NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Watch any owner hoist a trophy at the end of a championship run and they're likely to say it's all about winning. But wins and losses may become secondary to business considerations like profit and loss statements after a plummet in franchise earnings during the recession put a scare into owners, said a gathering of sports M&A minds.
Prior to the recession, owning a sports team was largely the domain of wealthy individuals trying to capture a childhood dream or a trophy to add to a collection of businesses, says Bradley Rangell a managing director of the sports advisory team at Citigroup's ( C) private bank. "It morphed into buying a diversified business," adds Rangell of the change in mentality to owning a sports team. Now buyers need to see a fit with their other investments in real estate and media or a diversification benefit. His comments came at a Tuesday sports M&A luncheon held by the Association for Corporate Growth in New York. For New York Mets or Los Angeles Dodgers fans it's an important distinction to note, as they handicap prospective ownership changes. The crisis changed the notion of what owning a team means, potentially putting some would be buyers on the sidelines, while making a new class of investors likely to play a bigger role in sports in coming years. The crisis was a "wakeup call for a lot of owners. They had to look at teams differently," says Michael Yormark, the chief executive of the National Hockey League's Florida Panthers. "Since the downturn in the economy, it doesn't matter the franchise, these are businesses that truly can lose a lot of money," Yormark adds. It means that buying or owning a sports team now has to tie to an underlying business strategy, instead of playing to the whims of a billionaire. That change may increasingly bring new types of investors like private equity firms, sovereign wealth investors and hedge funds to a team near you. Its partially a result from the wealth and liquidity hit that many high net worth investors felt from the recession. Now, as the value of sports teams heads higher, the number of people who have the money to own a sports team as a pet project is limited.