With the very real possibility of Major League Baseball taking a step back and contracting by two teams, outstanding securitizations issued by professional sports entities are not expected to have disruptions in cashflows, but this latest news does add a new dimension to how sports deals will be viewed, sources said.
Most involved agree that it is likely the Montreal Expos, as well as either the Minnesota Twins or Florida Marlins, that will be shut down. In turn the league franchise buyout fees would be invested in two other floundering teams, the Anaheim Angels and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Should this occur, the remaining 28 teams will each get a larger cut of the MLB revenue-sharing program, estimated at $160 million this year.
"As the (economic) problems have exacerbated, it has become clearer to me that everything should be on the table, including contraction," said baseball commissioner Bud Selig, according to ESPN.com.
Moody's senior vice president Jay Eisbruck noted teams are often restricted from moving to more lucrative markets by existing stadium leases, which include large financial penalties should the lease be broken. Eisbruck noted that the St. Louis Rams' 1995 move from Los Angeles was contingent upon satisfying all financial obligations under its existing lease. Contraction could be a way to eliminate teams in unprofitable markets without incurring these penalties.
The elimination of professional sports franchises is not a common occurrence, with the most recent being the NHL's Cleveland Barrons (previously the California Seals) following the 1975-76 season. In baseball, while numerous teams have been chartered or relocated, the last contraction occurred in 1899, when four teams were axed, according to Bob Waterman at the Elias Sports Bureau.