Forbes unkind to Thrashers, Falcons (UPDATED)

This has nothing to do with hockey, but it sums things up nicely. That was Billy Knight not shaking Steve Belkin's hand.

This has nothing to do with hockey, but it sums things up. That's former Hawks GM Billy Knight not shaking Steve Belkin's hand.


This might seem like a random question: But do you care what your sports franchises are worth?

I ask because Forbes Magazine just came out with NHL franchise values, and the Thrashers are ranked 29th out of 30 teams — and the only team behind them is the Phoenix Coyotes, who went into bankruptcy in May and are now operated by the league.

Forbes values the Thrashers at $143 million. “The owners of the Atlanta Thrashers [who also control the NBA's Hawks] have spent more time fighting with each other than their hockey team has with its opponents,” the article states. “The franchise has been forced to give bundles of tickets away to fill seats.”

The magazine, in a financial breakdown of the team,  later references the lawsuits between the Atlanta Spirit owners, saying: “A nasty and continuous legal battle amongst the eight owners over the value of the Atlanta Thrashers and Hawks, along with Philips Arena [Atlanta Spirit, LLC owns all three entities], has resulted in the team turning to Goldman Sachs for investors. Seven of the eight owners want to buy out Steve Belkin but thought his $143 million asking price for his 30% stake in the assets was far too steep. The owners have spent over $10 million in legal fees and the team has run significant net losses the past two seasons because it has missed the playoffs.”

Arthur Blank is forcing a smile, because the Falcons rank only 30th out of 32 teams in franchise value.

Arthur Blank is forcing a smile, because the Falcons rank only 30th out of 32 teams in franchise value.

The Belkin matter may finally be nearing a resolution, as his recent losses in court to the other owners may finally prompt him to sell his stake in the franchises and arena.

Forbes rates franchise values annually (with teams often disputing the numbers). Generally speaking, Atlanta teams don’t do well. The financial ranking of NFL franchises came out in September and the Falcons ranked only 30th at $856 million. Yes, that’s a lot for you and me. But when five teams are valued at over $1 billion, led by the Dallas Cowboys at $1.5 billion, it’s easy to say why owner Arthur Blank is pushing for a new stadium, where he can generate more revenue than the Georgia Dome.

Forbes on the Falcons: “Led by rookie QB Matt Ryan the Falcons took the league by surprise last season, posting an 11-5 record and qualifying for the post-season. But that was not enough to overcome the loss of home town favorite Michael Vick and the recession. The Falcons drew just over 500,000 fans to the Georgia Dome last year — down 6% from 2007 — ranking 25th in the NFL overall. Also, Delta Air Lines, one of the team’s bigger sponsors, decided not to renew its contract this March. Given this backdrop, it is easy to understand why owner Arthur Blank sold a small piece of the team to four investors in July. Blank’s franchise has maxed out its valuation at the Georgia Dome and his chances of getting a new stadium are close to zero.”

Forbes has not valued NBA teams since December of 2008, when the Hawks came in at No. 21 ($306 million). NBA teams generally are worth more than NHL teams because of revenue from national television contracts that hockey doesn’t have.

Of Atlanta’s four pro sports teams, the Braves fared the best at 11th overall in Forbes’ survey in April. But their value of $446  million still ranked far behind the expected top teams: New York Yankees ($1.5 billion), New York Mets ($912 million) and Boston Red Sox ($833 million).

So here’s my question: Do you care about this? A case certainly can be made that franchise values feeds into owners’ spending habits and, therefore, the quality of the product. Let me know what you think and I’ll check back.

Michael Gearon: Not a fan of Forbes' researchers.

Michael Gearon: Not a fan of Forbes' researchers.

(UPDATE: Atlanta Spirit Michael Gearon emailed the following response when I asked him about the Forbes’ article and valuation.)

