is stuck. Mr. Selig has expressed doubts in the past about whether this is a viable two-team market, and he's made his stance that the Giants own the territorial rights to Santa Clara County clear on numerous occasions. So how do you respond to those who might say your friendship with him and your choice to buy into the A's is a sign the franchise may be headed out of the Bay Area?
Wolff: Well, I've never heard him discuss the market, and the issue I think I made pretty clear at the press conference. We're going to focus on Oakland. We're not going to do what-ifs. If people want to focus on that, fine. There's 30 owners in this league, and I'm sure Bud is closer to a lot of them than he is to me. So I think that's a lot of hogwash really.

Then Hurd went further into the ballpark issue:

CCT: Clearly, finding a ballpark is the franchise's No. 1 issue. You've said you won't give daily updates, but for the record, can you tell us where you are in that process right now, and where you'd like to be a year from now?
Wolff: No. I want to be consistent on that statement, and I just don't think I need to do that. The real estate industry is the one area where I really know how to operate, and I just don't feel that's what I want to do. Otherwise, every real estate broker in the world will be lighting up my phone. I'm not trying to hide anything. It just wouldn't serve any purpose to comment on it at this time. That's not to say we won't have things to say as this process continues.

: The ballpark aside, you talked Friday about "thinking outside the box" with regard to operating this team. What other ways are there to grow revenue given the franchise's current state?
Wolff: We're exploring those things. I'm going to have a series of discussions with (Crowley). We think that there are, but we're not sure. We're only into this three days.

: In 1992, when Peter Magowan headed an ownership group that bought the Giants and kept them in San Francisco, his group faced many of the same problems the A's do now. How similar do you think your current situation is with their old one?
Wolff: I love the ballpark. I think times are different, and a lot of different things have changed since then. But they've been able to prove that a great ballpark in a downtown area does a lot for a community. At the same time, they tried to do it with 100 percent private money. That's very difficult, and I'm not sure you could get anything built today entirely on private money. But I was at that park on Opening Day a few years ago, and it was just wonderful. I think if we were able to do something like that in Oakland, it would have a very high impact.

CCT: What has changed?
Wolff: That's an entire discussion in itself. But the economic and political landscape are always changing.

Wolff's responses are carefully constructed as to not give the appearance of a commitment to any one idea (site, funding sources, timeline). The proposal(s) will come along soon enough. One refreshing thing I can see from Wolff's press conference and interviews is that he doesn't seem to be the type who will negotiate through the media. He's doing his necessary rounds with the media, then he'll go right back into silent mode. The quote confirming the lodge mentality of the commish and owners is unexpected, though not surprising.