(Bloomberg) -- The New York Yankees are considering buying back the YES Network, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The Yankees ceded control of the regional sports network four years ago to Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc., which increased its stake to 80 percent from 49 percent. That agreement included a clause that gives the baseball team the right to buy back the network in the event Fox puts it up for sale, said the person, who asked to be anonymous because the deal terms are private.
Comcast Corp. on Wednesday made a $65 billion bid for Fox’s entertainment assets, which include YES and other regional sports networks. The offer came after Walt Disney Co.’s $52.4 billion bid for the same assets.
Alice McGillion, a spokeswoman for the Yankees, declined to comment. Fox also declined to comment.
Fox first took a 49 percent stake in YES in 2012, in a deal that valued the network at about $3.8 billion. In 2014, Fox bought an additional 31 percent at roughly the same valuation. Yankee Global Enterprises owns the rest; its deal with Fox calls for the team to pay fair-market value to buy back the sports network, according to the person.
“It would be worth $4 billion or more by now, based on the success of the Yankees and the fact that it’s in the nation’s No. 1 market,” industry consultant Lee Berke said. “It’s not dropping in value. It’s only increasing.”
Berke said the price of YES could increase further if the bidding war between Comcast and Disney escalates. Both Comcast and Disney have said they’d be willing to divest Fox’s regional sports networks if it helps them win government approval for a Fox deal.
Started in 2002 by the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, YES is the most-watched regional sports network in the U.S., though in recent years it has battled with cable providers. In 2015, Comcast dropped YES for more than a year from its cable system during a contract dispute, affecting 900,000 subscribers in New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
--With assistance from Gerry Smith and Anousha Sakoui.
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