“I have great respect for Forbes as a premier business magazine but I have always viewed Forbes attempt at estimating sports teams values or  peoples’ net worth as purely entertainment for its readers. I have never been able to reconcile where Forbes gets their financial information for sports values or for that matter peoples’ net worth. Is Trump really worth $2 billion as Forbes claims, or is it a lot less, which is what the NY Times claims. With respect to your 3 [questions],  my comments are below:

1. Forbes financial information is not accurate.  For example,  the Thrashers don’t have any debt and the financial information doesn’t reconcile to ours. In addition, I have no idea where Forbes came up with our purchase price for the Thrashers as $80 million.

2. Does the ranking surprise me? I haven’t given it much thought except to say that it is the same as the Atlanta Falcons. Is the ranking a reflection on how they are run? I think Arthur Blank’s answer to that question would be no.

3. We have worked hard to separate the Belkin issue from either management or the teams. The Hawks have improved every year we have owned the franchise and are currently ranked in the top 6 in the NBA based on the start to our season. With respect to Thrashers, I had strong concerns last February; however, once [Ilya Kovalchuk] became captain and we made some trades, we had a very strong finish. I like our core young players as well as the addition of [Rick] Dudley in the front office.  We are playing .500 hockey, are 5-2-1 on the road against some good teams and  our franchise player has been out  for 3 weeks.

With respect to Belkin, we had a major victory in court. The benefit to that win is that I have been able to sleep better at night. It certainly hasn’t impacted Kovy or Joe Johnson’s sleep. In other words, this has impacted us personally and it is not an issue that has impacted decisions we have made with either franchise. It seems that writers want to continue keeping this issue in the news when it was a 2005 story.

91 comments Add your comment

GWH Rich

November 12th, 2009
8:21 am

First, for what it’s worth! … ?

Slick Willie

November 12th, 2009
8:31 am

Not worth much.


November 12th, 2009
8:33 am

First on Atlanta blog – worth nuthin according to Forbes.
And no, I don’t care about this.

Justin Fan

November 12th, 2009
8:34 am

The Spirits’ losses further explains their downgraded sanitation crew, inferior food service and by golly they haven’t fixed or replaced their overhead scoreboard on the Hawkwalk in over four seasons. My family and I and check it when we come to games and the Spirit never disappoints. Can’t fix a scoreboard or the general mgmt. of the Thrashers.

Jeff Schultz

November 12th, 2009
8:42 am

Cricket — You’re correct. I don’t think Forbes values comments. They’re no fun.

Justin Fan — That’s interesting. I didn’t know about the broken scoreboard in Hawkswalk, I guess because I’m never over in that area.

the truth....

November 12th, 2009
8:49 am

So who cares? What difference does it make who Forbes or anyone else says the team is worth? What matters in value is winning… enough and the team will increase in value….but if you aren’t selling, what difference does it make?

Paul H

November 12th, 2009
8:54 am

Winning comes first. Everything else falls into place after that.


November 12th, 2009
8:57 am

How about a little perspective here Jeff? Arthur Blank bought the Falcons for $545M in 2002. So, in 7 years Mr. Blank has seen a better than 50% increase in the value of his investment.

Not bad for a property that hit “rock bottom” during those 7 years. And this has been done without boning the loyal season ticket holders by forcing seats-rights fees down our throats.

In order to keep up with the Jones’ (literally), Mr. Blank will need to charge us $10,000 or more PER SEAT for our right to buy our seats in a new stadium.

I hope Mr. Blank remembers those of us that have supported the team since before he got here and refrain from gouging us in order to enhance the value of his holdings.

falcon 71

November 12th, 2009
9:04 am

means nothing what determines willingness to spend for players is profit not estimated worth. also desire but i imagine all owners execpt Detroit have this


November 12th, 2009
9:13 am

franchise value means nothing. tell me what the p&l looks like.

btw – how much of dallas’ $1.5B value is a result of taxpayers subsidies of the new Jerry Dome?

And didn't...

November 12th, 2009
9:14 am

…the new Cowboys stadium cost $1.2bil? So, if the Cowboys are valued at $1.5bil, doesn’t that include the stadium since Jones owns it as part of the Cowboys?

