Photo: Atlanta Braves
Photo: Atlanta Braves

Braves stock tumbles on first day of trading

Shares of stock in the Braves began trading publicly Monday and fell sharply from their opening price.

Team owner Liberty Media completed a long-in-the-works plan to divide its disparate businesses into three tracking stocks, including one tied to the Braves and the mixed-use development the team is building next to its new Cobb County stadium.

Shares of Liberty Braves Group’s Series A shares opened at $36 on the Nasdaq stock exchange, plummeted quickly and closed Monday’s trading at $19.95 per share — down 44.6 percent from the opening price. Liberty Braves Group’s Series C shares opened at $27 on Nasdaq and closed at $19.14, down 29.1 percent from the opening.

The two series of shares carry different voting power for stockholders. Both closed near their low of the day.

In all, more than 850,000 Braves shares changed hands on the first day of trading.

Noah Pittman, who described himself as a “lifelong” Braves fan, said he bought a small amount of stock in the team when the price dropped below $20 per share.

“Seemed like decent value,” he said.

But he said the purchase was “more out of emotional allegiance, to be honest. It just seems kind of cool to say I own a few shares in the team. But if Liberty Media ever wants to offer me a spot in the owner’s box, I’d be happy to go.”

Another Braves fan, John Vaughn, didn’t purchase shares Monday. But he is considering buying, especially with the price already down.

“I just think the massive changes the Braves are undergoing, not to mention the poor start to this season, may lead to buying low and maybe eventually selling high with the new stadium and the prospects coming in,” said Vaughn, an educator who worked on the Turner Field grounds crew during college.

“Not talking millions of dollars — just a little to keep me interested in a different way.”

Liberty Media announced late last year its plan to exchange its previous stock for the three new tracking stocks — one tied to the company’s 61-percent stake in satellite radio provider SiriusXM, one tied to the Braves and one to the company’s other businesses. Each share of Liberty’s previous stock was exchanged before Monday’s market opening for one share of Liberty SiriusXM, 0.1 share of Liberty Braves and 0.25 share of the stock that covers the other holdings.

The SiriusXM tracking stock, which represents Liberty’s largest holding, had the best debut of the three, closing up 11.4 percent from its opening price.

The Braves stock, trading on Nasdaq under the symbols BATRA (Series A) and BATRK (Series C), is intended to reflect — or track — the economic performance and value of the team and the mixed-use complex under construction next to SunTrust Park.

The Braves, who remain part of the overall Liberty Media company, are one of the few sports teams in the world with their own publicly traded shares. Others are basketball’s New York Knicks and hockey’s New York Rangers, both part of Madison Square Garden Co., and English soccer powerhouse Manchester United. The Green Bay Packers have long been publicly owned, but that stock is not tradeable.

Shares in baseball’s Cleveland Indians, basketball’s Boston Celtics and hockey’s Florida Panthers have been publicly traded in the past, but no longer are.

At a stockholders meeting last week, Liberty Media Chairman John Malone told investors to “keep in mind the Braves now are a fairly major real-estate business as opposed to just a baseball club.”

But it is the baseball club that interests Gared Conner, a 27-year-old lawyer who has been a Braves fan “as long as I can remember,” in the stock.

“You want to feel a part of the team as much as possible. This is kind of a way to manifest that,” Conner said. “I’ll keep monitoring it over the next few days.”

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