The Billings Mustangs (rookie; Pioneer League) are on the block, as an unidentified buyer has approached the community ownership group about a purchase.
It would be a hard sale, but team president Woody Hahn has been authorized to discuss a potential sale of what’s considered one of the top franchises in the Pioneer League. These days a rookie or short-season-A franchise is a very desirable commodity, partly because of the relatively low franchise values versus a higher league, and partly because their seasons are set in the best part of the summer: late June through the second weekend of September.
Billings has a colorful history. The franchise was launched with the aid of Bob Cobb, an owner of the PCL’s Hollywood Stars who helped arrange the team’s first affiliation deal. Despite never setting foot in Montana, Cobb was honored by Billings with the naming of Cobb Field, the team’s first home. The team was launched with community ownership, and that arrangement remains true today:
A total of 1,000 shares were originally sold for $100 each. The Mustangs corporation owns 542 shares, which are controlled by the board of directors.
The 458 outstanding shares are owned by 91 individuals or groups, but four owners control a majority of those shares. Those majority shareholders are Hahn, Peggy Wilson, Don and Tim Brocopp and the Billings Beer Boosters, which runs the beer concession at Dehler Park, home of the Mustangs.
If a sale were to take place, Hahn said, it would first have to be approved by the board of directors, and then by a two-thirds majority of investors holding the outstanding shares. Hahn said he and the other major investors control a majority of shares, but not two-thirds of them.
There’s also some upside to the operation. Baseball purists love Mustangs games because the emphasis is on baseball: there’s minimal between-innings entertainment, and while the existing concessions are great (a Stang burger is a must), there’s also room for expansion, with the relatively large footprint of Dehler Park. Combine a good ballpark lease ($30,000 per year for the relatively new Dehler Park), a profitable operation (over $230,000 in 2012, according to city officials) and robust attendance, and you can see why Billings would be an attractive asset for a seller.
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