Baseball's cash stash

By Tim Arango, Fortune writer

(Fortune Magazine) -- Funded with close to $75 million chipped in by the 30 teams, Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the league's Internet arm, could be worth as much as $3 billion if it goes public, according to estimates from investment bankers. In other words: three times what baseball's most valuable franchise, the New York Yankees, is worth.

Two years ago the owners considered taking a piece of MLBAM, which owns MLB.com, to the public markets, but backed off over worries about opening their books to public scrutiny and concerns that the players would demand a cut. But eventually the owners will want to monetize their investments.

The worry inside baseball circles is that the players will make the argument that MLBAM is nothing without them-and interfere with an IPO by demanding a portion of the proceeds or seeking a steep rise in licensing fees.

"There's a lot of value here. As we go forward I'd expect the board to periodically review it," says Bob Bowman, CEO of MLBAM. A representative for the players' union declined to comment. So despite the owners and players hammering out a new collective-bargaining agreement meant to ensure five more years of labor peace, it is a smart bet that billions of dollars in potential Internet riches could fry détente faster than Chris Carpenter's fastball.  Top of page