This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
Stocks Under $10 with 50-100% upside potential - 14 days FREE!

A Faceless Liberty Media Drags Atlanta Braves to Suburbs

It did so by negotiating out of public view, avoiding a referendum on public funding and only announcing the Cobb County Commission's vote at 6 p.m. on the Friday before Labor Day.

When Cobb Commissioners voted unanimously to devote $392 million to building a new Braves stadium, scheduled to open in 2017, they only allowed 12 people to discuss that funding. All 12 spoke in favor of it, as business interests packed the meeting with like-minded supporters who lined up five hours before the event began. With their blessing, commissioners approved an operating agreement allowing the county to borrow up to $397 million -- even though the $400 million in private investment for the fake Braves wonderland surrounding the stadium is in no way guaranteed by the team.

Keep in mind that this is a county that cried poverty a year ago as it cut 186 teaching positions and forced the teachers who stayed to take a five-day unpaid furlough.

You can point the finger of blame at Cobb County, at Atlanta for blowing its hotel-motel tax money on a new stadium for the National Football League's Atlanta Falcons or even at Braves President and Lead Figurehead John Scheurholz. However, none of them twisted the Braves' arms and forced them from Turner Field, where they've been playing only since 1997. None of them started scouting locations and making moving plans. None of them packed a county meeting with $400 million on the line.

Who would have the power to hire line-standers and impose its will like that? As Comcast  (CMCSA) proved during Federal Communications Commission hearings in 2008, it isn't beyond the pale for a media conglomerate to massage the political system and stack the deck in its favor while largely avoiding public scrutiny for it.

The Braves are only one of Liberty Media's holdings. It owns McNeil/Lehrer Productions, QVC, Evite and law enforcement GPS company TruePosition outright, while holding big stakes in Live Nation  (LYV) (26%), Charter Communications  (CHTR) (27%) and Sirius XM  (SIRI) (49%). It's portfolio is big, its assets are valued at nearly $27 billion and its chain of command leading up to chairman John Malone and chief executive Gregory Maffei is circuitous.

It will never face the same scrutiny Cablevision did from New York Rangers and Knicks fans before its spun off Madison Square Garden Company  (MSG) because it lacks an easy villain like James Dolan. It will never be as loathed as Adelphia was by Sabres fans in Buffalo because it lacks outright evildoers like convicted criminal John Rigas and his sons. It will never be as favored as Comcast was in Philadelphia when it owned a stake of the Allen Iverson-era 76ers because it doesn't have an incredibly public business partner like Pat Croce.

Because of that facelessness, it will never receive any credit for the Braves' success, but it will rarely fall under scrutiny for its shortcomings. It operates in a world largely without consequences that's shielded from public wrath through multiple layers of holdings.

If owners of U.S. sports franchises want $400 million in tax dollars -- which, by the way, is about four times the amount of public money that's going into the San Francisco 49ers' new football stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. -- without any of the protest and scrutiny that comes with it, they'd be wise to bury themselves within a company like Liberty and shield themselves with its logo. The returns on that public investment can multiply at will while the corporate owners collect in anonymity.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.

RELATED STORIES:

Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.
2 of 2

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!
DOW 16,960.57 -123.23 -0.72%
S&P 500 1,978.34 -9.64 -0.48%
NASDAQ 4,449.5640 -22.5440 -0.50%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs