Braves’ revenue, profit increase in latest quarter

The Braves’ return to the top of the National League East paid off financially for the team with revenue and profit increasing in the most recently completed quarter.

Team owner Liberty Media disclosed Thursday that the Braves’ revenue increased by $15 million, from $185 million to $200 million, in the July-through-September quarter, compared with the same period a year earlier.

The Braves’ operating profit before depreciation and amortization grew by $24 million in the latest quarter, from $48 million to $72 million, compared to the same period in 2017, Liberty Media said.

The new financial disclosures came as the Braves and other Major League Baseball teams prepare to begin their off-season shopping and spending on the free-agent and trade markets.

The results continued an upward trend since the Braves moved to SunTrust Park -- a trend that has stirred much speculation about when, or whether, the team will significantly increase its player payroll to reflect the surge in revenue.

Liberty Media attributed the Braves’ revenue growth in the July-through-September quarter to “increased ticket prices, higher attendance and increased concessions per turnstile” and to increased operations at The Battery Atlanta, the mixed-use development adjacent to the stadium.

Revenue has increased steadily since the move from Turner Field to SunTrust Park, according to Liberty's filings. For all of 2016, the final year at Turner Field, the Braves' revenue was $262 million. For all of 2017, the first year at SunTrust Park, the team's revenue was $386 million, a 47-percent increase. The latest quarterly results boosted the Braves' revenue for the first nine months of 2018 to $410 million, already more than in all of 2017.

Of the Braves’ $200 million in third-quarter revenue, Liberty said $190 million came from baseball and $10 million from The Battery, primarily rental income.

The increased operating profit in the July-September period was “primarily driven by higher revenue and reduced operating expense from lower player salaries due to the acceleration of player salary expense in previous quarters as a result of released and injured players,” Liberty Media said.

That mainly was a reference to the combined $37.5 million that the Braves paid released players Adrian Gonzalez and Scott Kazmir for the 2018 season. Those expenditures were fully accounted for in previous quarters’ financial reports.

After depreciation and amortization, the Braves’ operating profit in the most recently completed quarter was $45 million, up from a loss of $9 million in the same period a year ago, Liberty said.

The playoff games against the Dodgers in early October are not included in the financial results released Thursday. The Braves had the same number of home games – 41 – in the third quarters of both 2017 and 2018.

The Braves continue to carry a heavy load of debt associated with the construction of SunTrust Park, The Battery and a new spring-training complex. The team’s debt declined slightly from $629 million as of June 30 to $626 million as of Sept. 30.

On a conference call with Wall Street analysts Thursday, Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said the Braves had a “great season,” citing their NL East championship and three Gold Glove award winners.

Maffei also mentioned the Braves’ recent sale of the residential portion of their mixed-use development, adding: “We expect to redeploy these funds for the next development phase of The Battery Atlanta.”

The Braves are one of the few sports teams with publicly traded stock, which requires the quarterly disclosure of financial information that most teams keep private.