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SBJ/April 11-17, 2011/Labor and Agents
MLBPA builds asset base as labor talks continue
Published April 11, 2011, Page 6
According to the organization’s LM-2 filing with the U.S. Department of Labor for calendar year 2010, required by law, the MLBPA ended last year with total assets of $167.5 million, up nearly 13 percent from $148.7 million at the end of 2009. The only MLBPA asset total to surpass 2010 in the last decade was $171.2 million in 2006, achieved shortly before the enactment of the sport’s current five-year labor deal.
Sports unions, including the MLBPA, typically in advance of a CBA negotiation, withhold money that normally would be distributed to players. Those funds can be used for litigation and other costs arising from a work stoppage, with the money then returned if a stoppage is avoided.
On a player-by-player basis, distributions from licensing royalties also fell sharply last year, with maximum payouts decreasing from $18,103 in 2009 to $14,080. The 2010 sum is barely half the $28,041 player maximum distributed in 2008.
MLB and the union are just beginning formal negotiations toward a new agreement to replace the current accord, which expires in December. Three bargaining sessions have been held, with many more to come during the spring and summer.
While the mood surrounding the developing baseball talks has nowhere near the hostility or broad conceptual disagreements of the NFL and NBA labor situations, many owners think correction is still needed on areas including revenue sharing, debt rules, postseason format and draft rules. But MLB is not expected to ask for major concessions from players as the NFL or NBA have done, so it is not anticipated that players will strike or owners will impose a lockout.
MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner, serving in his first full year in that role in 2010, earned $1 million during the year, continuing a salary level held for years by his predecessor, Donald Fehr. Now the head of the NHL Players Association, Fehr is listed in the MLBPA LM-2 as having earned $750,000 in 2010. Gene Orza, the now-retired union chief operating officer, earned $1.325 million. Judy Heeter, the union’s former head of licensing, earned $772,500. It is believed the money paid to Fehr, Orza and Heeter was related to their retirements from the union.
The union’s revenue from “other receipts,” where licensing income is listed and itemized, was reported at $46.45 million, down nearly 12 percent from $52.66 million in 2009. The MLBPA credits payments in the years they are received and not earned. It is thought the drop in the year-to-year comparison is a result of payments that were earned but not received until 2011 and that those payments will be reflected in next year’s LM-2.
Take-Two Interactive, parent of 2K Sports and baseball’s exclusive third-party console video game producer, was again the union’s largest licensee in terms of royalties, with payments of $14.5 million. Sony Interactive Entertainment, maker of “MLB: The Show,” paid $3.56 million. Trading card partners Topps and Upper Deck paid $5.77 million, and $6.57 million, respectively, each down by double-digit percentages from 2009.
Union officials declined to comment.