While I thought Yates made a good case that Microsoft buying MSG pays for itself in arena naming rights/brand placement alone, I don't buy much else he had to say other than -- broadly speaking -- somebody absolutely should make a move on the company now. That's why I ask Who is going to buy MSG? because, by now, it really should be no brainer type stuff.
MSG is more than Madison Square Garden arena. The company owns several other venues, including Manhattan's Radio City Music Hall and the recently-acquired and grand-reopened Great Western Forum in Los Angeles (Inglewood to be exact). It also owns the regional Madison Square Garden Network(s), which broadcast key New York-area professional sports. MSG doesn't just own the venues and broadcast the games; it owns major teams, such as the New York Knicks and New York Rangers.
If I'm right and, to some extent, American media and telecommunications companies envy and would like to duplicate (as much as regulators will allow) the ubiquitous domination Rogers Communications (RCI - Get Report) and BCE, Inc. (BCE - Get Report) (formerly Bell Canada) pull off north of the border, MSG becomes the obvious target. You can get background on Rogers and Bell HERE. I've actually been following the company since my Seeking Alpha days in 2011.
The thought trajectory of MSG as a no-brainer takeover target doesn't lead to Microsoft. It wouldn't make Microsoft "cooler" than Apple. It would just make Microsoft less focused than it already is. That's just what Satya Nadella needs as he cleans up Steve Ballmer's mess -- a few professional sports franchises, venues that host events practically every night of the week and a massive regional media operation. More moving parts that don't logically fit into whatever Microsoft's mix is.
That said, if U.S. telcos and big media companies are smart they go after MSG hard. A bidding war for MSG is long overdue. Twenty-First Century Fox's (FOXA - Get Report) majority stake in the New York Yankees YES network lends further support to the value of MSG's assets. Heck, if I'm Rupert Murdoch, I kick this thing off by knocking on MSG's as well as the Yankees' door.
Also consider Comcast (CMCSA - Get Report). Via its media properties (including NBCUniversal), cable company (now one with Time Warner Cable (TWC)) and ownership of the Philadelphia Flyers, they're the closest American version of Canada's Rogers and Bell. For goodness sake, it would be worth it for Comcast to divest the Flyers and make a go at MSG.
Beyond Fox and Comcast, AT&T (T - Get Report) and Verizon (VZ - Get Report) make obvious sense vis-a-vis MSG. Everything MSG does fits perfectly with the going model for being a modern day, digital era media and telecommunication company.
It might sound sexy for a tech company such as Microsoft to take a shot, but there's not nearly enough synergy. If somebody ends up with MSG, they'll have made the move for one purpose -- to build an empire. That's what Comcast, Fox, AT&T and Verizon are all in the process or should be in the process of doing. With MSG, each company either establishes a presence in part of the country where they do not have one or extends their reach where it already exists. And they do it with strong franchises that, despite geography, pack not only local and regional, but national appeal.
--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.