Unable to agree on a price for the Atlanta Braves, Falcons owner Arthur Blank on Wednesday broke off negotiations to buy the Atlanta baseball team. Blank and his representatives had met regularly with Time Warner about a possible Braves purchase since the team and the Turner South regional cable network were put up for sale in December.
Time Warner wants a premium price of $400 million-plus for the team, according to people familiar with the negotiations. Blank values it at substantially less and meetings in the past week failed to narrow the gap.
Blank’s AMB Group said in a statement Wednesday that “at this juncture” it has “suspended” discussions with Time Warner and its Turner Broadcasting division about the Braves. An AMB Group executive said the development doesn’t necessarily preclude a resumption of talks at a later date. “It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s totally terminated,” said Kim Shreckengost, executive vice president of the AMB Group. “If they want to discuss it with us again, we’d be open to doing so.” Asked if the obstacle proved to be price, Shreckengost said: “Correct.” She added: “Obviously we were looking at this from an investment standpoint, so we had to be able to justify a return on the investment.” Blank declined to be interviewed Wednesday. Shreckengost said that was largely because he is operating under a non-disclosure agreement signed upon entering negotiations with Time Warner.
Blank had gotten a jump on other potential bidders for the Braves by becoming the first to express interest and gain Major League Baseball approval to enter substantive negotiations. That gave him an opportunity to strike a deal before Time Warner got around to serious talks with other buyers. “Over the last two months, representatives of Time Warner, Turner and AMB Group have worked diligently and in good faith to reach a preliminary agreement on the sale of the Atlanta Braves to AMB Group,” Blank’s Wednesday statement said. “Unfortunately, we were not able to get closer together on terms during this time to achieve that goal.”
After focusing on the talks with Blank, Time Warner now is expected to turn its attention to other potential Braves bidders. The company has said that “a lot” of candidates have expressed interest, some of whom have submitted applications for MLB approval to enter substantive negotiations. “To maintain the integrity of the process and the confidentiality of interested parties, we are not commenting on individual discussions we have had concerning the Atlanta Braves,” Shirley Powell, Turner Broadcasting’s senior vice president of corporate communications, said Wednesday. “We will say that our initial assumption that the franchise has significant marketplace value and that there is widespread interest in it as a possible acquisition has been confirmed. We continue to have meaningful discussions with outside parties about a possible sale of the Braves.”
Things are valued at whatever price someone is willing to pay. If Blanks thinks $400 million is way off, I suspect that Time Warner will have to come down.
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