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No takers yet for majority owner’s stake in Dayton Dragons

Ten months after the majority owner of Mandalay Baseball Properties — the parent company of the Dayton Dragons — put its stake of the company up for sale, there have been no takers.

“The sales process has taken a bit longer than anticipated, largely due to holidays and weather creating some difficulty in coordinating people’s schedules,” Bill Luby, founding partner of New York City-based private equity firm Seaport Capital told the Dayton Daily News. “There continue to be a number of parties interested in acquiring the Dayton Dragons. A few groups have been to Dayton and toured Fifth Third Field over the past couple of months.”

Luby repeated his belief that any transfer in ownership would be “invisible” to Dragons fans. “I remain convinced of this,” he said.

In addition to the Dayton Dragons, Mandalay Baseball Properties owns all or part of four other minor-league baseball teams: the Oklahoma City RedHawks the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Erie SeaWolves and the Frisco RoughRiders. Other investors in Mandalay Baseball Properties and the Dragons include NBA Hall of Fame player Earvin “Magic” Johnson and former Ohio State Buckeyes two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin. Luby has said that Seaport is the only member of the ownership team that has decided to sell.

Any new owners would have to be approved by Major League Baseball.

Peter Titlebaum, professor of health and sports science at the University of Dayton, cautioned that the sale of the majority stake in the Dragons, when it occurs, may not be as “invisible” to Dragons fans and to the community as Seaport Capital officials promise.

There is certainly no guarantee that new majority ownership will follow the same hands-off policy with Mandalay Baseball Properties as Seaport Capital has, Titlebaum said.

“Who will the new owners be? Will they have a track record?” said Titlebaum, who teaches sports management and sports marketing at UD. “We would be naïve to think that isn’t a concern.”

Titlebaum said the success that Mandalay Baseball Properties has had in building the value of the Dragons and the other teams in the Mandalay portfolio may have pushed its asking price to a level that has made prospective buyers balk — which may explain why the stake hasn’t sold after 10 months.

“If you buy the most expensive house in the neighborhood, will the value of that house continue to grow?” he said.

BallparkDigest.com last April called the Dayton Dragons “one of the best-performing” teams financially on the single-A level of minor league baseball. Forbes has valued the Dragons alone at $23 million.

Seaport Capital made the investment in Mandalay Baseball Properties in 2002, and that majority stake is now the last remaining investment in Seaport Capital’s 2000 fund.

“We can’t hold our investments forever,” Luby told this newspaper when the majority stake was first put up for sale. “The nature of the fund business dictates that it’s time for us to sell our position.”

The uncertainty over a looming sale doesn’t appear to have slowed the Dragons’ momentum. Team officials announced last week that the Dragons have launched a $500,000 project to renovate all 30 luxury suites at Fifth Third Field.

The renovations are scheduled to be complete before the Dragons open their 15th season in the Midwest League on April 3 against the West Michigan Whitecaps at Fifth Third Field.

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