Yankees join Amazon, Sinclair to buy YES from Disney

NEW YORK — The New York Yankees have reacquired the YES Network, joining Amazon and the Sinclair Broadcast Group to buy an 80% stake in the channel from The Walt Disney Co.

The deal announced Thursday values YES at $3.47 billion, nearly $500 million less than when 21st Century Fox acquired a majority stake in 2014. Disney was required to sell off Fox’s regional sports networks as part of its $71 billion deal to acquire Fox’s entertainment assets, which triggered Yankee Global Enterprises’ right-of-first-refusal to buy back YES Network shares. That deal closed in March.

Sinclair said it would buy 21 of the regional sports networks in May, but the 80% stake in YES was sold separately. Yankee Global Enterprises already held a 20% stake in YES. The Associated Press reported the preliminary YES Network deal in March.

Yankees Global Enterprises will hold a 26% share in YES, with Sinclair owning 20%, Amazon getting 15% with the right to purchase more, and the rest split among the deal’s other investors — RedBird Capital, The Blackstone Group and Mubadala Capital.

Asked how the deal might affect the digital streaming rights to Yankees games within the team’s market, club president Randy Levine said he expected Major League Baseball to announce changes to its policy soon. Teams cannot currently sell digital rights to local broadcasts.

“I think you should just stay tuned because I think the commissioner will be speaking about that in the near future,” Levine said.

Yankees games have been streamed on the Fox Sports Go app, and Levine believes that arrangement will last through the season but “we expect it to” change. Levine said the network already has programming in the works related to Amazon’s role in the deal, but “the specifics will come in the future.”

YES is the country’s most watched regional sports network and airs Yankees games, Brooklyn Nets basketball games, Major League Soccer’s New York City FC games and others, along with more programming specific to the Yankees.

The network was owned by Yankee Global Enterprises, Goldman Sachs, Providence Equity and NJ Holdings (a company then controlled by former New Jersey Nets owners Louis Katz and Ray Chambers) when YES sold a 49% stake to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. in late 2012. News Corp. split into two companies the following year, with broadcast properties spun off to 21st Century Fox.

21st Century Fox raised its stake to 80% in early 2014 and Yankee Global Enterprises reduced its stake from 26% to 20% in a deal that valued the network at $3.9 billion.

YES Network President Jon Litner signed a new contract and will continue to lead the network.

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