New York Yankees-led group completes re-acquisition of YES Network control

Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees have closed a multipronged deal to reacquire a controlling stake in the YES Network, the regional sports network that airs its games in the New York area.

The Yankees, along with e-commerce giant Amazon, the Sinclair Broadcast Group, RedBird Capital and other investors, have regained the 80 percent equity stake in YES the club did not already own. The deal values YES at $3.47 billion, nearly $500 million less than the value when 21st Century Fox acquired a majority stake in the YES Network in 2014. Disney sold off more than 20 Fox RSNs, including YES Network, as part of its much larger deal to acquire Fox’s entertainment assets.

The Yankees/YES deal, though involving Sinclair, was still a separate transaction from Sinclair’s other deal to acquire the rest of the Fox RSN portfolio. That $10.6 billion deal, announced in May, closed last week. 

A newly revised ownership structure for YES will now see Yankee Global Enterprises holding a 26 percent equity stake, Sinclair standing at 20 percent, Amazon at 15 percent, and the remaining 39 percent divided roughly evenly among investors RedBird Capital, Blackstone, and Mubadala Capital. Sinclair will lead distribution efforts with both linear and digital carriers.

“Sinclair is a very important partner to us,” said Yankees president Randy Levine. “They have great expertise. They’ll be working with YES management to try to get all of these distribution deals done.”

YES Network President Jon Litner will remain in place leading the RSN following the completing of a new employment agreement. 

Amid the closing of the YES Network deal, Levine also hinted at potential changes to local streaming rights for MLB teams. Those in-market streaming deals, relying on an authenticated model in which viewers must also subscribe to the RSN rightsholders on TV, have been managed primarily by the league. But Levine said, “I think you should just stay tuned because I think the commissioner [Rob Manfred] will be speaking about that in the near future.”

The YES Network in most years since its debut in 2002 has been the most-watched RSN in the US, buttressed heavily by the widespread popularity of the Yankees. It also has broadcast rights to the National Basketball Association’s Brooklyn Nets.