Endeavor, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based sports and entertainment company that purchased 10 minor league baseball teams in December and has been open about its interest in buying more, has interest in buying the Worcester Red Sox, according to sources with knowledge of the discussions.
Larry Lucchino, as chairman of the board, holds the controlling stake in the WooSox, whom he and his partners purchased from the Pawtucket Red Sox in 2015 for approximately $25 million.
Endeavor expressed its interest to Lucchino in the fall. The initial reaction from most of Lucchino’s 10 partners about the offer, believed to be in excess of $50 million, was to reject it.
Lucchino did not deny the approach from Endeavor but would not comment on the status of any negotiations.
Peter Freund, CEO of Endeavor’s Diamond Baseball Holdings subsidiary, said in a text message that DBH “cannot comment at this time” about interest in the WooSox.
Among Endeavor’s sports holdings are the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Professional Bull Riders, and Euroleague Basketball.
Lucchino, 76, is open-minded about selling. That could leave some or all of the 10 partners — one is Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Red Sox — in a position where they agree to sell their shares along with Lucchino’s to Endeavor. Alternatively, the partners could seek to gain control by purchasing Lucchino’s stake presumably at a price comparable to what Endeavor is willing to pay.
The WooSox debuted in their $159 million Polar Park in a 2021 season that began with capacity limits due to COVID-19. They drew 362,000-plus fans, or an average of 6,145 per game.
Endeavor made a grand entrance into the MiLB ownership ranks last month, when its newly formed DBH subsidiary purchased 10 teams from six major league franchises: the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, Giants, Cardinals, and Braves.
In a press release heralding its initial purchases and the creation of DBH, Endeavor president Mark Shapiro said, “Just as we’ve done for the UFC, PBR, and Euroleague, we see tremendous potential to turbocharge these storied clubs using the scale and capabilities of Endeavor.
“Our expertise across sponsorship sales, event operations, licensing, marketing, and content creation will bring incredible value to these clubs, supporting communities across the country who form the backbone of the Professional Development League system.”
According to Baseball America, there are restrictions in place that limit owners to no more than nine teams at one minor league level, with a cap at 24 total teams under one ownership group by the end of this year.
The City of Worcester is responsible for more than half of the construction costs of Polar Park, plus it holds development rights for several surrounding parcels. The 34-year lease agreement between the team and the city includes a backloaded landlord-tenant arrangement, with the WooSox paying little to no rent over the first two years before leaping to more than $2 million by the middle of 2023.
“We are aware that there are prospects interested in purchasing the Worcester Red Sox, which clearly demonstrates how successful the team has been in their first year of operation,” said Worcester city manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. in a statement. “That being said, the city of Worcester looks forward to working with current ownership for many years to come.”
Any sale would have to be approved by Major League Baseball, which now oversees Minor League Baseball after a 2020 takeover that included a 25 percent contraction to 120 teams (four affiliates apiece for the 30 big-league clubs).