SBD/July 2, 2014/Franchises

Mandalay Baseball Sells Dayton Dragons For Nearly $40M, A Minor League Record

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Mandalay Baseball Properties has sold the Single-A Midwest League Dayton Dragons, owners of the longest sellout streak in U.S. pro sports, to Palisades Arcadia Baseball, led in part by NBA Grizzlies investor and veteran minor league team operator Michael Savit. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but multiple industry sources said the deal is for nearly $40M, a record sum for a Minor League Baseball team. Savit is joined by two former Harvard classmates, investment bankers Nick Sakellaraidis and Greg Rosenbaum. As part of the deal, the Palisades group has secured the continued employment of the Dragons' existing management team, led by President Bob Murphy. The sale is the second in the last month for Mandalay, whose majority owner Seaport Capital is divesting all five of its minor league teams. The first sale for the Double-A Texas League Frisco RoughRiders to former MLB Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg was for more than $30M, industry sources said, and briefly held the record as the largest MiLB team sale until this Dragons deal. The Dragons have been a Reds affiliate for their entire 14-year existence in Dayton, and earlier this season recorded the 1,000th consecutive sellout at Fifth Third Field.

NO MAJOR CHANGES PLANNED: Palisades execs this morning said they did not plan to make any significant changes to the Dragons operation, at least at the outset, and were highly attracted to the asset as it currently exists. "We see this as a crown jewel. This has been a tremendously well-run business with fantastic customer care," Sakellaraidis said. Murphy said that mindset fostered a quick affinity between Dragons management and the Palisades group, and there was no serious thought of leaving after the sale. "It would have been really difficult to let go of our baby. But any concerns we might have had were quickly alleviated. They understood the importance of continuity," Murphy said. While the record sales price is for a Single A-level team, its attendance, corporate support, merchandise sales and overall revenue base are much more in lines with those seen by the most successful of Triple-A teams. And MiLB at large continues to see franchise price appreciation, in line with escalation at the major league levels, and fueled in part by rising national-level revenue through ventures such as the BIRCO digital initiative and Project Brand. "We feel very comfortable with the financial metrics, the evaluation of the franchise and the asset we're getting," Sakellaraidis said. Mandalay Baseball was represented by Game Plan LLC, while Palisades was advised in the deal by Sports Advisory Group/W.B. Grimes & Co.

MORE TEAM SALES COMING: Industry sources said handshake deals are in place to sell two other Mandalay holdings, the Triple-A Pacific Coast League Oklahoma City Redhawks and a half-interest in the Triple-A Int’l League Scranton-Wilkes Barre RailRiders. Signed documentation and formal announcements are expected in the near future. The fifth Mandalay Baseball holding, the Double-A Eastern League Erie Seawolves, will likely be the last team to be sold.
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