Moore: From sportsmen to investment bankers, the evolution of baseball’s owners

From Jack Moore at The Hardball Times on April 2, 2018:

There isn’t really such a person as a baseball owner any more. Sure, there are people who own baseball teams, but the baseball owner as an identity died decades ago. The last owner to make his primary income through baseball, Calvin Griffith, sold the Minnesota Twins to billionaire Carl Pohlad in 1984. Since then, baseball teams have become investments for absurdly rich men like Pohlad or Bruce Sherman, the co-founder of Private Capital Management who recently bought the Miami Marlins, or for faceless investment teams like Los Angeles’s Guggenheim Group.

Phil Wrigley said in the early 1950s, “Baseball is too much of a business to be a sport and too much of a sport to be a business.” Not so much these days; if anything, baseball teams are assets. The steady influx of money from lucrative stadium deals and television contracts has made sports teams one of the easiest bets for growth in American business. This is particularly true in baseball, where the anti-trust exemption makes monopoly control perfectly legal.

The investment groups buying teams these days have often included sports figures–Magic Johnson in Los Angeles, Derek Jeter and Michael Jordan in Miami–to disguise the cynical nature of these acquisitions and to put a recognizable face on what are otherwise enigmatic organizations. As a labor war begins to brew, it has become impossible to ignore that more and more owners have ties to hedge funds. Some of these owners have little to no prior connection to baseball, and some have shown little indication that winning will ever eclipse the balance sheet on their list of priorities.

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Originally published: April 2, 2018. Last Updated: April 2, 2018.