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Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Mets under water?

By Adam Rubin

Like a homeowner with a mortage exceeding the value of the home and land it sits on, Forbes says the Mets are under water -- that the baseball assets are actually worth negative-$225 million.

I'm sure the smart people at Forbes know what they're talking about, but I'm a little skeptical that's very precise.

Here's a short excerpt with the crux of the magazine's argument:

The Mets and their lease to Citi Field are worth about $845 million. But there is $375 million of debt attached to the Mets franchise and $695 million tied to the ballpark, leaving these assets with an aggregate negative book value of $225 million.

I've already thrown out the qualms I have on Twitter, and need to call an old Wharton professor to get insight, but here is my rational for doubting even a highly leveraged Mets team can have a negative worth:

If the author concludes the value of the Mets and its lease for Citi Field is $845 million, how is that possibly valid if $500 million is pledged by Citi Bank over 20 years for naming rights to the stadium? (Yes, you'd have to depreciate the $500 million because it is revenue over 20 years, not instant dough, and because there is no 100 percent guarantee the agreement will be full executed, but it's still got to be worth a few hundred million on a receivables line, no?)

And if the author is instead taking that $500 million pledge into account to offset the stadium debt  number, how can it possibly be that the Mets have $695 million in debt tied to a stadium that cost $850 million or so?

I understand the number the author uses is $40 million in annual debt service for stadium bonds, but shouldn't it be offset by an annual $25 million pledge from Citi Bank if that number was not factored into the revenue end of the equation for the team?

Longtime baseball writer Barry Bloom also passes along: "He's also not including the fact that $40 million a year stadium note is deducted from revenue sharing. That's why teams fund their ballparks."

As I mentioned on Twitter, it's been 16 years since I was in a business class. And there are people far more knowledgeable than me. It just intuitively doesn't sound quite right.