Minnesota Twins owner Jim Pohlad is joining Platinum Equity LLC and
Liberty Media Corp.’s bidder group, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. Liberty, controlled by John Malone, owns baseball’s Atlanta Braves, while Platinum Chairman Tom Gores owns basketball’s Detroit Pistons.
Allen & Co., one of the banks running the sale, didn’t respond to a request for comment. Pohlad, Liberty Media and Platinum Equity also didn’t respond. Neither did Disney.
Platinum had initially expressed interest in the Detroit network, while Liberty wanted the Atlanta channel. Disney, however, wants to sell all 21 instead of having to make separate deals. The
New York Yankees are in talks to buy the YES Network, which carries the team and is the crown jewel of regional-sports networks.
Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.,
Apollo Global Management LLC and Major League Baseball also submitted offers, and consolidation among bidders is still a possibility, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the process is private.
MLB is bidding as a way to protect smaller-market clubs like Minnesota, one person said. The league is concerned that a private equity buyer acquiring the entire package won’t commit resources to the RSNs that carry small-market teams, the person said.
When Disney set out to sell the networks — a divestiture required by the company’s $71 billion takeover of 21st Century Fox Inc.’s entertainment empire — analysts estimated they could fetch $20 billion to $22 billion. But current proposals value the 21 RSNs, excluding YES, at closer to $10 billion, or roughly six to eight times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, the people said.
The Yankees channel may fetch $3 billion to $4 billion, the people said.
MLB is backed by the Canada Pension Plan, but the league has been seeking a strategic partner who could ensure the networks get good distribution from cable operators, according to one person.
Disney expects to complete its acquisition of Fox’s assets in the first half of this year. The company agreed to sell the sports networks in a deal with the U.S. Justice Department, which was concerned that Disney would be too dominant in sports broadcasting since it already owns ESPN.
— With assistance by Christopher Palmeri, and Nabila Ahmed