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Updated: December 11, 2023 From the Editor

From the Editor: WooSox owners cash out, as small businesses struggle

Let’s say you bought a house for $500,000, invested another $100,000 in renovations, waited a few years for its value to rise, and sold it for $700,000. At its core, the concept of buying and selling a business is basically the same.

WBJ editor Brad Kane at his desk
WBJ Editor Brad Kane

The house that Larry Lucchino and nine other members of an ownership group bought in 2015 for a reported $25 million was the Pawtucket Red Sox. The house the majority of those owners are now selling in December to New York City corporation Diamond Baseball Holdings is the Worcester Red Sox, with their high attendance and shiny new baseball stadium. The WooSox are being tight-lipped on the sale price, but I’m guessing those owners will at least double their investment.

When you buy an older baseball team with slowly dropping attendance and aging infrastructure, the best way to pump up its valuation is new facilities. From the moment Lucchino bought the PawSox, he started talking about a new publicly financed ballpark. When plans for a $70-80 million Rhode Island stadium never got off the ground, the team in 2018 found a willing partner in the City of Worcester, which used public funds to construct the $160-million Polar Park, the most expensive minor league stadium ever built. Teams using public money to inflate their net worth is nothing new, and I don’t really fault Lucchino for shopping around for the best deal.

Still, it bothers me. It bothers me because someone has to pay for those costs. It bothers me because the stadium deal was sold to taxpayers as a pay-for-itself project, which is a house of cards set to crumble as early as this fiscal year. It bothers me because Worcester has the highest business tax rate in Central Mass. It bothers me because in Staff Writer Eric Casey’s “Act now, before it’s too late” story, high-profile small business owners – who, unlike the WooSox, actually pay taxes either through their landlords or their own property – say all the community love they receive isn’t translating into real dollars, and they are at risk of closing. It bothers me because the City of Worcester doesn’t have $160 million to double the valuation of these small businesses, so their owners can cash out after putting in the sweat equity to help build Worcester’s unique character.

It bothers me because all of this will happen again.

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Robert Anderson
December 12, 2023

The Great Grift is almost complete. Marvin Hamlisch is tickling the ivories to the the tune of The Entertainer in the background as Lucchino and Ed Augustus (Redford & Newman) quietly slip out of town into greener pastures.
The Worcester taxpayers foolishly awaiting the final call that Lucky Dan does in fact win by a nose this time. The "deal that would pay for itself" did just as promised..... leaving Worcester to sweep up the confetti and broken dreams once again.

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