Savor Manchester United's IPO

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Yet another interesting IPO hits the markets today, that of U.K. soccer club Manchester United ( MANU), 19-time English champions during a 134-year history.

The team is owned by the Glazer family, which also owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The shares priced at $14, below the expected $16 to $20 range. But even at $14, the implied value of the team is still $2.3 billion.

Today's trading should indeed be interesting; it represents one of the rare occasions when investors can buy directly into a publicly traded professional-sports franchise. The few that have gone public have not stayed that way for very long.

The Boston Celtics went public in 1986, before ultimately going private in 2002. That 16-year run as a publicly traded company was quite long compared to some of the more recent sports-franchise IPO's.

In 1998, the Cleveland Indians went public at $15 a share, and, after some initial fanfare, the stock fell to $6 per share. Doing the math at that time revealed an insanely low valuation placed on the team, and that was not a situation that lasted very long.

In 1999, the team was sold for $320 million, a record at that time, and shareholders received around $22.50 a share, a nice premium especially for those that scooped up shares for $6.

Professional hockey's Florida Panthers went public in late 1996 at $10 a share. But as the company expanded into other business ventures, the name was changed to Boca Resorts in 1999, and it sold the Panthers in 2001.

Perhaps the only thing that these three former publicly traded sports franchises now have in common is the fact that their cancelled stock certificates are highly prized collectibles.

While there have not been many opportunities for investors to have direct ownership of sports franchises, there are other opportunities to get indirect exposure. For instance, Madison Square Garden ( MSG) owns both the New York Knicks and New York Rangers.

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