Forbes, Bloomberg Battle It Out on MLB Team Valuations

Right around Opening Day, Forbes publishes its annual report on MLB team valuations. There is information on team revenues, debt, net income, and overall franchise value. The 2013 valuations, published in March, relied on 2012 numbers, plus a bit of forecasting about teams likely to land new, lucrative local TV contracts soon.

Now Bloomberg Business is getting into the act. A few weeks ago, Bloomberg published its own MLB team valuations, along with a terrific infographic comparing each team to the 29 others. Bloomberg also dug a bit deeper, and broke down each team’s revenue into gate receipts, concessions, sponsorships, and media rights. Bloomberg also used 2012 numbers, but reflected higher revenue and valuation figures than Forbes’ report from earlier this year.

We’ll get to the numbers in a second, but first a few words about the reliability of these valuations. The Forbes author doesn’t specify his sources. We don’t know if any teams or the league cooperated or provided information. We don’t know what secondary sources he may have relied on if teams didn’t cooperate. Bloomberg, on the other hand, is clear on where it obtained the information in its report:

Data for franchise valuations were provided by sports bankers, media consultants, municipalities, financial statements and people familiar with team operations. Calculations were compiled for the 2012 season and made available to each team and MLB for review and comment. Four teams didn’t return calls or e-mails. Sixteen declined to comment.

That means ten teams did provide at least some comment. Indeed, representatives from the A’s and the Giants told Bloomberg their team valuations were too low.

The fact that Bloomberg reported its sources and Forbes didn’t doesn’t make Bloomberg’s numbers inherently more reliable. Without access to the financial reports each team sends to MLB or to MLB’s own financial records, Forbes and Bloomberg are estimating. There’s some hard data and a lot of educated guesswork. Read the numbers with those caveats in mind.

One more thing. Forbes’ team valuations do not include any equity the team owns in a local sports programming channel. So, for example, the Yankees’ stake in the YES Network is excluded from the team’s valuation. In Forbes’ view, if the TV equity can be valued and sold separately, then it shouldn’t be included in the franchise valuation. Bloomberg takes the opposite view. Those teams that own a slice of their TV broadcaster see substantially higher valuations in the Bloomberg report, as compared to Forbes.

Let’s start with the valuation numbers, following Bloomberg’s rankings.

Team Bloomberg Franchise Value Bloomberg TV Equity Forbes Franchise Value
1 Yankees $3,280,000,000 $932,000,000 $2,300,000,000
2 Dodgers $2,100,000,000 $0 $1,615,000,000
3 Red Sox $2,060,000,000 $675,000,000 $1,312,000,000
4 Mets $2,050,000,000 $1,165,000,000 $811,000,000
5 Cubs $1,230,000,000 $181,000,000 $1,000,000,000
6 Giants $1,230,000,000 $230,000,000 $786,000,000
7 Orioles $1,120,000,000 $432,000,000 $618,000,000
8 Angels $1,090,000,000 $160,000,000 $718,000,000
9 Phillies $1,040,000,000 $0 $893,000,000
10 Rangers $1,010,000,000 $120,000,000 $764,000,000
11 White Sox $960,000,000 $226,000,000 $692,000,000
12 Blue Jays $950,000,000 $236,000,000 $568,000,000
13 Nationals $850,000,000 $108,000,000 $631,000,000
14 Tigers $830,000,000 $0 $643,000,000
15 Cardinals $805,000,000 $0 $716,000,000
16 Astros $800,000,000 $139,000,000 $626,000,000
17 Braves $760,000,000 $0 $629,000,000
18 Mariners $720,000,000 $0 $644,000,000
19 Twins $700,000,000 $0 $578,000,000
20 Padres $685,000,000 $43,000,000 $600,000,000
21 Reds $680,000,000 $0 $546,000,000
22 Brewers $615,000,000 $0 $562,000,000
23 Pirates $610,000,000 $0 $479,000,000
24 D’Backs $600,000,000 $0 $584,000,000
25 Marlins $595,000,000 $0 $520,000,000
26 A’s $590,000,000 $0 $468,000,000
27 Rockies $580,000,000 $0 $537,000,000
28 Indians $545,000,000 $0 $559,000,000
29 Royals $540,000,000 $0 $457,000,000
30 Rays $530,000,000 $0 $451,000,000

