Braves Development CEO Mike Plant: The Battery Is Not For Sale
The Atlanta Braves have no plans to sell off pieces of the team's banner mixed-use complex in suburban Cobb County.
Braves Development Corp. CEO Mike Plant said during a Bisnow webinar on Tuesday that comments made by Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei on an Aug. 10 earnings call didn't indicate that the media giant, which owns the Braves, was considering selling portions of the 2.5M SF mixed-use complex.
“If you understand Liberty Media, you'll understand Greg Maffei's response, saying, 'Look we always look at evaluating different assets in our portfolio and uses of capital. But we also understand timing. There's a right time and a wrong time,'” Plant said.
Maffei spoke on the earnings call about a possible sale of some of The Battery in answer to an analyst's question, but he offered no time frame for such a move.
“I think we try and make a decision about uses of the capital and how it gets valued. And depending on where we stand … we might or might not try and liquidate some of the Battery portfolio,” Maffei said during the earnings call. “Given what's going on in real estate, both office potential and retail potential, I'm not sure that [a sale] is likely in the near term.”
Plant spoke on the webinar alongside a lineup of Truist Park and The Battery partners and developers, including Cortland Chief Investment Officer Mike Altman, JLL Managing Director Adam Viente and Stewart Title Senior Business Development Officer Will Lovell.
“I think [Maffei] gave a generic type of response that led to an assumption that we had to or were going to sell some of our real estate assets, which is absolutely just not true,” Plant said. "There's no effort right now. There's no movement."
Liberty Media's second quarter has been a massive struggle, especially for the Braves, which will likely be unable to play any of the team's 60 games this year with fans in the stands. Liberty Media as a whole — including its Formula One holdings and its SiriusXM broadcasting system — lost $262M in the second quarter on revenues of $1.9B.
Braves revenues declined 95% year-over-year in the second quarter, during which no baseball was played, to $11M. That amount included a 40% drop in development revenue, primarily derived from The Battery rents, to $6M.
Plant did not detail any rent concessions the organization has given to The Battery's tenants, beyond saying that the organization was working with them. And Plant said 100K SF of new tenants are slated to open at The Battery by the end of the year, including dueling piano bar Park Bench, primary care provider One Medical and Silverspot Cinema.
“This is a hand we all got dealt, and the only way we're going to get out of this is to collaborate, cooperate and have a real strong spirit of partnership,” he said.
The Braves continue to move forward on the $200M development of the second phase of The Battery, including Thyssenkrupp's North American headquarters. That has been funded so far with $55M in equity and $50M in debt with $95M of incremental debt funding remaining, according to Liberty Media's quarterly report.
“Brave Holdings is expected to be out of compliance with certain debt covenants at the end of the quarter. We continue to work with the lenders to obtain waivers and covenant modifications. These discussions are going well and we're optimistic that we will have a favorable resolution by the end of the month,” Liberty Principal Financial Officer Brian Wendling said during the earnings call.
Cobb County raised in excess of $360M in bonds to help fund the development of Truist Park and the mixed-use complex (at the time called SunTrust Park). That debt is to be paid back by the Braves over decades from hotel-motel taxes and other park revenues.
When asked if Liberty Media or the Braves were at risk of not being able to meet its debt obligations, Plant denied that it was a possibility.
"I mean, just zero," he said. "We have no concerns nor is there going to be an issue of us paying our rent, and I made that clear to the leadership on Friday.”