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Explaining Changes in Organizational Form: The Case of Professional Baseball


  • F. Andrew Hanssen

    (Clemson University)

  • James W. Meehan, Jr.

    (Colby College)

  • Thomas J. Miceli

    (University of Connecticut)


The Grossman-Hart-Moore (GHM) property rights model predicts the assignment of residual claims to the party with the largest effect on an asset’s value. While plausible, the model has proven relatively hard to test. In this paper, we develop a formal model based on GHM, and use it to analyze an industry that has seen substantial changes in the nature of asset ownership over time: professional baseball. Early in the 20th century, major and minor league baseball teams operated as separate and independent entities, By the middle of the 20th century, the vast majority of minor league teams had become “affiliates” of major league franchises, either through vertical integration or contractual agreements. By the end of the 20th century, full vertical integration had become much less common (and was restricted mostly to the lower minor league classifications), while the nature of contractual claims was essentially split, with major league clubs holding rights over players and coaches and minor league “owners” holding rights over local revenue sources. To explain these changes, we focus on two important functions of minor league baseball: providing local entertainment and training potential major league players. We conclude that as the relative value of these activities changed, so did the structure of ownership. JEL Classification: L14, L22, L83 Key words: Contracts, Professional Baseball, Residual Rights, Vertical Integration

Suggested Citation

  • F. Andrew Hanssen & James W. Meehan, Jr. & Thomas J. Miceli, 2012. "Explaining Changes in Organizational Form: The Case of Professional Baseball," Working papers 2012-04, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2012-04

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kirk Monteverde & David J. Teece, 1982. "Supplier Switching Costs and Vertical Integration in the Automobile Industry," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(1), pages 206-213, Spring.
    2. Steven N. Kaplan & Per Strömberg, 2003. "Financial Contracting Theory Meets the Real World: An Empirical Analysis of Venture Capital Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(2), pages 281-315.
    3. Elfenbein, Daniel W & Lerner, Josh, 2003. " Ownership and Control Rights in Internet Portal Alliances, 1995-1999," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 34(2), pages 356-369, Summer.
    4. George Baker & Robert Gibbons & Kevin J. Murphy, 2002. "Relational Contracts and the Theory of the Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 39-84.
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    JEL classification:

    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation
    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure
    • L83 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Sports; Gambling; Restaurants; Recreation; Tourism

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