Seems like either Forbes may be falling down on their evaluations (likely since they had an article this past summer that said West Point was the best college in the U.S.) or Jerry Jones is pulling another good one!

Hillbilly Deluxe

November 12th, 2009
9:15 am

Since I don’t have any piece of the ownership in any professional sports team, why should I care? They are just another business competing for the coinsumer dollar.

Hillbilly Deluxe

November 12th, 2009
9:16 am

Consumer dollars too.


November 12th, 2009
9:17 am

The Falcons have a bad stadium deal. It’s horrific actually. If Arthur would build his own stadium that was owned and operated by the Falcons he would have a much greater value. He has built one of the best team complexes in the league already.

Building stadiums with public money is just a stupid idea. Have some testicles and build your own.

Also, Delta Air Lines runs an abysmal buisness model. It’s been a horribly run airline since the 1980’s. I’d say the Falcons are just as pleased being sponsored by Air Tran.

Ultimately the rest of the world treats this town like it is some cow pasture anyway. Linda Cohn’s beloved Yankees didn’t sell out WS games… didn’t see that on ESPN.

The Braves are the only team with a championship and they had to beat CLEVELAND (even though that was an incredible team) to win 1 out of 14 tries.

Generally the higher value teams are teams with history, where people are emotionally invested generationally. Our teams (exception Braves) are supported by a small group of passionate fans and then a lot of folks who grew up fans of other teams who get wrapped up with an exciting player or playoff push.

They are still getting a rather modest return on thier investments anyway in a town that doesn’t really care much about pro sports and the ASG has just embarassed themselves since thier inception.


November 12th, 2009
9:21 am

Well, that explains alot at bluesland. No dough = no show.

Kiss Kovy goodbye next year. I only hope that facilitates the departure of D-Wadd.

Can’t speak for the Hawks but I trust that the product that Blank brings to the table will allow us to retain quality players to keep the Falcons on a winning track.

Then comes the new stadium.

I do beleive that the more value your franchise holds, the more $ you have to play with thus more PRESENCE in the league. Once you have established that cycle…Case in point = Dallas.

Conservative White Male

November 12th, 2009
9:22 am

I am concerned that no one cares about the tony gonzalez nudity situation. is this something we want our kids to see? how do I explain it to my kids when their heroes go around naked?

I thought gonzalez was a good guy but I guess he is another arrogant thug whod does what he wants to

F-105 Thunderchief

November 12th, 2009
9:22 am

Can you say Los Angeles Falcons?

F-105 Thunderchief

November 12th, 2009
9:28 am

Off topic, but I doubt anyone would care … that October Gonzalez is one beautiful woman.


November 12th, 2009
9:32 am

We’ve known ownership has stunk across the board, save Mr. Blank. This just proves it again. Wish they would realize that you gotta spend some to make some.


November 12th, 2009
9:34 am

Also, it’s amazing to me that the Falcons play in a Dome…We’re in the SOUTH! Who wants to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the Fall inside?


November 12th, 2009
9:37 am

Can you say Los Angeles Falcons?


Not before you say…

L.A. Jaguars
L.A. Raiders

Falcons aren’t going anywhere. Hopefully King Arthur will have a new stadium built outside of the downtown area of ATL. Build an outdoor, 55,000-60-000 seat stadium, play on grass…the way football was meant to be played, esp. in the south!

Another Conservative White Male

November 12th, 2009
9:41 am

To Conservative White Male:

Please keep your opinion to yourself. Tony Gonzalez is a high character roll-model that Falcons fans should appreciate and embrace, not ridicule. His advertisement was for a good cause, not for some sleazy magazine or a pathetic PR stunt. Do not hide behind that screen name, because your ignorance leads to false stereotypes of conservative white males (like me).

Hillbilly Deluxe

November 12th, 2009
9:49 am

If Arthur Blank wants a new stadium, he needs to pay for it with private money. Not one dime of taxpayer funds.


