Investment firm selling stake in Dragons’ parent company

Mandalay officials say neither team nor community will be affected

An investment firm that is the majority owner of Mandalay Baseball Properties — the parent company of the Dayton Dragons — has put its stake up for sale.

Seaport Capital LLC, a New York-based private equity firm, is looking for a buyer for its stake in Mandalay Baseball Properties, which owns all or part of four other minor league baseball teams in addition to the Dragons.

Officials with both Seaport Capital and Mandalay told the Dayton Daily News Friday that the sale is not anticipated to have any noticeable impact on the team or its fans.

“We expect no change at the team level,” said Bob Murphy, president of the Dayton Dragons and chief operating officer of Mandalay Baseball Properties. “Everything that makes us what we are will stay in place. We have long-term agreements with the city of Dayton.”

Bill Luby, founding partner of Seaport Capital, confirmed the company is selling the investment that it first made in 2002.

“We can’t hold our investments forever,” Luby said in a phone interview Friday. The stake in Mandalay Baseball is the last remaining investment in Seaport Capital’s 2000 fund, and, “the nature of the fund business dictates that it’s time for us to sell our position,” he said.

Luby said Mandalay will continue to be the owner of the Dragons and the other four teams: Oklahoma City Redhawks, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Erie SeaWolves and Frisco Roughriders.

“We view this particular transaction to be completely invisible to the Dayton community to the Dragons’ fan base,” Luby said. “We’re very conscious of Dragons’ role and position in the community and of the mutual love affair between the team and the community. We’ll be hypersensitive to that, and we expect there to be no changes at all.”

Seaport is the only member of the ownership team that has decided to sell, Luby said. Other investors in Mandalay Baseball Properties and the Dragons include basketball Hall of Fame player Magic Johnson and former Ohio State Buckeyes two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.

“We want to find the right buyer, and I’m not just paying lip service to that,” Luby said, noting that any new owners will have to be approved by Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball.

Luby declined to speculate on the value of his firm’s investment. No offers have been received yet, and the sales process will take three to six months, he said.

The five Mandalay-owned teams combined are projected to generate $40 million in revenue this year, according to a prospectus developed by Game Plan LLC, a Boston firm that has been hired to market Mandalay Baseball Properties. Forbes recently valued the Dragons at $23 million.

Sandy Gudorf, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership, said the Dragons “have been a huge success for not only downtown Dayton, but for the entire region — and that’s a tribute to the current management team and ownership group.”

Gudorf said she is hopeful that new ownership would not interfere with that success.

“In most cases like this, you don’t fix something that isn’t broken. I hope they understand we have a good thing going.”

Calls to Art Matin, Mandalay’s chief executive officer, on Friday were referred to Mandalay Baseball President Larry Freedman, who did not return phone calls.

Matin was quoted this week by the Times-Tribune newspaper in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as saying a sale would have no effect on the team there.

No asking price has been set for Seaport’s majority stake, but with a portfolio featuring “some of the elite franchises in minor league baseball,” Matin said he anticipates interest from potential buyers will be high, the Times-Tribune reported.

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