Liberty, the parent company of the Braves and Formula One, reported on Friday that the reigning World Series champs set a new revenue record of $568 million in 2021. That’s up 19% from the $476 million in revenue in 2019 and a 219% swing from $178 million in 2020 when the regular season was shortened.
The Braves, who had an operating loss of $128 million in 2020, used strong on-field performance this past season to accelerate their COVID-19 pandemic recovery, turning adjusted OIBDA (operating income before depreciation and amortization) from a $49 million loss in 2020 to a $111 million net gain last year.
Liberty CEO Greg Maffei says the corporate-owned club has already sold its most season tickets since 2000 and has sold out of premium seats at Truist Park for the first time. Unfortunately, labor issues are creating uncertainty regarding the upcoming 2022 MLB season. Maffei avoided discussing the ongoing lockout, which started in December.
“We’re certainly aware of the latest developments in our discussions with Braves management but are obviously prohibited from commenting any further,” Maffei said during Friday’s investors call.
Pressure is mounting on MLB and the players’ union to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement before they are forced to trim the 162-game regular season schedule. It’s unclear if the timing of this report will play a role in current negotiations with reps from both parties in ongoing talks in Jupiter, Fla.
Liberty bought the Braves from Time Warner for roughly $400 million in 2007. The Braves are now worth $2.3 billion, according to Sportico’s latest valuations. The team, which closed on its sale of four minor league affiliates to Endeavor (NYSE: EDR) in January, is one of a few publicly owned sports franchises in the country. Atlanta’s business success this past season, averaging $6 million per home game, gives a glimpse into how much MLB teams can potentially gain on the way to hoisting the championship trophy. The Braves, though, are unique in that they’re a nationally known brand that enjoys perennial strong fan attendance and owns an adjacent multi-use development (The Battery).
Liberty, which also has majority stake in Sirius XM (NYSE: SIRI), entered the 2022 first quarter coming off a solid year overall for its sports-related assets, with the Braves winning their first World Series since 1995, while F1 saw fan attendance return and captured a larger audience in the United States.
F1 brought in $787 million in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2021, up 62% over the $485 million earned during the same period in 2020. The increase was primarily attributed to fewer restrictions on fan capacity at venues, as well as media rights and sponsorship fees. F1 begins its season on March 20 at the Bahrain Grand Prix, while the Braves’ opener is scheduled for March 31 in Miami.