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Volume 20 No. 46
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Filing lists how MLBPA built asset base in late stages of CBA

The MLB Players Association in 2016 built up its asset base to $178.6 million, the second largest in the organization’s 51-year history, as it maintained its practice of accumulating funds in the latter stages of a collective-bargaining agreement.

The figure, a 27 percent jump from 2015, was listed in an annual report recently filed with the U.S. Department of Labor for calendar year 2016. Over the past three years, union assets have grown 93 percent.

In advance of a CBA negotiation, sports unions including the MLBPA typically withhold money that normally would be distributed to players. The money can be used for litigation and other costs arising from a work stoppage, and is returned if a stoppage is avoided.

MLB and the union last December completed a new five-year labor deal covering the 2017-21 seasons. With the agreement now in place, players are set to receive this year a distribution of withheld licensing money, which will be reflected in the 2017 annual report, to be filed early next year.

The only time the MLBPA held a larger asset base was in 2011, a point similar to 2016 in baseball’s labor cycle. The union then had assets of $200.7 million.

Much of the MLBPA’s saved money has been in U.S. Treasury securities and other investments.

The MLBPA declined to comment.

Other report highlights show that player distributions of licensing money varied more widely in 2016 than in prior years. Individual distributions ranged from $5,000 to $20,000 a player based on factors such as service time and participation in special promotions.

The union’s revenue from “other receipts,” where licensing income is listed and itemized, was reported at $51.2 million, up 16 percent from 2015.

The annual report, known as the LM-2, is based on cash and not accrual accounting, and payments are credited in the years they are received and not earned. As a result, views into the financial state of the organization can be deceiving. Still, the union showed sizable growth in revenue from several of its top licensees.

Majestic parent VF Knitwear supplanted longtime MLBPA trading card partner Topps as the union’s largest licensee with $10.9 million in payments last year, up sharply from $1.42 million, though nearly half of the newly itemized funds represented obligations from 2015. Topps ranked second in 2016 with $9.9 million, up from $9.35 million, with some of its payments also tagged to 2015 obligations.

Sony Interactive Entertainment, maker of the video game “MLB: The Show,” ranked third at $6.7 million, up from $5.3 million in 2015.

MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark earned $2.09 million in total compensation in 2016, up 4.6 percent from the prior year (see chart).

Research director David Broughton contributed to this report.