Fenway Sports Group LLC is in negotiations with special purpose acquisition company RedBall Acquisition Corp that would eventually see Fenway Sports (owners of the Red Sox and Liverpool FC of the Premier League) go public, Cara Lombardo and Miriam Gottfried of the Wall Street Journal report.
The proposed merger would eventually see Fenway Sports valued at $8 billion (including debt) after going public. RedBall would spend roughly $1.575 billion to become minority partners in this overall enterprise, with Red Sox owner John Henry and his Fenway Sports Group partners retaining majority control.
As Lombardo and Gottfried put it, “the talks are in the early innings and could still fall apart,” so it could still be some time before we see any concrete news. And, it could be that the biggest impact takes place on the soccer front rather than the baseball front, as Lombardo and Gottfried hear that a Fenway Sports/RedBall partnership could look to buy more soccer clubs around Europe. RedBall are already the majority owners of Toulouse FC, buying the French team last July.
Perhaps the most intriguing baseball-related aspect of this deal is that longtime Athletics executive Billy Beane is RedBall’s co-chair. (A’s minority owner Lew Wolff is also on the board.) The other co-chair, Gerry Cardinale, also has some significant MLB ties, as Cardinale sits on the Yankees’ board and was involved in the development of the YES Network — Cardinale’s private equity firm, RedBird Capital, still owns a minority share of YES.
Should the Fenway Sports/RedBall venture go forward, it’s hard to imagine Beane would continue to remain with the A’s if he is that heavily involved in the ownership group of a rival team’s parent company. Following the 2018 season, Beane signed a contract extension of unknown length to remain as the Athletics’ executive VP of baseball operations. Beane also has a four percent ownership stake in the A’s, as per an earlier contract extension from back in 2005.