MSG Networks stock rose more than 8% Tuesday after a report in the New York Post said the sports network's chief, James Dolan, was "sounding out" possible buyers, a list that could include Verizon Communications.
MSG Networks, which includes regional sports channels MSG Networks and MSG Plus, carries games from the NBA's New York Knicks and NHL’s New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders. In a report Tuesday, the Post, citing unnamed sources, said Dolan was “gauging interest” in a possible sale with some of his friends, including Guggenheim Partners executive chairman Alan Schwartz, a noted media dealmaker who also sits on the board of Madison Square Garden Co., the arena where the Knicks and Rangers play. Dolan, executive chairman of MSG Networks, also serves as executive chairman of Madison Square Garden Co.
The Post said there was no guarantee a deal would happen, but named Verizon Communications as a possible suitor.
Verizon could be on the hunt for content assets as its chief telecom rival, AT&T, moves closer to cementing its $108.7 billion purchase of Time Warner Inc. The Post said AT&T also is looking for RSN properties to add to the five it already owns, but may want to hold off until after its Time Warner deal closes.
The news sent MSG Networks stock skyward. Shares traded as high as $24.85 each (up 8.3% or $1.90 each) in earlier trading Tuesday and closed at $24.40 per share, up 6.3% or $1.45 each.
A sale of the networks wouldn’t be out of the question. Many analysts speculated that the MSG channels could go up for sale after the company was split in 2015. In that deal, MSG was split into MSG Networks and the Madison Square Garden Co., which houses the sports teams, the Madison Square Garden arena, and other venues like Radio City Music Hall, The Forum and The Chicago Theater.