Cash-strapped Post-Dispatch parent sold Cardinals stake

The reporters and columnists from St. Louis’ only daily newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, can no longer move about this weekend’s Cardinals Winter Warm-up as if they own the place.

Their parent company, the financially-strapped Lee Enterprises of Davenport, Iowa, sold their partial ownership stake in the St. Louis Cardinals, apparently to the majority ownership group led by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer William O. DeWitt Jr. The media company had assumed a 2.7% share of the club via their 2005 purchase of Pulitzer Inc, then-owner of the newspaper.

At the time of the original 2001 acquisition, it was reported that the Cardinals ownership shares of Pulitzer Inc. and chairman Michael Pulitzer, who also held a personal interest in the team, totaled nearly 4%. No word that the recent transaction affected Pulitzer’s individual stake.

The amount generated by Lee’s sale, which reportedly occurred last summer, and exactly which of the other 14 members of the team’s ownership group picked up the 2.7% were not announced.

Yet, we can estimate the value of the transaction, based on Forbes’ annual valuation of all 30 MLB clubs. In their annual report on the Business of Baseball released in April, Forbes established the value of the Cardinals at $484 million. Therefore, a 2.7 percent stake would be worth just over $13 million, not enough to put a dent in the huge financial problems facing Lee Enterprises.

The biggest news as part of Friday’s announcement, as reported in the Post-Dispatch, is that Lee has been given a waiver until the end of the month on $306 million of debt. It was reported that Lee and their creditors are actively working on an extension with the waiver buying more time to complete the negotiations and keep the company from defaulting on their debt agreement.

Note: Link to December 18 article, “Cardinals Minority Owner in Serious Financial Trouble