The New York Yankees' cable network, the YES Network, is for sale, Fortune has learned. And some baseball insiders and Yankees limited partners are wondering whether the team itself might be next. This story was written by Jon Birger and Tim Arango of Fortune.
The highest-rated regional sports network in the country and the cable home of the Yankees and the NBA New Jersey Nets, YES is jointly owned by the Yankees, investment bank Goldman Sachs & Co. (Charts, Fortune 500) , and former Nets owner Ray Chambers. Goldman and Chambers would like to cash out, YES and Yankees insiders say, and one source says to expect a deal by summer's end. Some possible bidders: Cablevision, Comcast (Charts), News Corp. (Charts, Fortune 500) and Verizon (Charts, Fortune 500).
Publicly, Yankees and YES officials are noncommittal. "Absolutely not," Yankees president Randy Levine replies when asked whether YES is for sale - though not before acknowledging some "testing of the market." Gerry Cardinale, a Goldman managing director and YES board member, is more forthcoming, conceding that YES is in fact being shopped. "We're testing the waters with a limited universe of quality buyers," says Cardinale. "We would consider selling only if we receive a full and fair price."
And what might a "full and fair" price be? Try a cool $3 billion to $3.5 billion. At that price, one could argue that the true gem of the Yankees business empire isn't the team itself but YES.