Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher is reportedly not interested in selling the team any time soon. As reported by Mick Akers of the Las Vegas Review Journal, Fisher is quoted as saying “I want my family to own the A’s long into the future”. No kidding.
It was widely reported that MLB has imposed a “flip tax” on Fisher, meaning that if he sells the franchise prior to 2028, he will have to give 20% of his earnings back to the league.
The tax lengthens out into the 2030’s at diminishing percentage points, meaning that Fisher is incentivized to retain the A’s as part of his portfolio well into the future.
Owning a professional sports team is a profitable venture. Despite Fisher’s claims that the organization is tens of millions of dollars in the red each year, there’s one thing we know for certain: team valuations have grown exponentially over the years, specifically in the time that Fisher has been at the helm of the A’s franchise.
The A’s were sold in 2005 for a total of $180 million. According to an annual report from Forbes, the A’s were valued at $1.18 billion at the beginning of 2023. The quick math on that gives you a 555% return on investment over a 19-year period. That's an incredibly high rate of return.
Even in the worst years of the A's rebuild, Fisher is still making tens of millions annually
The Forbes report also suggests that the A’s operating income is roughly $30 million, and that’s coming off a 2022 season where gate revenues in Oakland were embarrassingly low.
That's based on the national MLB television deal that gives each team more than $60 million annually, plus an additional $50+ million annually in local television money. All of that before gate revenue, concessions, merchandise, etc. The A's payroll was less than $60 million this year. You do the math.
It’s important to note that operating income figures are estimates, and that team finances aren’t public record because the teams are privately owned and not subject to financial reporting requirements.
However, it’s completely unreasonable to suggest that owning a team is a losing venture. John Fisher is not running this ballclub out of the goodness of his heart. And if he were actually losing money hand over fist as he claims, he would sell the team for a massive profit.
Instead, they’re trying to move the franchise to a smaller television market, amid a regional sports network nightmare that calls into question the future of sports broadcasting rights. Why? Because they make a boatload of money owning the team.
So no, John Fisher is not going to sell the team. It would be silly to suggest that he was seriously thinking about it.
During his tenure, he’s been able to sit behind the curtain and cash in one profitable season after another. If and when he gets to Las Vegas and starts using excuses about debt service as reasoning to defend his low payrolls, you can bet that he’ll still be swimming in profits regardless of those claims.
Things won’t change if Fisher gets this team to Las Vegas. It’ll just be the same story in a different location.