Dayton Dragons, Reds minor league team, sold to Palisades Arcadia Baseball

The owners of the Dayton Dragons — one of the nation’s most popular and profitable minor league baseball franchises — have reached an agreement to sell the franchise, club officials announced Wednesday morning.

The buyer of the Reds’ Single-A affiliate is Palisades Arcadia Baseball, which is owned by three individuals, including Michael Savit, the managing partner of the HWS Group. HWS Group is a sports management company that currently owns three other Minor League Baseball teams in Mobile, Alabama; Modesto, California; and Niles, Ohio.

For the past 16 years, the group Savit co-founded has owned and operated a total of six baseball teams and a team from Springfield, Massachusetts, in the NBA Development League. Savit is also a limited partner in the Memphis Grizzlies.

All terms of the sales agreement — including the price — are confidential, Dragons officials said. But the team was valued by Forbes in 2013 at $31 million, making them the sixth most valuable franchise in all of minor league baseball.

The Dragons, which hold the record for most consecutive sell-outs in the history of American sports, have an annual revenue of $9.4 million and operating income of $3.9 million, according to Forbes.

The top five most valuable teams at the time were all AAA teams, the highest level of minor league baseball.

The Louisville Bats, the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate, ranked eighth on the list, with a value of $29 million. They had revenue of $8.2 million and operating income of $1.1 million at the time of the Forbes report.

The investment firm Seaport Capital, the Mandalay Baseball Properties LLC, announced in April 2013 that it was putting up for sale its sports-team holdings. At that time, called the Dayton Dragons “one of the best-performing” teams financially on the single-A level of minor league baseball.

The Dragons have placed at the top among all Single-A minor league teams in attendance each season of their existence. The team also has set the all-time consecutive sellout streak, having completed their 1,017th consecutive sellout at Fifth Third Field on June 15. 

A member of the Midwest League, the Dragons are averaging 7,969 fans per home game  in 2014, which is more than 100 percent of listed capacity.

Fifth Third Field has 7,230 seats, according to the Dayton Dragons website . It also has three party decks, seven permanent concession stands, 13 specialty carts and 29 luxury suites.

The sales agreement is subject to closing conditions, including the approvals of the Midwest League, the offices of Minor League Baseball, and the review of the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

But the new ownership group is already making plans for the team.

They said in a news release they plan to keep the current Dragons’ management team in place, including team president Robert Murphy, who has been the only team president the Dragons have had since their inception in 2000.

“Bob has been the face of the organization for the past 16 years, and that will continue,” said Nick Sakellariadis, one of the three owners of Palisades Arcadia Baseball. “Obviously, the local management team has done an exemplary job with the franchise, and we are confident in their continued managerial success.”

Murphy told the Dayton Daily News , “We appreciate the fact that this new (ownership) group understands, just as the previous group did, that they don’t ‘own’ this team — that title goes to the fans of the Dayton Dragons. Their role is to be great stewards of this great community asset.”

All three owners are Harvard graduates and friends, Dragons officials said.

Savit served as sports editor of the Harvard Crimson and is a 1978 graduate. Sakellariadis received both an MBA and law degree from Harvard and recently retired following a 35-year investment banking career at Citigroup-related companies. Greg Rosenbaum, also a Harvard law school graduate, is a Toledo native and president of Palisades Associates, Inc., a merchant banking and investment firm based in Bethesda, Maryland.

The Dragons have sent more than 66 players to the majors and continue to be a common landing spot for Reds players who are on rehab assignments.

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