Oct 12, 2020 - Economy & Business

Inside the deal to take the Boston Red Sox public

Illustration of baseball on top of a pile of money

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Major League Baseball clubs try not to tip their financials, thus giving them better leverage when negotiating new players contracts or new stadium deals. But that might be about to change.

Driving the news: Fenway Sports Group, whose assets include The Boston Red Sox and Liverpool F.C., is in advanced talks to sell a minority stake to Redball Acquisition, a blank check company formed earlier this year by Moneyball maven Billy Beane and private equity investor Gerry Cardinale.

  • That minority stake would become publicly-traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Details: Redball would acquire between 20% and 25% of FSG via the transaction, which would need to be approved by Major League Baseball, Axios has learned from multiple sources.

  • It would contribute the $575 million it raised via IPO earlier this year.
  • It also is seeking to raise between $800 million and $950 million for a PIPE, inclusive of at least a couple hundred million dollars from Cardinale's RedBird Capital Partners. That process kicked off last week.
  • The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the deal, pegged the FSG enterprise value at around $8 billion.

ROI: Hedge fund billionaire John Henry led a $700 million purchase of the Red Sox in 2001. Nearly a decade later, he paid £300 million for Liverpool Football Club, putting it under an umbrella that also includes a NASCAR team and regional sports network.

  • The Red Sox have won four World Series titles during Henry's ownership, but just completed their most wretched year in decades.
  • Liverpool recently won its first-ever English Premier League crown.
  • In 20o2, Henry tried hiring Billy Beane to be Red Sox general manager, but was rebuffed.

But, but, but: Other SPACs spent the weekend kicking FSG's tires, even floating the idea of spinning out Liverpool, although none of them have the pro sports bonafides of Beane and Cardinale (who structured the Yankees Entertainment & Sports deal while a Goldman Sachs banker).

The bottom line: If this deal goes through, expect it to open the stargate between SPACs and Major League Baseball teams, creating all sorts of new financial transparency.

(Correction: An earlier version of this story had the wrong year for when the Red Sox tried to recruit Billy Beane)

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