Forbes: Cardinals revenue, value up slightly in 2009

Forbes has released their yearly assessment of the finances of each of the 30 Major League Baseball clubs. While the average team saw a 1% increase in its value over last year, ten organizations experienced a decline, including the Houston Astros and Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League Central.

The average MLB club is worth $482 million, an all-time high. The St. Louis Cardinals are only $4 million higher at $486 M and yet are ranked number eight. That illustrates a growing gulf between the handful of teams and the top and the others.

Those clubs with high revenue generating ballparks and lucrative cable television deals stand out. Other teams are feeling the economic downturn as evidenced by large numbers of unsold premium seats and canceled corporate sponsorships. This hampers their ability to meet debt obligations, often accumulated due to the construction of expensive new ballparks.

The Cardinals franchise value increased very slightly from last year, from $484 M to $486 M, moving up from ninth to eighth in MLB. The club’s ratio of debt to value declined a bit from an estimated 51% to 50% in the last year, but remains among the highest third in the game.

St. Louis’ estimated revenue was also almost flat at $195 million, up from $194 M the year before. Operating income fell all the way from $21 million to $6.6 M, as 22 other clubs generated higher income than the Cardinals last year.

That $6.6 million represents the club’s lowest income total since 2005, the final year of the old stadium. It was estimated the team had negative income for a run of at least six years prior. (Note that all revenue numbers are from the previous year.)

Here is a snapshot of the recent financial history of the Cardinals, with more details available on the Forbes website.

Cardinals 2009 MLB rank 2008 MLB rank
Team Value $486 M #8 $484 M #9
1-Yr Value Chg 0% T#18 5% #23
Debt/Value 50% #9 51% #8
(Prev Year) Revenue $195 M #10 $194 M #9
(Prev Year) Operating Income $6.6 M #23 $21.5 M #11
(Prev Year) Player Expenses $120 M $109 M
Gate Receipts $92 M $96 M

Cardinals 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000
Team Value $460 M 429 370 314 308 271 243 219
(Prev Year) Revenue $184 M 165 151 131 128 123 110 104
(Prev Year) Operating Income $14 M 8 -4 -11 -2 -5 -3 5
(Prev Year) Player Expenses $105 M 101 102 96 85 85 72 52

In a side point of special interest to those Cardinals fans critical of team ownership, Forbes notes that ten of the 30 MLB clubs are wholly or partially owned by billionaires or individual corporations worth a billion or more. The Cubs and Astros owners are included, but the Cardinals are not.