The New York Times Co’s long goodbye to the sports business is finally over. The company sold its last shares in Fenway Sports Group, the owner of the Boston Red Sox, the Liverpool Football Club and the bulk of the New England Sports Network, for $63 million in cash. That will show up as an estimated pre-tax gain of about $38 million when this quarter’s results are in.
NYTCo acquired the 17.75 percent stake in what was then New England Sports Ventures, LLC in 2002, spending $75 million for 750 units in the hopes of boosting the Boston Globe. They started to look for buyers during the company’s cash crunch in 2008, looking for roughly $200 million in a tough market, but held out despite pressure to dump them for a smaller return. The company’s been selling them in batches over the past year for $300,000 a unit — a total of $225 million, or three times the original investment. That doesn’t recognize any payments they received or additional investments in the interim.
The company sold 55 percent of the stake for $117 million last July, following a smaller sale.
The investment was controversial from the start, putting reporters at the Boston Globe especially in the difficult position of covering a team owned in part by their parent company. In the interim, the sports group acquired the Liverpool club and 50 percent of NASCAR’s Roush Fenway Racing.