John Malone finally has his baseball team.
The Liberty Media chairman closed the acquisition of Major League Baseball's Atlanta Braves from Time Warner Inc., swapping 68.5 million shares of Time Warner stock for the team, its Leisure Arts craft division and $960 million in cash on May 16. In total, the deal was worth about $1.4 billion — $450 million for the Braves and $22 million for Leisure Arts.
Time Warner said it would immediately retire the shares, completing a previously announced $20 billion share buyback program.
Liberty and Time Warner had been working on the swap for more than a year. Last Wednesday, night major-league team owners unanimously approved the transaction, with Liberty and Time Warner closing the transaction before a midnight change in the federal tax laws that would have affected its tax-free status.
“We are pleased with the successful conversion of these Time Warner shares as this transaction enhances our financial and strategic flexibility,” Malone said in a statement.
With the sale, Time Warner is officially out of the sports-team ownership business — it sold the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers in 2004.
Liberty will retain 103 million shares of Time Warner stock, or about 2.8% of Time Warner's outstanding shares. In addition to the cash, Liberty received Time Warner's Leisure Arts division, a Little Rock, Ark.-based publisher of needlework, craft, decorating, entertaining and other lifestyle interest “how-to” books.
Liberty made a commitment to MLB to own the Braves through at least 2011 and not reduce the team's $80 million to $90 million payroll.
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