SBD/8/Franchises

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).
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