Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei (left), watching a game with Braves chairman Terry McGuirk in 2016. 
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / hshin@ajc.com
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / hshin@ajc.com

Braves owner not in ‘exit mode’ as team makes money at ‘serious clip’

The Braves are making money “at a pretty serious clip,” and team owner Liberty Media plans to stick around for a while. 

That was the message from company executives during an investment conference in New York on Wednesday. 

“Look, I think there is a lot of good stuff that is going to go on at the Braves that we’d like to remain involved with for a period,” Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said. “That includes for the buildout of The Battery, all of the development around there. That includes, frankly, the fact we are well set up for on-field performance with very attractive contracts. 

“We are making money now at the Braves at a pretty serious clip, where historically the measurement was we didn’t lose money,” Maffei said. “That’s only going to get better as you approach the time when we renew in 2027 on our (regional sports network) deal. So all of those (factors) set up well to suggest – not that we’re going to hold (the Braves) 10 or nine more years – that there are a lot of positive things happening. … I don’t think we’re in the exit mode today.” 

Liberty Media’s chairman, billionaire John Malone, concurred with Maffei’s remarks, which came in response to a question about whether the Braves might be spun off from Liberty into a stand-alone company. Maffei said there’s no clear need to do so “until we got to the exit mode,” although he previously has said a spinoff is a possibility at some point.

During the day-long investors event, which was broadcast on Liberty’s website, Braves executives provided details on how much money the team is making. 

In the first nine months of this year, through Sept. 30, the Braves posted an operating profit before depreciation and amortization of $105 million (up more than 100 percent from $49 million at the same point in 2017) and revenue of $410 million (up from $366 million at the same point in 2017). 

The Braves’ strong financial results have stirred speculation about when, or whether, the team will significantly increase its player payroll to add more talent to a young roster that won the National League East championship this year. 

The Braves didn’t specifically address future player payrolls  during Wednesday’s conference, but the team’s chief financial officer, Jill Robinson, said: “We all believe (2019) is going to be a fantastic year for us on the field, and these financial results we are showing you should help us make wise investments in the team. Hopefully you will see the results of that on the field next year.” 

From 2016 -- their last season at Turner Field -- to 2018, the Braves said average paid attendance increased 26 percent, gate receipts increased 66 percent, average ticket price increased 32 percent and sponsorship revenue increased 107 percent.

“It’s pretty obvious to all of us in this business that we really exceeded expectations on and off the field this year,” said Mike Plant, CEO of Braves Development Co. 

Maffei said The Battery, the Braves’ mixed-use development adjacent to SunTrust Park, attracts 3 million people per year in addition to baseball game attendees.

Liberty Media, based in Colorado, purchased the Braves in 2007.

Wednesday’s event also featured presentations on other Liberty Media businesses, including the Formula One auto racing circuit.

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