Winning more than 100 games for the first time in 54 years was a big deal to Twins fans, and earning their first AL Central title in a decade made a lot of people cheer. And all those fans add up — in the stands, in front of their televisions, and on the bottom line.
The Twins are worth approximately $1.3 billion, according to Forbes magazine’s annual calculations, which are considered authoritative but not definitive. That’s an increase of $100 million in value from Forbes’ 2019 estimate, an 8% jump in overall worth that was exceeded by only the Yankees, Nationals and Orioles.
The Twins, inherited by Pohlad brothers Jim, Bill and Bob from their father, Carl, now rate as the 19th most valuable franchise in Major League Baseball, up from 23rd a year ago.
The reason? All those fans who became so enamored of the team, they spent their time and money on it. Announced attendance at Target Field jumped to 2,229,152, the largest total gate since 2013 and a 16% increase over 2018. And TV ratings soared, with Fox Sports North registering a 6.33 rating, higher in its market than every team but the Cardinals, Indians and Brewers. That’s a whopping 63% increase over the FSN’s viewership in 2018, when the Twins went only 78-84 and finished 13 games out of first place.
Add it up, and Forbes calculates the Twins took in $297 million last season, $79 million of it from ticket sales, and earned $43 million after expenses (except taxes and interest). That’s an additional $38 million taken in last year, a 14% increase, and according to Forbes’ analysis, the Twins’ operating income more than tripled from $14 million in 2018.
The Twins’ value (and cash flow) is dwarfed by their postseason nemesis, the New York Yankees, of course. The Yankees, owned by the heirs of George Steinbrenner, are the first MLB franchise to be worth $5 billion, Forbes reports, and are more valuable than any U.S. professional sports franchise except the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. New York took in $683 million in revenue last year, including $287 million in ticket sales alone.
Part of the Yankees’ increased value is due to its purchase of 80% of the YES Network, the regional sports network that broadcasts its games, last summer. Jim Pohlad, the Twins’ executive board chairman, attempted to buy FSN and more than 20 other networks last year as well, according to Bloomberg, but was outbid by Sinclair Broadcast Group.
The coronavirus pandemic might not have a serious effect on franchise values, Forbes predicted, especially if distancing restrictions are eased in time to allow MLB to play a shortened season. Fox has already agreed to a new contract to televise the World Series, playoffs and All-Star Games through 2028, a deal that pays MLB more than $700 million a year starting in 2022.
That’s an increase of almost 50% per season; ESPN and Turner Sports pay hundreds of millions for TV rights, too, and expect to pay a similar premium when their contracts expire after next season. And MLB has given teams the go-ahead to sell local streaming rights to watch their games without a pay-TV subscription.
Team values rise
Like the Twins, the Vikings rank 19th, according to Forbes’ accounting, in value among their sports brethren. But the Vikings, purchased by a group headed by Zygi Wilf for $600 million in 2005, are worth more than twice as much as the Twins — $2.7 billion — due to the greater interest and revenue streams of the NFL, compared to MLB.
Those are the same reason that the Timberwolves, purchased in 1995 by Glen Taylor (who also now owns the Star Tribune) for $88.5 million, rank 28th among the 30 NBA teams, according to Forbes’ valuations in February — yet at $1.375 billion, are hypothetically worth more than the Twins. And the Wild, who coincidentally rank 19th among NHL teams, is worth $510 million, according to the magazine’s estimate in December.
And the Wild, who coincidentally rank 19th among NHL teams, is worth $510 million, according to the magazine’s estimate in December, more than double the $225 million that Craig Leipold paid for the St. Paul franchise in 2008. Minnesota United, whose owner, Bill McGuire, paid a $100 million expansion fee to join MLS in 2017, has tripled in value to approximately $300 million since then, Forbes estimates.
No matter the value, the Twins have been an incredibly lucrative investment for the Pohlad family. Carl Pohlad, a self-made billionaire banker who died in 2009, bought 94% of the franchise for a total of $43.5 million in 1984. The current valuation means the Pohlad brothers, whose incomes from sales of real estate, a financial services company and Pepsi bottling plants help give them a combined net worth of more than $3 billion, have reaped a 32-to-1 return on their father’s baseball investment.
A commonly spread rumor during the construction of Target Field held that the Pohlad family was planning to sell the franchise once the ballpark opened in order to cash in on the franchise’s increased value. But a decade has passed since then, and the team remains the Pohlads’ most visible property, with the team investing in various improvements in the park over the years.