Via Wally Matthews today-
Rupert Murdoch is knocking on the door of Yankee Stadium. How long will it be before he owns the entire building, and everything in it?
According to a New York Times report, News Corporation, the multi-media behemoth run by Murdoch, is on the verge of acquiring 49 percent of the YES Network.
A senior New York Yankees official, who insisted upon anonymity, confirmed the impending deal, although the official insisted it was merely “the stockholders looking to monetize their investment.”
“This has nothing to do with selling the team,” the official said. “Under no circumstances will the team be sold.”
And up until a few months before his death in 2010, George M. Steinbrenner was still running the Yankees, every bit as forceful and in command as he had been when he bought the team for $8 million in 1973.
The point is, nothing is ever precisely the way the New York Yankees portray it to be.
George was in charge, until he wasn’t. Joe Torre was the manager, until he was fired. And the team isn’t up for sale.
Until it is.
The sale of nearly half of the YES Network to Rupert Murdoch may be as simple as the senior team official says it is, an expedient way for Goldman Sachs, which makes its living buying and selling off assets, to score a cool $1.5 billion or more on its 10-year-old investment.
Or it could be the first step in an exit strategy designed to get the Steinbrenner family out of the baseball business within the next three to five years.
There is compelling evidence to support both arguments. With many large corporations looking to cash out on investments before an expected corporate tax increase in 2013, it would seem to be the right time for Goldman Sachs to dump its share in the YES Network.
But in order for News Corp to acquire 49 percent of YES, a figure that the team official confirmed, Murdoch will need to buy more than just Goldman’s 40-percent share of the network. How much of the remaining nine percent will come from the Yankees’ 34 percent share is not known.
The fact that the Yankees are not taking the opportunity to increase their own share of YES to 51 percent, to insure they retain control of their own network, indicates that they are willing eventually to cede that to Murdoch — who reportedly will have the option of increasing his share of YES to 80 percent within five years.
I can just see Larry Lucchino now, bitching about phone-tapping…