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ACOG President BILLY PAYNE says some of the Olympic venues are ahead of schedule: "It's all scheduled to be completed sufficiently in advance of the games and tested with major international events" ("CBS This Morning," 3/13). ....Walt Disney Co.'s top TV exec, RICHARD FRANK, resigned Friday. He will be replaced by DENNIS HIGHTOWER, who headed Europe and Middle Eastern Operations for Disney Consumer Products (L.A. TIMES, 3/13)....CARL HIRSH, former President of the Spectrum arena and Spectacor Development, was named Managing Partner of Stafford Sports Ventures (Stafford). ....SHAQUILLE O'NEAL and MICHAEL JORDAN were ranked Nos. 1-2 as the most marketable athletes in a poll by Sportsfan Radio Network (WASHINGTON POST, 3/13)....JULIE FARIN has been named Promotion Director/Marketing at PR Newswire. She was Dir of Publicity at King World Productions (VARIETY, 3/13). ....ABC's "Person of the Week" was former Negro League player BUCK O'NEILL ("World News Tonight," 3/10).
Reports this morning indicate that Michael Jordan will announce his return to the Bulls this week, although Bulls GM Jerry Krause insisted that Jordan is yet to make his decision and nothing is scheduled (Mult., 3/13). SO, WHAT'S THE DEAL: NEWSWEEK reports that Jordan is asking for more money and years added to his contract, and similar upgrades for Scottie Pippen (NEWSWEEK, 3/20 issue). But, under the current no-strike agreement reached by the NBA and the NBPA, there is a moratorium on extending or renegotiating any contracts. One league spokesperson: "If they want to sit down and have a general discussion, that's permitted. But they're not supposed to talk about numbers." In Chicago, Sam Smith notes while the NBA would not stand in the way of Jordan's return, "hard feelings" remain between the NBA and the Bulls over the team's lawsuit against the league -- "suggesting any hint of a new agreement with Jordan could produce sever penalties." The current direction of the NBA labor talks -- limits on so-called one-year "balloon payments" and on how much teams can pay to re- sign their own free agents -- also stand in the way of a new deal (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/12). According to a league source, Jordan wants the NBA and NBC to compensate him beyond his salary (Fort Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL/Baltimore SUN, 3/13). LOOK, UP IN THE SKY! Jordan was the hot topic from the White House to Wall Street. President Clinton invoked his name at a Friday news conference (Mult, 3/10). Jordan is on the cover of this week's NEWSWEEK. Writing that it's still "uncertain" he will return, John Leland notes the no-bend negotiating tactics of Reinsdorf: "If there is an NBA owner who would walk away from a chance to have Michael Jordan, it is Jerry M. Reinsdorf" (NEWSWEEK, 3/20 issue). Jordan was the closing note on "This Week with David Brinkley." George Will: "Well, it's significant" (ABC, 3/12). CNBC's "Market Wrap" examined what Jordan's return would do for Chicago's economy. Gerald Roper of the Chicago Convention Bureau: "You're talking about another $160 million" (CNBC, 3/10). CNN's Steve Young examined Jordan's impact on advertisers and ratings. Young & Rubicam Broadcast Buying Dir Robert Igiel: "If you try and estimate how much extra audience a Michael Jordan could mean, your guess is as good as mine, but I would think another 10%" ("Moneyline," 3/10). NBC analyst Julius Erving was the lone doubter: "I would be hard pressed to feel that he's going to come back, that he's going to give up the freedom that he enjoys right now. ... How's he going to come back to a game where there are rules, regulations, and curfews? Michael's not going to become a 10-day contract player and prostitute the game of basketball for 15 games and the playoffs" ("NBA on NBC," 3/12).