Disney sells stake in Yankees’ network for $3.5bn

Walt Disney has sold its majority stake in the YES Network to a group that includes the New York Yankees baseball team, Amazon and Sinclair Broadcast Group for $3.47bn including debt, the companies announced on Thursday.

The investor group acquired 80 per cent of the Yankees’ television network, which broadcasts games involving the Yankees and the Brooklyn Nets basketball team, as well as other sports content. The Yankees already owned the other 20 per cent.

The group said Redbird Capital, funds managed by Blackstone’s Tactical Opportunities business and Mubadala Capital provided additional equity investments. Jon Litner will remain president of the network.

The deal comes less than a week after Sinclair completed its $10.6bn takeover of 21 regional sports networks (RSNs) from Disney, which had taken ownership of the channels through its acquisition of the former 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets. Disney had agreed to sell the 22 RSNs, including the YES Network, to secure government approval for the $71bn Fox deal. YES, the most-watched RSN in the US, was seen as the most prized network of the bunch.

The sale of YES further broadens Sinclair’s reach and allows Amazon to expand its footprint in live sports programming. Under a deal with the National Football League, Amazon streams Thursday night football games on its Prime video service.

Yankee Global Enterprises, Amazon and Sinclair said the three companies will “position [YES] strategically to continue its leadership in sports broadcasting across all forms of distribution”.

“This transaction brings the YES Network and all of its popular programming even closer to the organisation that inspired its very development,” said Hal Steinbrenner, chief executive of Yankee Global Enterprises. “Along with our partners, we look forward to greatly expanding the way that sports content is delivered and consumed by fans everywhere.”

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