November 12th, 2009
9:50 am

I do care. Correct me if I’m wrong but Forbes seems slam Atlanta every chance it gets. I saw a post yersterday about Forbes saying Atlanta is most toxic us city. I don’t know anything about it because I did not care to read it. However, back to the Spirit, it is probably good news for the ownership who are negotiating as low a price as possible to buy out Belkin. At the end of the day it probably does’t matter. Life in Atlanta is good. Go Hawks!


November 12th, 2009
9:54 am

As long as the Keystone Cops operate the Hawks and Thrashers wont be able to compete with the top teams, thus their value is not likely to improve.. I care that the teams arent top shelf and wont be anytime; not so much how that affects value. Neither team is moving so who cares?gif they want fans to come, put a better product out there.and I know the Hawks are doing OK right now but that doesnt change anythi9ng really.

Boo Boo

November 12th, 2009
9:59 am

How much are the Georgia Bulldogs worth these days?

Mike MC

November 12th, 2009
10:02 am

I too have been shocked at the condition of Phillips Arena the past few seasons. I remember going on a tour when the arena first opened and I was awed by how beautiful it was. It seems that it is falling apart at the seems. I’m not sure if its Phillips, or the Spirit Group, but please fix the wall of Phillips TVS that lead down the escalator. They are all broken because they are from like 1999!! I think Phillips is doing a serious disservice to their products. The state of the arena’s technology has my questioning if I’ll ever buy a Phillips again. At least the Hawks are playing well, which for me is what is most important.


November 12th, 2009
10:03 am

You know, it’s interesting that the team that wins consistently in Atlanta (the Braves) is the team with the highest value. Don’t know ’bout y’all, but I think the value of a product is in direct proportion to the quality of the product. I’d have a lot more sympathy for Arthur and for the Spirit Group if they would work harder to deliver a product that consistent value – winning. Look at the top teams – Cowboys, Yankees. They’re winners. So don’t come to me, the consumer, crying about how poor your revenue stream if you can’t – or won’t – provide a product that’s worth me investing money and time to enjoy the experience. I think Forbes has very good and legitimate reasons for slamming Atlanta.

In-city Falcon Fan

November 12th, 2009
10:04 am

I disagree with Blank funding the stadium entirely by himself… He should fund a majority of it, but it is unrealistic to think he could pay for a stadium entirely by himself. If he attempts to do so, they only ones that will suffer are Falcons fans because a watered down stadium would result. The Dome is a substandard stadium that has little to no allure. Build and outdoor stadium (or at least with a retractable roof) and enjoy the weather of Atlanta. At this point the Dome has only been able to lure large sporting events (Chic-fil-a Bowl, SEC championship, etc.) because of the city’s offerings and geographic location. If a replacement is not planned in the next few years, even the city’s appeal will not be strong enough to lure these events. We have already seen this with the NFL denying us repeatedly for the Super Bowl. Slightly off topic, but unless the stadium is replaced, Atlanta can kiss it’s chance goodbye of being a World Cup event host (and the million upon millions of dollars that would bring the city).


November 12th, 2009
10:06 am

I mean, I’m not gonna by a Kia at Lexus prices. Make a Lexus, then we’ll talk about team value.


November 12th, 2009
10:25 am

Do any of you new stadium ppl know about the current economics of the NFL or any other major sport? Being on top means charging your fans for the right to buy seats. That is why the Yankees can’t sell out WS games; you cannot go to the stadium and buy a ticket. You must pay to get in line to buy a ticket.

So all of you “new stadium” ppl how much do you think I – a season ticket supporter since the ATL-Fulton County Stadium days – should pay for your right to watch sold out games on TV?

Jeff Schultz

November 12th, 2009
10:48 am

Conservative White Male: Grow up.

Najeh Davenpoop

November 12th, 2009
11:05 am

Forbes magazine once ranked Kevin McHale as the best general manager in sports.

Needless to say their rankings haven’t had an ounce of credibility to me ever since.

