- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2000

The Washington Redskins' higher ticket prices, training-camp admission fees, new luxury seats and inflated sponsorship costs have added up to a single lofty designation: most valuable franchise in sports.
Forbes magazine, which annually estimates values for each major American pro team, tapped the Redskins' worth at $741 million, 22 percent higher than a year ago and supplanting the rival Dallas Cowboys as the nation's most valuable team.
The nod, not a surprise given owner Daniel Snyder's ultra-aggressive pursuit to raise the team's profits and profile and the team's No. 2 ranking on last year's list, represents one of the clearest and most comprehensive indicators yet of his ability to generate new revenue for the team.
The magazine's estimated values rely on a multiple based on annual revenues, and several key additions to that side of the Redskins' ledger sent the team to the top of the list. The Redskins in November signed a 27-year, $205 million stadium-naming-rights deal with FedEx Corp., the richest deal of its type ever.
Mr. Snyder, who assumed control of the team last year when it already had the league's highest average ticket costs and second-largest capacity, added more than 4,000 seats and raised ticket prices another 8 percent. FedEx Field's seating capacity of 85,407 and average ticket price of nearly $80 are now easily league highs.
The Redskins also became the first NFL team to charge admission to training camp this year and raised some corporate sponsorship fees as much as 900 percent. The team's total annual revenues of more than $200 million lead the league.
"[Mr. Snyder has] nearly made up the [$800 million] cost of the team already," said Forbes' Michael Ozanian, who led the study's compilation. "We subtracted out the debt he has on FedEx Field in the value, so without that he would definitely have been over $800 million.
"He came into a situation already inherent with a lot of economic upside because the stadium was underutilized. But he's clearly been very successful finding new ways to generate money. They should be at least among the very top of the list for some time," Mr. Ozanian said.
The Cowboys' value dropped to second on the list although rising 8 percent to $713 million. The league average was $423 million.
Economic juggernauts in other sports, such as the New York Yankees and Rangers, do not approach the value of high-end NFL teams because of football's lucrative relationship with TV. The NFL in 1998 signed an eight-year, $17.6 billion contract with four networks, a package that easily trumps that for any other sport as the Super Bowl each year is television's most-watched program. Forbes estimates the Yankees' value at $548 million.
Despite the Redskins' fast-rising value, all is not entirely well with Mr. Snyder and the Redskins. According to Forbes, there is $495 million in debt tied to the team and FedEx Field, plus another $120 million connected to the team's limited partners most notably Mr. Snyder's sister, Michele, and father, Gerald. That debt adds up to 83 percent of the franchise's value, easily the highest percentage in the league and more than three times the NFL average of 24 percent.
"While I think the Redskins will be a high-valued team for some time, they are under some pressure," Mr. Ozanian said. "Because they've raised prices so much this year, they may be close to maxing out their stadium revenues. The suite rentals are all done on a multi-year basis, but there is also a long-term threat if the economy starts to go down. Right now, the economy has been great to just about everyone in the league and corporate profits have been good."
Forbes estimates the Baltimore Ravens' value at $479 million, seventh-best in the NFL and 17 percent higher than a year ago.
Redskins officials declined to comment on the study.

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