Monday, April 24, 2006

Screw the robber barons

Yet another example of why an increasing number of Americans (even ones who aren't reflexively liberal, like yours truly) are growing to despise big business:

Time Warner is closing in on a deal that would make Colorado-based Liberty Media Corp. the new owner of the Atlanta Braves, two people familiar with the negotiations said Sunday.

Fantastic. My favorite team, neglected by its ownership ever since Ted Turner sold out to AOL-TW, will again be treated as a "non-core asset." Just another blip on the bottom line. Screw the fans, we have profits to make.

Most grating of all is that Liberty doesn't even want the Bravos.

Liberty's motivation for a Braves deal has little to do with baseball and a lot to do with taxes.

Liberty CEO Gregory Maffei told investors on a conference call last month that his company wanted to redeem much of its $3 billion worth of Time Warner stock in a tax-free transaction.

Liberty spokesman John Orr told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month that, under tax laws, such a transaction could be accomplished by returning the stock to Time Warner in a deal that would bring Liberty a Time Warner-owned asset, such as the Braves, as well as cash.


The people close to the talks said that, under the proposed deal, Time Warner would receive a large block of its stock that currently is owned by Liberty Media as well as Liberty's 50 percent stake in Court TV, the other half of which already is owned by Time Warner. In return, Liberty would get the Braves, a large amount of cash — and significant tax benefits.

Well as long as some faceless Colorado conglomerate makes a bunch of money ... Whatever happened to corporate responsibility, not just to shareholders but to the public at large? Once again big business is on the verge of ruining something precious to a lot of people, and there's nothing we can do about it.

The biggest culprit in all this is MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, perhaps the most feckless chief executive in all of American industry. Baseball must approve any new ownership group, and you would think they'd favor local buyers.

Not only is it the right thing to do, but it's smart, as well. Odds are Liberty will slash payroll and try to squeeze as much profit out of the team as possible. What do they care about baseball in Atlanta? It hurts the game if one of the sport's premier franchises is netuered, but Selig can't see beyond tomorrow.

While the trend in pro sports is against publicly traded corporations owning teams, MLB — unlike the NFL — does not have a rule against such ownership.

No doubt history will recognize Selig -- who made his fortune selling cars -- as baseball's greatest scourge, more so than steroids, Pete Rose or the Black Sox.

It's a dark day in the ATL.

No comments:

Post a Comment