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Are O’s or Nats a bigger franchise? Split decision

WASHINGTON — Bloomberg News puts the Baltimore Orioles’ value at $1 billion-plus and says they’re the most valuable nonfootball sports franchise in D.C. and Maryland. But Forbes says they’re worth just $618 million.

Which is right? It depends how you define value.

Bloomberg values the Orioles at $1.1 billion and ranks them seventh in Major League Baseball. It has the Washington Nationals valued at $850 million and ranked 13th overall.

But fellow business website Forbes has the O’s valued at $618 million and ranked 17th overall. Forbes ranks the Nationals 14th in the major leagues with a value of $631 million.

The differences between Forbes and Bloomberg can be attributed to what is counted. Bloomberg counted baseball-related enterprises owned by both teams, including the Orioles’ much higher stake in the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. Forbes did not.

Baltimore Orioles

One source values the Orioles franchise at $1.1 billion, which puts them at No. 7 in Major League Baseball. (The Daily Record Photo/Maximilian Franz, file)

Orioles Director of Public Relations Monica Barlow said in an email the franchise has no comment on the Bloomberg report because “we do not discuss club financial matters.”

Capital News Service was unable to get a comment from the Nationals.

Peter Schwartz, the Bloomberg reporter who compiled the baseball franchise valuations, was confident in his findings.

“There’s no doubt that when counting all the elements that are owned by the Orioles ownership group, it is over a billion-dollar franchise,” Schwartz said. “In this day and age, sports teams have advanced to the point where the team itself is a platform for making money elsewhere. Without looking at enterprises owned by the team, you’re not getting a complete picture of the franchise value.”

Forbes Executive Editor Mike Ozanian, who compiled valuations for professional baseball, basketball, hockey and football franchises, said he did not include stakes in regional sports networks in his reporting because sometimes teams are bought and sold separately from their networks.

Schwartz said without counting business ventures like MLB Advanced Media (which works on smartphone apps and runs mlb.com) and MASN (which the Orioles own in conjunction with the Nationals), the Orioles are worth $514 million and rank 20th out of the 30 MLB teams.

Schwartz and Ozanian both said that part of what makes the Orioles a more valuable franchise than the Nationals is their deal with MASN. The league gave both teams ownership of the network in 2005 when the Montreal Expos moved to D.C. and became the Nationals.

The deal gave the Orioles an 87 percent ownership stake in the network, leaving the Nationals with a 13 percent stake that will grow one percent each year over the next 20 years.

“The deal was signed before local rights fees and television fees exploded,” said Ozanian. “The Orioles have the better part of that deal. If the Orioles were sold, they would get more.”

Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College and expert in the field of sports finances, estimated that the difference between Bloomberg and Forbes’ valuations of the Orioles would roughly equal the revenue the franchise would bring in from MASN and other business ventures.

“They’re making different estimates,” he said. “If you’re asking how much the Orioles are worth as a franchise, Forbes is adequate. If you’re asking how much is the entirety of the assets (Orioles owner Peter) Angelos owns, then you include MASN.”

The Baltimore-Washington region is also home to the Baltimore Ravens, Washington Redsknis, Washington Capitals, Wizards, Mystics (WNBA), D.C. United (Major League Soccer) and Kastles (professional tennis). Ted Leonsis and his company, Monumental Sports Entertainment, own the Capitals, Wizards and Mystics.

Forbes valued the Washington NFL franchise at $1.7 billion and the Ravens at $1.2 billion, which ranks them third and ninth in the NFL, respectively. It valued the Capitals at $414 million and ranked them 12th in the NHL, while the Wizards were said to be worth $397 million and ranked 23rd in the NBA.

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