Game Over for Liberty’s Purchase of Braves from Time Warner

Major League Baseball owners unanimously approved the sale of the Atlanta Braves to Liberty Media by Time Warner Wednesday night.

Liberty exchanged approximately 68.5 million shares of Time Warner common stock, subject to a working capital adjustment, for a newly created subsidiary of Time Warner that holds the team, Time Inc.'s Leisure Arts -- one of the largest publishers and marketers of needlework, craft, decorating, entertaining and other lifestyle interest how-to books -- and $960 million of cash.

The companies said Time Warner's acquisition of its stock from Liberty essentially completes Time Warner's previously announced $20 billion stock-repurchase program. Liberty retained approximately 103 million shares, or about 2.8% of Time Warner common stock.

Braves chairman Terry McGuirk will report to the team's board in his capacity as chairman and president, while John Schuerholz will remain as general manager and Bobby Cox as manager.

McGuirk told AP Wednesday night that the sale includes a provision that the Braves will have a payroll at least as high as its current level about $90 million at the start of the season, and the ballpark will continue to be known as Turner Field, adding that the transaction values the franchise at $450 million.

MLB commissioner Bud Selig told AP Wednesday night that all-time home-run champion Hank Aaron will take on an increased role with the club.

“We are pleased with the successful conversion of these Time Warner shares as this transaction enhances our financial and strategic flexibility," Liberty chairman John Malone said in a prepared statement. "We are pleased with the value created for our shareholders from our ownership of Turner Broadcasting [System] and Time Warner."

"Liberty Media is delighted to join with the Atlanta Braves baseball club and their fan base and looks forward to the team excelling as they have for the past 15 years," Liberty CEO Greg Maffei added. "This transaction represents another significant step in our transition to a focused operating company."

And Time Warner chairman and CEO Dick Parsons said, "This transaction marks an important advance in our commitment to deliver greater value to our shareholders. It not only helps to streamline our portfolio of assets as we focus on our core businesses, but also enables us to effectively complete our $20 billion share-repurchase program. With our thanks, we wish the people of the Atlanta Braves and Leisure Arts the best in the future."