SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- So you want to buy the Cubs? Got a spare $1.2 billion under the couch cushions?
Each year, Forbes magazine ranks Major League Baseball teams by "value," in other words, what the magazine thinks the teams would sell for, if they were for sale.
This year's rankings have the Cubs fourth, at the above-mentioned $1.2 billion. Whether or not you agree with that figure, here's what writer Mike Ozanian said about the Cubs and their future financial position, something we are quite familiar with:
The Cubs, who own 25% of Comcast SportsNet Chicago, raked in $60 million in local television money from the RSN and broadcaster WGN combined. WGN’s deal with the Cubs expires after this season while its pact with CSN Chicago runs through 2019. Two different end dates makes a new deal complicated, but sports banker Scott Milleisen of JPMorgan believes the Cubs are in line for a television rights fee package worth an average of around $200 million a year given the Philadelphia Phillies recently came to terms on a 25-year, $5 billion deal with Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia that will begin in 2016.
First, I believe that 25 percent figure is wrong -- it's my understanding that each of the four teams involved in CSN Chicago (Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, Blackhawks) owns 20 percent of the channel, with the other 20 percent owned by NBC Universal.
The $200 million estimate might be right -- if the TV rights bubble doesn't burst before 2019, which is the first year that the Cubs can bid out their entire package to one entity. There's still no word on where the WGN-TV portion of the Cubs' TV deal will go, when such a deal will be signed, or how much money it will be worth (and my guess is, such a deal would be worth less now than it might be if the Cubs were a better team). The Cubs are also negotiating a radio-rights deal; it's my understanding that the Cubs will be re-upping with WGN radio, with the deal possibly announced shortly after Opening Day. Of course, a radio deal isn't going to be worth nearly as much money as a TV deal. Here's a Fangraphs article from 2013 that talks about radio rights deals; it doesn't mention the Cubs, but you can get an idea of how much the Cubs might get in a new radio contract from the figures for other teams mentioned there.
The three teams ahead of the Cubs in the Forbes ranking are the Yankees ($2.5 billion), the Dodgers ($2 billion) and the Red Sox ($1.5 billion).
Here's a page with all 30 team valuations from Forbes. Note that you'll have to click through 30 times to find all of them. The Cubs page indicates an estimated $266 million in revenue for the Cubs in 2013, with operating income of $27.3 million.