NBA disputes report questioning its losses

Published 12:49 pm Wednesday, July 6, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA is disputing a report questioning its financial losses, saying the estimates used as the basis of the article “do not reflect reality.”

A New York Times blog post Tuesday titled “Calling Foul on NBA’s Claims of Financial Distress” called the league “fundamentally a healthy and profitable business” with an estimated operating income of $183 million in 2009-10, making a 5 to 7 percent profit during the life of the collective bargaining agreement that expired last week.

The story was based on estimates prepared by Forbes and Financial World magazines. NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the information was inaccurate, saying Forbes “does not have the financial data for our teams and the magazine’s estimates do not reflect reality.”

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“Precisely to avoid this issue, the NBA and its teams shared their complete league and team audited financials as well as our state and federal tax returns with the players union,” Bass said. “Those financials demonstrate the substantial and indisputable losses the league has incurred over the past several years.”

The league has projected losses of $300 million last season after losses of several hundred million dollars in each season of the CBA, which was ratified in 2005. Owners locked out the players last week after they could not agree on a new deal.

The union has frequently questioned the league’s financials, saying it believes there were losses but not anywhere near what the NBA has stated. The players offered to give up $100 million in salary costs annually in a recent proposal for a new five-year deal, believing that was more in line with the true losses.

Because the NBA had such a successful 2010-11 season, with growth in TV ratings, and merchandise and ticket sales, the league has struggled to convince fans it needs the massive financial changes owners are seeking from the players.

But Bass said the league never had a positive net or operating income in the last CBA, and that 11 teams had net losses of more than $20 million in the 2009-10 season.

He said the losses from that season, the one studied in the article, were $340 million and that 23 of the 30 teams lost money that season. Forbes estimated there were 17.

“We do not know how they do their calculations,” Bass said.

The union did not respond to a request for comment.