Braves’ latest financial results: Revenue up, and so are expenses

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Braves have until Dec. 2 to tender contract to these arbitration-eligible players

The Braves generated $212 million in revenue during the July-through-September quarter, up from $200 million in the same period a year ago, according to financial results disclosed Monday by team owner Liberty Media.

Liberty said the revenue growth was “primarily due to increased ticket and concession sales.”

The additional revenue “was more than offset” by a $40 million increase in the Braves’ operating expenses, Liberty said, resulting in a decline in a still-large quarterly profit.

The disclosures, reflecting an organization thriving financially, came as many Braves fans wonder how aggressively the team will spend on the free-agency and trade markets during the offseason.

The Braves had operating profit before depreciation, amortization and stock-based compensation of $46 million in the most recently completed quarter, compared to $74 million in the third quarter of 2018, Colorado-based Liberty Media said.

“The increase in operating expenses was primarily driven by higher player salaries, and to a lesser extent elevated costs due to the opening of the new spring training facility, scouting expenses, increased obligations under MLB’s revenue sharing plan and stadium operation costs driven by concessions,” Liberty said.

After depreciation, amortization and stock compensation, the Braves’ profit in the third quarter of 2019 dropped to $23 million, compared to $46 million in the same period a year earlier.

Liberty also disclosed that the Braves’ already-hefty debt grew by $70 million in the July-September period, from $470 million to $540 million.

The debt largely stems from the construction of SunTrust Park and the continuing development of The Battery Atlanta mixed-use complex, but the latest increase in borrowing also was attributed in part to capital expenditures at the new spring training complex in North Port, Fla.

Of the Braves’ $212 million in revenue during the third quarter, $203 million came from baseball sources, up from $190 million in the same period last year. The other $9 million came from The Battery, down from $10 million in the same quarter a year earlier.

Liberty Media previously disclosed the Braves' revenue for the first two quarters of 2019: $22 million in January-March and $208 million in April-June. So through the first nine months of this year, the Braves posted total revenue of $442 million, up from $410 million in the first nine months of last year. The $442 million matches the Braves' revenue for all of 2018, with this year's three home playoff games in October yet to be included in the figures.

The Braves' full-year 2018 revenue was up a whopping 69 percent from $262 million in 2016, their final season at Turner Field.

For many fans, the relevant question is the extent to which the Braves’ soaring revenue flows to the player payroll of a team that has won the NL East championship the past two seasons but hasn’t won a playoff series in 18 years.

The Braves opened the 2019 season with a major-league player payroll of $114.4 million, which ranked 21st among the 30 MLB teams on opening day. The Braves' payroll increased to $138 million by the end of the season, 14th among the MLB teams, because of the signing of free agent pitcher Dallas Keuchel and several trades.

Since the end of the season, the Braves have paid buyouts totaling $6 million to four players in lieu of picking up the 2020 options in their contracts. The buyouts included $2 million apiece to outfielder Nick Markakis and catcher Tyler Flowers, both of whom were re-signed to new $4 million contracts for next season.  The $6 million in buyouts, applied to this year’s budget for accounting purposes, retroactively increased the Braves’ 2019 payroll to $144 million.