Ownership of a professional sports franchise has always been reserved for the richest of the rich, the top "one-percenters" who have the hundreds of millions in available cash needed to score a majority stake in an MLB or NBA team. 

However, there's now a growing movement to help non-billionaires buy into a league. 

Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that MLB has formally opted to allow investment funds backed by Wall Street firms and college endowments to purchase a minority stake in multiple teams. The move is reportedly meant to help minority team owners offset skyrocketing club valuations that have made it hard to find potential buyers in the event they want to sell their stakes.

According to the latest Forbes estimates, the average MLB team is worth $1.78 billion, up over 8% compared with last year. And the top teams in the league are worth much more.

The New York Yankees topped the list, with an estimated $4.6 billion valuation. The Los Angeles Dodgers came in second at $3.3 billion, slightly ahead of the Boston Red Sox ($3.2 billion) and the Chicago Cubs ($3.1 billion). Even the Miami Marlins, who were ranked last in terms of valuation, are estimated to be worth $1 billion. 

Though no investment vehicle has officially begun taking stakes in any clubs, it would in theory serve as a sort of fund-of-funds, with a secondary market eventually emerging that could allow investors to make equity trades that increase team valuations or earn a payout in the rare case when the majority owner sells. Such a structure could be especially appealing for investors, given that the valuation of pro sports typically has no correlation to the stock market in the event of a recession. 

Galatioto Sports Partners, a New York-based investment and advisory firm, has already sent out feelers for a proposed $500 million vehicle, known as the GSP Baseball Fund, that would take stakes in multiple clubs. It's expected to take as many as 100 LPs, with a minimum investment of $1 million required to join and a fundraising timeline that could run about 18 months. GSP is run by Salvatore Galatioto, a sports power broker who has helped facilitate sales of the Golden State Warriors, Chicago Cubs, Brooklyn Nets and more. 

Galatioto declined to comment for this story, citing regulatory concerns. 

In the meantime, the NBA reportedly told team owners in March that it was discussing opening up a similar plan for an investment fund, thanks again to surging valuations. According to the latest Forbes estimates, the average NBA team is valued at $1.9 billion, marking a 13% YoY jump. The New York Knicks topped the list with a $4 billion valuation, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers ($3.7 billion) and Golden State Warriors ($3.5 billion). 

An investment vehicle would seemingly make sense for the NBA, given that one-fourth of the league's majority owners made their fortunes in PE. They might also be primed to invest at a bargain rate after the league alienated China, a $4 billion market for the league, earlier this month when Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted in support of the Hong Kong protests. 

Indeed, MLB seems to be the safe play, at least from an investment perspective. And it won't be long before institutional investors, who currently have record amounts of dry powder, start funneling their millions into America's pastime.

Featured image via fstop123/E+/United States

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