Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Baseball [Print without images]

Tuesday, April 2, 2002
Updated: April 3, 3:03 PM ET
Commissioner: Forbes' report of profit is 'fiction'

Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Commissioner Bud Selig has criticized a Forbes magazine report that major league teams had an operating profit of $75 million last season -- a marked difference from the $232 million in operating losses that he detailed to Congress in December.

The magazine reported in its April 15 issue that 20 of the 30 teams were profitable last season -- more than double what Selig said.

"There is no way. Those numbers are fiction, they are pure fiction," Selig said of the magazine's statistics.

It's a very sad day for journalism in America when somebody knowingly writes something that is not only not true but has been told it is not true.
Bud Selig

Forbes senior editor Mike Ozanian said Tuesday he stands by the report.

In testimony to the House Judiciary Committee in December, the commissioner said the industry had $232 million in operating losses last year and only nine teams had an operating profit.

Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president of labor relations, discussed baseball's finances with the magazine, Selig said Monday.

"I don't give any validity to it," Selig said of the Forbes report. "It's so disappointingly wrong, and they knew it. I think it's a very sad day for journalism in America when somebody knowingly writes something that is not only not true but has been told it is not true."

Forbes has none of baseball's financial information other than what was publicly disclosed to Congress, Selig said.

Ozanian said the Forbes figures "were compiled by the teams themselves in some cases."

The sources included documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission by teams who have public debt outstanding, the editor added.

"For many of the other numbers, we relied on those supplied by major league baseball and those supplied by bankers and professional consultants familiar with teams' finances," Ozanian said. "And we came to major league baseball's office at their request and found that our revenue numbers were very close to what they had. The big difference was on the expense side.

"We adjusted our expenses based on their numbers, but we couldn't take all of them at face value."

Forbes reported baseball had $3.57 billion in revenues last season, almost identical to the $3.55 billion reported by baseball.

For expenses, baseball reported $3.78 billion to Forbes' $3.495 billion.

Ozanian said baseball told Forbes it accrues all expenses associated with minor league operations and that the big league teams don't profit from the minor league systems.

"We found that simply not to be the case when we checked with other people inside baseball," Ozanian said.

Ozanian quoted former MLB president and chief operating officer Paul Beeston when he was an executive with the Toronto Blue Jays: "I can turn a $4 million profit into a $2 million loss and I can get every national accounting firm to agree with me."

Selig said baseball would have more to say about the matter in the next few days. He reiterated that baseball's financial statements were audited three times by three different groups.

"It's the same information the Blue Ribbon Committee (baseball's economic study commission) has worked off of and the players' association has, everybody has," he said. "It's very disappointing and just plain wrong."