Braves revenue soars to $568M for championship season

The Braves charge the mound to celebrate beating the Astros in Game 6 to win the World Series on  Nov. 2, 2021, in Houston.   (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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The Braves charge the mound to celebrate beating the Astros in Game 6 to win the World Series on Nov. 2, 2021, in Houston. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

The Braves cashed in on a World Series championship season by generating franchise-record revenue.

The team surpassed the half-billion-dollar mark in annual revenue for the first time, bringing in $568 million in 2021, according to full-year financial results disclosed Friday by club owner Liberty Media.

That was up 19% from the previous franchise high of $476 million in pre-pandemic 2019 and up 219% from $178 million in 2020, when a shortened season was played without fans in the stands because of COVID-19.

The Braves posted revenue of $102 million for last year’s fourth quarter, which included their stirring stretch of postseason games, up from $35 million in the corresponding quarter in 2020. The Braves previously had disclosed revenue of $466 million through the first three quarters of 2021.

Braves Holdings’ full-year 2021 operating profit before depreciation and amortization (adjusted OIBDA) – the most common metric, along with revenue, for assessing a pro sports franchise’s economic performance – was $111 million, Liberty Media said. That reflected a strong recovery from a pandemic-driven loss of $49 million in 2020.

After depreciation and amortization ($72 million) and stock-based compensation ($8 million), Braves Holdings showed an operating profit of $31 million for 2021. Large tax deductions for depreciation and amortization are a valuable advantage of MLB team ownership.

“The Atlanta Braves are still basking in the glory of their World Series title,” Liberty Media President and CEO Greg Maffei said in a statement that accompanied Friday’s disclosure of the financial results.

Although MLB’s ongoing labor dispute and lockout put an on-time start of the 2022 season in jeopardy, Maffei said on a conference call with investment analysts that the Braves’ ticket sales are their best in decades.

“We will start 2022 with the highest number of season-ticket holders in 22 seasons -- since 2000,” Maffei said. “We are sold out of our premium seats for the first time in Truist Park history, including all the suites.”

That echoed earlier comments to the AJC by Braves CEO Derek Schiller, who said late last month that the team has sold its “most overall tickets in well over 20 years.” The Braves have declined to reveal the number of season tickets sold.

Because Liberty Media has a publicly traded tracking stock tied to the Braves, the team is one of the few U.S. pro sports franchises required to report financial results on a quarterly basis. Amid the lockout, the stellar results released Friday are certain to draw considerable attention across the baseball industry.

Maffei had little to say on the labor negotiations. “We are certainly aware of the latest developments in our discussions with Braves management, but are obviously prohibited from commenting any further,” he said.

The Braves’ financial disclosures undoubtedly will be of increased interest to many Braves fans because of the uncertain status of free-agent first baseman Freddie Freeman. The Braves didn’t re-sign Freeman before the lockout was imposed by MLB owners Dec. 2, freezing free-agent negotiations, trades and other offseason activity.

The Braves ranked 13th among the 30 MLB teams in player payroll last year. It is not known where they ranked in revenue.

Of the Braves’ $568 million in revenue for 2021, Liberty Media attributed $526 million to baseball sources (including ticket sales, concessions, other stadium revenue streams, local and national broadcasting rights, corporate sponsorships, merchandise and licensing) and $42 million to real-estate development (primarily rental income in The Battery Atlanta mixed-use development adjacent to Truist Park).

The Braves ranked second in MLB in home attendance last season, in part because they reopened their stadium to full attendance earlier than 28 of the 29 other teams.

Liberty Media also disclosed that the Braves carried debt of $700 million as of Dec. 31, down from $721 million three months earlier. The debt stems largely from borrowing associated with construction of Truist Park, The Battery and a spring-training facility in North Port, Fla.

The second phase of The Battery “is nearing an on-time and on-budget completion” with an expected cost of $200 million, Liberty said.