The all-Cal World Series is here. Variety reports that the value of the Angels may have gone up as much as 25%, from $200 to $250 million, with their impending appearance in the Fall Classic:
- Behind the scenes, Disney has made no secret of its attempts over the last three years to unload the team, along with pro hockey’s Anaheim Mighty Ducks. The franchises have been seen as non-strategic businesses, diversions from the core Disney assets of movies, broadcast TV, cable TV and theme parks.
Indeed, Eisner’s high spirits may be traceable to an analysis from David Carter, a principal with the Los Angeles-based Sports Business Group, who says the value of the Angels may have shot up to as high as $250 million from $200 million as a result of the World Series appearance.
Interested buyers in the Angels include billionaire Carlos Peralta; the Nederlander family, which owns and books theaters throughout the U.S.; and a consortium of investors being put together by former commissioner of baseball Peter Ueberroth.
But finding buyers for baseball teams has been tough. The Cleveland Indians sold for $320 million in February, 2000; the Toronto Blue Jays nabbed a paltry $112 million; and the Red Sox, one of the game’s most storied franchises, was recently purchased for $660 million in a deal that included the regional cable sports network NESN and Fenway Park. The differences in prices are almost always tied up in real estate — whether a team owns its stadium and/or training facilities. News Corp. paid $311 million for the Dodgers four years ago.
Dean Bonham, head of the Denver-based Bonham Group of sports consultants, said the value of the Angels comes chiefly from ticket sales, particularly for luxury boxes, both in the postseason this year and for next year’s regular season, and from lucrative “official” sponsorships in a whole group of categories ranging from beer and soft drinks to automobiles and telecommunications.
For a large fee, a soft-drink company, for example, not only gets the monopoly on drinks served at the ballpark but becomes the exclusive 30-second-spot advertiser in the category on the TV (both broadcast and cable) and radio coverage of the Angels games.
Disney bought a 25% stake in the team from founder Gene Autry in 1995. The company upped its stake to 50%, and after Autry’s death in 1998, acquired the rest of the team in 1999.
Despite Eisner’s full-throated cheerleading for the Angels in the series — and public hints that Disney might retain at least some ownership stake in the team — Carter and Bonham said he hasn’t changed his mind about selling the team.
“If the last five or so years have told us anything,” Bonham said, “it’s that sports is not a good fit for a huge media conglomerate.” For example, AOL Time Warner’s Atlanta Braves have suffered disappointing attendance at the stadium this year, as well as diminished Nielsen ratings on the TBS cable network. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who failed again to make it to the post season despite a bloated payroll, have given News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch plenty of headaches over the last few years.
The collective-bargaining agreement reached by the owners and players last month, which slammed the door on a threatened strike by the players, is a plus that helps to make the Angels more saleable, Bonham said.
But while Disney owns the team now, late owner Gene Autry is the name most associated with the Angels, as Hal Bodley discusses in USA Today:
- When Gene Autry was in his prime and the going got tough, he’d climb down from his horse, Champion, drop his 10-gallon hat, sing a song and everything was all right.
That, of course, was make-believe — a scene from many of his more than 90 movies.
Happy endings were the way it was in Hollywood. Not so for the Cowboy’s love affair with his baseball team. He spent nearly 40 years trying to write a feel-good script and always came up short.
When Autry died Oct. 2, 1998, the Angels had never been to the World Series. Their colossal near-misses since they entered baseball as an expansion team in 1961 are well-documented.
If the Cowboy were still with us, he would have to convince himself that this script is for real.
The Angels were within one victory of winning the American League pennant against Milwaukee in 1982 and lost three games in a row. In 1986 they were one strike from the pennant when Boston’s Dave Henderson hammered a two-run homer. The Red Sox went on to win in 11 innings and the next two games and on to the Series.
Gene Mauch was the manager of the Angels those years.
There was a long silence on the phone from Rancho Mirage, Calif., when I asked Mauch what the Cowboy would be saying today.
“I don’t want to use a lot of useless words,” Mauch says. “The way he would be is feeling strong.
“I’m sure he’d like this club because it has the greatest kind of pride imaginable. By that I mean they’re proud of each other. They look at each other and like what they see. And they love the game.”
I once talked to Autry about those jarring losses. His response was typical.
“Nobody deserved a pennant more than Gene Mauch,” he said. “Yes, I thought we were finally going to the World Series both times, but it didn’t work out that way. Those things happen, and you just can’t cry over spilled milk. People shouldn’t get disheartened. Just move ahead.”
That’s why the Cowboy was loved.
More on the playoffs here.