SDI Interview: Chuck Greenberg
SDI: At what point did the ownership group start negotiating the TV mega-deal with Fox? Was that something you guys were anticipating going in? Do you expect other clubs to look for similar deals as the landscape of pro-sports evolves?
Chuck Greenberg: Before I began pursuing the Rangers in May 2009, I had believed for at least the preceding five years that MLB franchises were seriously undervalued, that baseball’s individual and collective media rights were about to explode in value, and that the latter would help correct the former. So from the inception of the effort to purchase the Rangers, the fact that the existing media deal was fairly close to expiring was a key attraction. I spoke with Fox off and on throughout the process, and looked for ways to maximize our bargaining leverage. By August 2010, the manner in which a number of events had evolved put us in a position to negotiate an extraordinary deal that met our goals, and to do so on a more accelerated timetable than originally envisioned. I knew our deal was groundbreaking and had helped MLB media rights break through to a level not previously contemplated. Once that happened, the opportunities for every other franchise with a deal approaching expiration were enhanced.
SDI: Being a hockey fan, what are your thoughts on the state of the NHL?
CG: The NHL has improved dramatically both as a revenue generator and as an on ice product since the last work stoppage. Hopefully the league, owners and players can come together shortly, preserve the season, and continue to build momentum. It’s a great sport.
CG: The Rangers were a unique opportunity and I poured my heart and soul into it for almost a year and a half during the sale process. What a saga. If the right opportunity arose, especially in baseball or hockey, I would seriously consider it, but right now I am very content to be able to relax and enjoy myself.
SDI: Do you have any other business interests in the world that you are excited about?
CG: I still enjoy my two minor league baseball teams very much. I was able to focus on them much more in 2012 and was really proud of the seasons we had and the wonderful efforts by both of our front offices.
SDI: Some of the contracts in pro sports have gotten out of hand, do you feel the owners need to police themselves more, or do you believe salary caps are a good idea?
CG: A salary cap is ideal, but it’s unrealistic to expect one in baseball any time soon, if ever. Certainly the sport is thriving by any measure, for which the Commissioner and his staff deserve enormous credit. As for salaries, they are largely a function of revenue. Baseball revenues are growing at an incredible rate, primarily due to media. One would think that will lead to salaries rising at a more rapid clip during the next few years as more of the new national and local media deals kick in.
SDI: Do you have an ideas on how to fix MLB, as far as the small market teams not being able to compete goes?
CG: Revenue sharing has been a huge success, another achievement for the Commissioner. Small market teams with savvy front offices have demonstrated they have the means, intellectually and financially, to compete. The difference is that the window of opportunity for a small market team is more abbreviated and less sustainable. As media revenues grow, big media market teams will enhance their competitive advantage, but on the other hand, revenue sharing will grow at a comparable rate. I do not see this materially affecting the current dynamic to competitive balance but it certainly will be interesting to see how it plays out under the new CBA.
SDI: What is your most satisfying accomplishment to date?
CG: I have been incredibly fortunate to be a part of a number of very satisfying sports industry deals, developments and operations. But without question the entire experience surrounding the Rangers stands out. To have identified the industry opportunity years earlier, get in on the Rangers early, envision the opportunity to have a transformational experience on and off the field, put together a great ownership group of primarily local investors, prevail throughout a sale process that a novelist would have had a hard time conjuring up, then hit the ground running in terms of winning back our fans, all while reaching the World Series a short time later, and then implementing a sweeping series of changes during the ensuing off season to help improve the infrastructure for long term success, while also cutting a landmark media deal…whew, it was all quite a ride that I look back upon with great pride.