SBD/8/Franchises

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  • FINANCIAL PROBLEMS FORCE THUNDERBOLTS TO FOLD

         The Cleveland Thunderbolts have ceased operations as a
    member of the Arena Football League citing "financial problems."
    AFL spokesperson Mike Jackowski:  "The Arena Football League
    certainly would like to have a franchise in Cleveland.  It just
    couldn't happen, for financial reasons, under the scenario of the
    current ownership group."  The league is not ruling out, however,
    the possibility of the city being a "candidate for expansion" in
    '96 (Dennis Manoloff, Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 3/7).
    

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  • GRIFFITHS SELLS MAJORITY OF VANCOUVER SPORTS EMPIRE TO MCCAW

         In news that "stunned" the city of Vancouver, Arthur
    Griffiths announced he has sold majority control of his Northwest
    Entertainment Group (NEG) to U.S. billionaire John McCaw, Jr.
    NEG controls 87% of the Canucks, and 100% of the Grizzlies and
    the soon-to-be-completed GM Place arena.  Sources told the
    Toronto GLOBE & MAIL that McCaw, who previously held 30% of the
    partnership, paid close to C$110M for another 30%.  Griffiths
    will continue to be Chair and CEO of the company, and McCaw will
    serve as Vice-Chair. Griffiths also announced that he "cannot be
    unseated and the teams cannot be moved."  The deal would make the
    Canucks and Grizzlies the only pro teams in Canada financially
    controlled by U.S. interests, and that "seemed to unsettle some
    fans" (Neil Campbell, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 3/8).  In Vancouver,
    Archie McDonald writes that losing the basketball team is one
    thing, but the selling of the hockey team "sent some heart
    tremors rippling along the 49th parallel" (VANCOUVER SUN, 3/8).
    The deal is subject to approval by the NBA and NHL, and NBA
    Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik said he expected their Board of
    Governors to approve the restructuring (Vancouver PROVINCE, 3/8).
         WHY THE SALE:  For months, reports in Canada had speculated
    that Griffiths had overextended his "financial empire."  The NBA
    entry fee for the Grizzlies was US$125M, the new arena cost
    C$160M and the Canucks "suffered through" the recent lockout.
    Griffiths said he wondered if he was going to "blow his
    inheritance on sports" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 3/8).  Griffiths
    considered taking on more minority partners, but he said "future
    global opportunities for the company would be" better served
    without them.  He denied cost overruns at GM Place "had anything
    to do with his decision" (Howard Tsumura, Vancouver PROVINCE,
    3/8).
         MCCAW'S ROLE:  McCaw, 44, who has a family fortune of $3.5B,
    also has a share in the Mariners.  He "prefers a low profile and
    might have broken Howard Hughes' previous records by not showing
    up at the press conference," according to Archie McDonald of the
    VANCOUVER SUN.  But McCaw's fortune is "a comforting image in
    times of runaway spending."  Michael Korenberg, COO of NEG, on
    McCaw's absence: "You should not read into this that there is any
    disinterest whatsoever" (VANCOUVER SUN, 3/8).  Griffiths on U.S.
    control of NEG: "This is a company that is Canadian born bred and
    will continue."  In Vancouver, David Baines writes, "Continue
    what?  That question hung as large as McCaw's absence" (David
    Baines, VANCOUVER SUN, 3/8).  McCaw is so "reclusive" that even
    his secretary wouldn't release a photo of him yesterday, and the
    Mariners don't have a photo on file (Dan Stinson, VANCOUVER SUN,
    3/8).
         MORE ANNOUNCEMENTS: NEG also announced they are pursuing the
    $1 million Greater Vancouver PGA tournament in '96, and that they
    have applied for, "and will likely be granted" the '99 NBA All-
    Star Game.  Canucks President Pat Quinn's contract has also been
    extended for five years.  A source also reported that NEG "has
    been quietly negotiating with CTV on its S3 regional sports
    channel project."  NEG wants an "equity interest in the project
    as well as being a programming provider" (Campbell, Toronto GLOBE
    & MAIL, 3/8).
    

    Print | Tags: Franchises, NBA, NHL, Canucks Sports and Entertainment, PGA Tour, Seattle Mariners, Vancouver Canucks
  • YANKEES INVESTOR FACES TOUGH TIME SELLING SHARE IN TEAM

         Harvey Leighton, who holds 3.1237% of the Yankees, has gone
    public in trying to sell his limited share, according to a front-
    page report in the N.Y. TIMES.  Leighton, who wants to sell
    because of health problems, placed an ad in the WALL STREET
    JOURNAL offering 1% of the stake for $2.95M.  Sales of limited
    partnerships are "usually cloaked in secrecy," and ads such as
    Leighton's are "unheard of."  But team majority owner George
    Steinbrenner has full "veto power over who can even own the
    smallest piece of the team," and Leighton believes two recent
    potential buyers were blocked by the front office.  Yankees
    General Counsel Daniel Sussman, couldn't comment on the specifics
    of the Lieghton case, but said the partnership rules make the
    "managing general partner responsible for protecting the club's
    profitability and reputation, and that means the policing who can
    buy in" (Kirk Johnson, N.Y. TIMES, 3/8).
    

    Print | Tags: Franchises, New York Yankees, YankeeNets
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