Company might be looking to cash out

It took just five years for the YES Network, the New York Yankees’ Gotham-based sports cabler, to balloon in value to about $3 billion, and now Goldman Sachs may be looking to cash out.

Buying Goldman Sachs’ 40% interest in YES, which has become the most lucrative regional sports net in the U.S., would be particularly enticing to an investor whose long-range goal might be to purchase the entire Yankees franchise.

Right now, Yankees execs say the 36% stake in YES owned by the team is not for sale. But published reports indicate one reason the 77-year-old George Steinbrenner, the celebrated “boss” of the Yankees, hasn’t made public appearances recently is that his health is precarious.

His son Harold has taken over some of the duties of team management, but insiders say he does not have the same level of passion that has driven his father’s storied management of the team, which he bought in 1973 for $8.7 million.

Taking over Goldman Sachs’ piece of the team would give the buyer an inside position to make a bid for the Yankees’ 36% of YES — and for the team itself. Wall Street values the team at about $1.2 billion. SNL Kagan reports that YES’ revenues came in at $340.5 million last year; its cash flow topped $180 million.

Insiders say that if the Yankees end up sporting a pricetag, the team will steer clear of companies that already own other regional sports nets such as News Corp., Comcast, Time Warner and Cablevision, worried that they’d interfere in the running of the operation. Instead, the Yanks will more likely look to venture capitalists such as the Blackstone Group and the Carlyle Group.

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