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State auctioning 'lost' Indianapolis Indians stock

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Want a piece of the Indianapolis Indians? It will cost you, to the tune of at least $25,000.

Shares of the minor-league baseball team are difficult to come by—only 755 are outstanding, with nearly 40 percent owned by team Chairman Max Schumacher.  

And until late last year, the team's board of directors had been snapping up the stock and retiring it in a buy-back offer to give stockholders a larger piece of ownership.

Now, eight shares have become available through an unconventional outlet—the Indiana Attorney General’s Unclaimed Property Division.

Indians management turned the shares over to the state to sell after spending years trying to locate the rightful owners. According to state law, property is considered unclaimed when the owner of an asset cannot be found.

“That’s what became difficult for us,” said Bruce Schumacher, the team’s director of special projects. “There was just no way to find them, and we had tried.”

The state is selling the shares at a minimum price of $25,000 each, and sealed bids must be received by 1:30 p.m. on May 31. The Unclaimed Property Division will review offers on June 2 and notify successful bidders within the following two days. Payment is due by end of day June 9.

Owners of any shares sold by the state who ultimately might be located will receive the amount for which the shares sell. In the meantime, the money will be held in the state’s unclaimed property fund.  

“We don’t hold securities,” said Molly Butters, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office. “We liquidate them and hold it in the name of the claimant.”

Indians shares sell so infrequently that it’s difficult to put a proper value on them, said Robert Briles, a vice president at the Indianapolis office of Chicago-based David A. Noyes & Co. The investment firm has brokered the stock.

Only one share has changed hands in the past six months, and that sale occurred in December, for exactly $25,000.

“In that sense,” Briles said, “the state is proper in willing to sell the shares for what they last traded at.”

The $25,000 price, however, is higher than what the team had been willing to give.

The Indians had been offering $21,328 per share, using a formula based on annual earnings to value the team. That formula was supplied by National City Bank. The shares bought back by the team are retired, giving the remaining stockholders a bigger piece of the ownership pie.

But a swooning stock market and declines in ticket sales, concession revenue, suite rental and advertising income prompted the team to indefinitely discontinue its traditional buy-back offer on Dec. 31.

Indians profits declined from $1.23 million in 2008 to $459,603 last year. Despite the drop, the team’s board voted unanimously to give a $250 dividend for each of the outstanding shares. That’s down from $350 last year.

The team began selling shares to the public in 1956, when 6,672 people paid $10 per share and bought 24,488 shares of stock in the city's struggling minor-league baseball team. The move was designed to take the money-losing team off the hands of its owner, the Cleveland Indians, and keep it in Indianapolis.

The Indians, now the Class AAA affiliate for the Pittsburgh Pirates, are valued at about $20 million by Baseball America magazine.

The listed owners of the unclaimed shares can be found here.
 

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