In-city Falcon Fan

November 12th, 2009
11:07 am

DJ, maybe you should read the below article. An average operating income of 30.8 million is not exactly struggling in this economy. If we are pleased with the status quo, we as a city will struggle to grow and prosper down the road. The stadium is a significant draw for numerous sporting events for the city, not just the Falcons. If we do not maintain that competitive edge we will fall behind.

From a business standpoint, the worst thing you can do is maintain status quo during economic downturns. This may not mean making the major investment now, but it means planning for it now. For the Falcons and the city, it would be wise to plan for that with a new stadium. Just look at some of the major Atlanta businesses and how they are operating in this poor economy. THD, major investment in overhauling their supply chain; Coca Cola, introduction of a new innovative and advanced coke machine; Delta, merging with Northwest airlines to create the worlds largest airline; etc. You can not emerge from these downturns stronger if you do not invest in improvement or at least plan these investments during these times of struggle.

And yes, my family purchases season tickets for the Falcons (since the Dome’s inaugural season), along with tickets for the numerous events the Dome hosts.

Boneyard Randy

November 12th, 2009
11:22 am

Philips is a little dated now. The outer scoreboard that shows (bball) the starters from each team w/ pts, rbs, asts and fouls looks like it’s from the 80s. it’s difficult to tell 8s from 3s and 7s from 9s. Let’s get some LCD tech up there…it can’t be too expensive to replace. I pay no creedence to these national mags that attempt to value/assess cities they have spent maybe a few days in. And, keep the Falcons stadium downtown if we end up building a new one. Hack off the roof of the Dome and we’re all good.


November 12th, 2009
11:33 am

Come on now Jeff…….if you had a business that was loosing money……. Would you be highly ranked ?

Don’t you know the Atlanta Spirit looses money EVERY YEAR, and is poorly run from top to bottom ?

As a guy who has done some business with them in the past…..they are not great folks to work with !

Reality Strikes

November 12th, 2009
11:53 am

Atlanta has a basketball team?? The reason the dome doesn’t generate much revenue is because look at the surrounding neighborhood. Who would want to go down into that $hithole? All the bums around the stadium make for a huge turnoff. Put the stadium in Gwinnett and watch the value (and attendance) take off.


November 12th, 2009
11:58 am

Jeff, I wish you or someone at the AJC would take in a Thrashers game the way an average fan does:

First, go up to the box office and deal with the grouchy people there who act like you have interrupted their family dinner to purchase tickets. It doesn’t even have to be game day to have this joyful experience.

Next, the ticket takers and ushers are nice enough but often the ushers are just checking your tickets and point you to a vicinity.

You can sit and watch the game but you might want some ear plugs for all the music and stupid announcements.

Now, comes the fun part. Get up and go to the concessions at least twice. Take a stopwatch with you. With a recession and 10% unemployment you’d expect that these people appreciate their jobs. But no. They also act like you are bothering them. They are slow and do not put any care into it.

I would have to agree with Forbes on the low value of this team.



November 12th, 2009
12:05 pm

ASG is a joke, and if we lose the hockey team in this town they (and D-WAD) will be the exact reason why.

The Falcons on the other hand, will be fine. It’s hilarious that Forbes said Blank has zero chance of getting a new stadium. It sure doesn’t seem that way to people who have been paying attention to the situation. Blank seems pretty confident that he will get a new stadium and it will be done within the next 10 years.

Just make sure it isn’t on the southside and please make it outdoors or a retractable roof at least!

Reggie Reg

November 12th, 2009
12:12 pm

Gonzalez a thug???? LMBAO!!!! C’mon Conservative white dude…get a friggin life. Athletes should not be your kids hero in the first place. Maybe if you explained the ad and why they are posing naked, your kid, who I bet is smarter than you, would understand. October is now officially my favorite month!


November 12th, 2009
12:12 pm

In-city I am left to assume you don’t mind paying $20,000 extra for the right to buy your season tickets.

Matt "Choke" Ryan

November 12th, 2009
12:16 pm


“YOU” fools thought the CHOKE could out draw Mike Vick.

