New York Times Co. Sells 55 Percent of Fenway Stake For $117 Million

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It took The New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT) longer to find buyers for a substantial part of its stake in the Boston Red Sox than it did to build the metered paywall for NYTimes.com — and it still isn’t done with the Fenway Sports Group. Three buyers are picking up a total of 390 Class B units for $117 million in cash, about $300,000 per unit; the estimated pre-tax gain is approximately $64.0 million, according to an SEC filing late Friday afternoon. The remaining 310 units are still for sale as a single batch or in parts. At the current sale price, the remaining units are worth $93 million.

FSG includes the Red Sox and Fenway Park, Liverpool Football Club in the English Premier League; about 80 percent of the New England Sports Network; and 50 percent of Nascar’s Roush Fenway Racing. This seems like a natural for, say, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and company.

The company, which invested about $80 million in New England Sports Ventures, LLC, in 2002 in the hopes of boosting the Boston Globe, was the second-largest equity owner. The combination of the size of the stake and the inability to have much impact on the actual operations made it a tough sell. (Too bad they can’t break one unit into pieces for Red Sox, Liverpool and Nascar fans, maybe throw in the digital all-access package for NYTimes.com.)

The NYTCo hired Goldman Sachs to explore a sale of its 17.75 percent of FSG in late 2008-early 2009. At the time, the value was estimated at about $166 million with the possibility it could sell for about $200 million. These three sales, combined with a previous sale last year for an undisclosed amount that took the stake to 16.6 percent, validates that thinking and puts the potential sale price north of $200 million.

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