For many top tier teams, the Forbes valuation number added to the TV Equity number gets close to the Bloomberg valuation number. Given how Forbes excluded the TV equity piece, that makes sense. Bloomberg has some teams at a significantly higher valuation without a TV equity piece — the Dodgers, Phillies, and Tigers, as prime examples. The Dodgers’ valuation is likely influenced by the expected TV deal with Time Warner to launch SportsNet LA. That deal — announced early this year as $7 billion to $8 billion over 25 years — may very well push the Dodgers ahead of the Yankees in 2014.

The lower tier teams see an even bigger value differential from Bloomberg, as compared to Forbes, and it’s not clear why. Both Forbes and Bloomberg look at the enterprise value — the price at which a team would sell in an arms’ length transaction. Team-generated revenue is the key factor, followed by shared MLB revenue, market-size, ballpark value, and brand value.

On the revenue side, the Forbes and Bloomberg are relatively close for the bottom half of teams. The larger differential is at the top. Much larger, in some cases.

Team Bloomberg Revenue Forbes Revenue
1 Yankees $570,000,000 $471,000,000
2 Red Sox $405,000,000 $336,000,000
3 Dodgers $325,000,000 $245,000,000
4 Cubs $320,000,000 $274,000,000
5 Phillies $315,000,000 $279,000,000
6 Giants $300,000,000 $262,000,000
7 Angels $275,000,000 $239,000,000
8 Mets $265,000,000 $232,000,000
9 Rangers $260,000,000 $239,000,000
10 Cardinals $250,000,000 $239,000,000
11 Tigers $245,000,000 $238,000,000
12 Nationals $230,000,000 $225,000,000
13 White Sox $225,000,000 $216,000,000
14 Mariners $225,000,000 $215,000,000
15 Braves $225,000,000 $225,000,000
16 Twins $215,000,000 $214,000,000
17 Orioles $210,000,000 $206,000,000
18 Blue Jays $210,000,000 $203,000,000
19 Astros $205,000,000 $196,000,000
20 Brewers $205,000,000 $201,000,000
21 Reds $205,000,000 $202,000,000
22 Marlins $200,000,000 $195,000,000
23 Padres $195,000,000 $189,000,000
24 D’Backs $195,000,000 $195,000,000
25 Rockies $195,000,000 $199,000,000
26 Indians $190,000,000 $186,000,000
27 Pirates $185,000,000 $178,000,000
28 Royals $180,000,000 $169,000,000
29 A’s $175,000,000 $173,000,000
30 Rays $175,000,000 $167,000,000

That’s a nearly $100 million differential in the Yankees’ revenue, $80 million for the Dodgers, $60 million for the Red Sox, $45 million for the Cubs, and $35 for the Phillies and Giants. Without more details from Forbes and Bloomberg, we’re left to wonder how they could have reached such wildly different revenue estimates for these teams.

Dig into the details. See how your team stacks up. By Opening Day 2014, we’ll have entirely new numbers from Forbes to play with.


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Wendy writes about sports and the business of sports. She's been published most recently by Vice Sports, Deadspin and You can find her work at and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.

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Just two points:

1) Here’s the classic takedown of Forbes valuations, at least as far as hockey

2) It should be noted that one of the editorial guys who worked on the Bloomberg valuations, the one who wrote up the main article, used to work for Forbes. When there, he played a part in one of the silliest sports-value articles of its era, one that Forbes doesn’t have up anymore, but that lives on in Google cache Deadspin explained what went wrong

So, yeah, these measures could have some validity, but until teams actually open their books, I barely trust the inputs and methodology of either set.