Forbes says……………. NUMBER 25


Matt "Choke" Ryan

November 12th, 2009
12:16 pm


The League doesn’t want Ghetto THUGS in the NFL.

Smitty break out the check book – you owe the Commissioner 15 Grand baby :)

That will teach you a lesson, to stay in your place and keep that street THUG life in your neighborhood :)

Yet another victory for the Virginia Tech boys :)

- Bonus case…………….LOST

- League disciple case…………..LOST

Damn it must hurt to know the league respects D Hall more than Smitty :)

In-city Falcon Fan

November 12th, 2009
12:25 pm

DJ really? 20,000 extra? We are not talking about building another Dallas Cowboy’s stadium. Just a stadium to keep us competitive with the rest of the US. If teams like the Detroit Lions can build a new stadium, there is no reason the Falcons and the city can not muster up the cash… oh wait, the city can not because managing a budget has turned out to be way to difficult for our current admin… (ouch, had to squeeze that one in there). Seriously though, the Falcon fans will not be the only party to bare the burden of the new stadium cost. That is the beauty of a new stadium, it can attract new and different venues to share the cost. You keep a dilapidated stadium for years to come and all that will result is lost opportunity and money.

Vick the Convict

November 12th, 2009
12:31 pm

What is Vick doing these days? Oops….he is not even good enough to run the wildcat….make it the wild dog and he might just do a little better. No need to worry however… the end of the season this old thug will again be without a job…..just can’t make it at quarterback since he has poor decision making abilities.

Matt "Choke" Ryan

November 12th, 2009
12:33 pm

Every team in the NFC South is ranked higher than the Falcons………

This Franchise is worthless :)

- Worthless franchise

- CHOKE quarterback

- THUG Coach


This Funny as hell :)


November 12th, 2009
12:35 pm

Given the amount of attention that sports get in the US, there is nothing wrong with looking at the financial side of it. I do wonder how the financials impact ticket prices and concession prices for the sporting events that I attend locally and out out of town.

Do I think the Forbes numbers are accurate? Not sure. However, if there is a relative level of accuracy that does provide information. Some sports road trips are better values than others based on cost of tickets, travel, local entertainment, etc.

More important than the money are the management and the budget. The Redskins spend lots of money, but have real management issues. Thus there’s little bang for the buck. On the other hand there are teams that spend little and make it go a long way (e.g. the Florida Marlins about once every 5 years.)

All that said, link the same article on the business page and track the stats. That will tell where this column fits best for the AJC and its base. I’ll take a peek where ever you post it.

ATL Hawk

November 12th, 2009
12:39 pm

Conservative white male just mad cause October was in front of Tony G. He wanted to see the whole thing. I’m glad I was born in October.


November 12th, 2009
12:50 pm

In-city….Fine with me as long as they leave the per-seat licenses out of the equation.

And yes, the PSL for seats (similar to our seats) for the NY Giants new “much needed” stadium opening next year are $10,000 EACH plus the cost of the tickets.

No wonder the Giants are #4 on the list.

Oh…and last time I looked the Lions sucked.


November 12th, 2009
1:04 pm

@Bubba: the Cowboys haven’t won a playoff game since 1996. And unless you count superbowls from 13 years ago, it harldy makes them winners. The Yankees already have a fan base of 10 million plus so that goes a long way for value.

@Reality Strikes, Being that Gwinnett county doesn’t have a public transportation system to carry the masses to a Falcons game I highly doubt any of the four pro teams would move out there. Not to mention there is plenty of parking and police around the parking lots of Phillips, the Ted, and Dome. I cannot even remember the last time I heard about someone getting attacked after a pro or college event in Atlanta. Every city has homeless people and bums. Last time I was in NYC and LA there were plenty of homeless people around. The White Sox and Bulls play in rough neighborhoods and they do well. I also doubt that Chic-fil-a and the SEC want their college football games played in Gwinnett county. Inside 285 = nightlife, strip clubs, hotels. Gwinnett = white flight, mall of georgia, discovery mills and mall shootings.