Madison Square Garden shares had risen as much as 11 percent this month as a nationwide fervor mounted over what team the superstar free agent would pick.
The two-time league MVP’s announcement Thursday in an hourlong ESPN special that he’d leave Cleveland to play in Miami instead of New York, Chicago, New Jersey or any other bidding team’s cities sent the company’s stock down 94 cents, or 4.6 percent, to close Friday at $19.44.
That was below the low reached two trading days before the start of the free agency shopping spree began on July 1. The shares had hit a two-week high on Wednesday of $21.91.
But all hope is not lost for the Knicks or its owner, says Gabelli & Co. analyst Christopher Marangi.
Right after James’ announcement, the once-hopeful Knicks made some last-minute swaps that should still improve the team and its owner’s financial prospects, he said.
The Knicks traded productive center David Lee to the Golden State Warriors for forwards Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf. The move means the team won’t have to pay Lee a big salary, giving it salary cap room to make additional moves this season.
Also, the team will save millions of dollars on a luxury tax that would have been imposed had it signed James and boosted its payroll higher, he said.
“While the Knicks won’t get instantly better, the Knicks without LeBron James should improve,” Marangi said.
He noted that the Knicks finally loosened the purse strings by acquiring Amare Stoudemire from Phoenix and have the financial wherewithal to make other moves this season that could improve its performance on the court.
“Earnings should go up as a result,” he said.
The Knicks have posted nine straight losing seasons, a franchise record, in part because they gutted their roster to free up money for a player like James.
The Knicks entered the free agency shopping spree with the most salary cap room in the league with $34.1 million — enough for two players earning the maximum salary, with about half for each. After picking up Stoudemire, it still had $17 million to spend on James. That money can now be used elsewhere.
“The self-declared former ’King’ will be taking the ’curse’ with him down south,” he wrote.
Marangi had estimated signing James could have boosted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization by $30 million to $50 million per year. The company would have benefited from increases in the MSG television network’s advertising revenue, attendance at games, and concession and merchandise sales.
Now James takes some of that financial heat down to Miami and team owner billionaire Micky Arison, the CEO of cruise company Carnival Corp., which operates its namesake, Holland America, Princess and other cruise lines.