Kansas City Royals reportedly nearing sale to Cleveland Indians’ vice-chair

Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals are on the verge of being sold for more than $1bn (€902m), according to multiple news reports.

The Athletic initially reported that current Royals owner David Glass is in negotiations to sell the club to John Sherman, currently vice-chairman and part-owner of the rival Cleveland Indians. Sherman, a Missouri-based energy entrepreneur, would divest his Indians interest if the Royals deal were to be finalized.

Glass, who turns 84 on September 2 and is a former Wal-Mart executive, has owned the Royals since 2000, and served as the club’s interim chief executive and chairman for more than six years prior to that. His son, Dan, currently serves as team president. But the developing deal with Sherman, 64, would indicate there is not a family succession plan in place to keep the club in Glass family control.

The Royals play in MLB’s third-smallest media market, larger than only Cincinnati (Ohio) and Milwaukee (Wisconsin), and are currently going through a rebuilding phase. But the Royals won the American League pennant in 2014, losing a closely-fought seven-game World Series last year, and then became the league champions the following year for their first title since 1985.

The team said in response to the news reports, “The Kansas City Royals are not in a position to make any comments on the published speculation regarding any potential sale of the ball club. The Royals will make no further statements at this time.”

A firm price for the developing deal has not been disclosed. But ESPN reported it would be for more than $1bn.

The last MLB club to sell, the Miami Marlins in 2017, was for $1.2bn, which would likely serve as an effective floor for future MLB team sales as many North American sports franchise values have soared in recent years. Though Marlins play in a larger media market than the Royals, Kansas City consistently fields comparatively better attendance and much better local TV ratings. And the Royals are believed to be nearing a new long-term local rights deal with Fox Sports that would pay about $50m per year, twice its current local rights fee. 

The Royals currently have a lease for Kauffman Stadium running through the 2030 season. But local government and business leaders have begun to explore potential sites for a new ballpark in downtown Kansas City.

Any sale of the Royals, like any other MLB club, would be subject to the approval of other team owners.