The Nationals are in the midst of the most prosperous period of their team’s brief history. After the 2012 season, the best in team history, the team was valued by Forbes at $631 million, a 31 percent jump from the previous season. But according to fascinating and extensive appraisals by Bloomberg, the Nationals — including stakes in MASN and other media — are actually worth a more generous figure of $850 million, the 13th highest valuation in baseball and likely the highest since the team moved to Washington in 2005.
Bloomberg published the findings Wednesday of their nine-month study of Major League Baseball team valuations, which were generally 35 percent higher than previous estimates. The Nationals, as a team, are worth $637 million, good for 13th among the 30 major league teams. The Nationals’ stake in the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network — which rises to 15 percent in 2014 in addition to a larger rights fee payment — is valued at $108 million (before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization), which ranks 12th in baseball. Like every other team, the Nationals’ stake in MLB Advanced Media, which shows games online and through mobile devices, is worth $110 million. Bloomberg’s official valuation for the Nationals is $850 million, rounding down the pre-rounded sum of the other three figures.
The New York Yankees were valued, obviously, the highest: a $3.28 billion estimate that includes a $2.09 billion team valuation. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who saw their revenue rise 38 percent to $450 million and boast an MLB-high attendance of 3.7 million, are second with an overall valuation of $2.1 billion.
The report further breaks down the Nationals’ financial situation in 2013. The Nationals were ninth in gate receipts ($85 million), 12th in team revenue ($230 million), 12th in concessions revenue ($20 million), 21st in sponsorship revenue ($18 million), 11th in media rights revenue ($83 million), eighth in parking revenue ($6 million) and 11th in attendance (2.7 million). And in terms of league revenue sharing, the Nationals posted a net gain of $11 million. (Teams such as the Yankees and Dodgers, in the largest markets, posted net losses in revenue sharing of $97 million and $32 million respectively, the largest and fourth largest losses.)
Based on these figures, the Nationals appear in good standing for future earnings. The 2013 attendance was the highest in the six-year history of Nationals Park, and second in team history after the inaugural 2005 season. Their parking, gate receipts and concessions revenue appear healthy relative to other teams. As the team on the field has improved over the years, despite a disappointing 86-76 record in the 2013 season, the attendance has increased and, as a result, the parking, ticket and concession revenue should go up, too.
But there are two areas for potential growth. Although the Nationals’ standoff with MASN and the Baltimore Orioles, who own the majority stake in the regional sports network, continues, the Nationals’ media rights and the valuation of their stake in the network don’t appear to be wholly damaging to their bottom line. The Nationals, however, have argued that they are a top 10 market and should be paid as such in terms of media rights, and there is obviously more money available. The Orioles, as a team, are valued at only $514 million, 20th in the majors, but they are propped up by their controlling stake in MASN, which is valued at $492 million, the fourth largest amount in baseball. As a result, they are valued higher than the Nationals at $1.12 billion, good for the seventh highest in baseball.
The other area of potential expansion in sponsorship. The Nationals haven’t sold naming rights to Nationals Park and, according to one estimate, a deal could bring $10 to $15 million a year for 20 years. The Nationals may want to sell naming rights to the stadium as soon as possible because it will reach a point where, regardless of a new naming rights deal, fans have called it Nationals Park for so long that it may remain that way in the public consciousnesses.
Despite a relatively low stake in their regional sports network and sponsorship money, the Nationals are a valuable and growing franchise. Managing principal owner Ted Lerner, who is 88 years old, was again among Forbes’ Top 400 Richest People in America list in September. Lerner’s net worth was valued at $4 billion, good for ranking 110th in the country and slightly more than his $3.9 billion valuation a year ago. He is the richest majority owner in baseball.
The Nationals’ payroll could rise in 2014, with an estimated $114 million committed next year without any likely upgrades to the bench or bullpen. The Nationals’ 2013 payroll stood at about $118 million, by far the highest since baseball returned to Washington in 2005.