Comsat Video Enterprises, owner of the NBA Nuggets, "likely will know by mid-May whether it will have a chance to acquire" the Nordiques and move them to Denver, according to Saturday's ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS. Last week, Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau appointed an attorney to review the team's finances and report back on the "feasibility" of financing a new facility for the team. Nords spokesperson Jean Martineau says team President Marcel Aubut "has written approval" to sell or move the team if the government will not help. Martineau: "The people who own this company won't go bankrupt just because hockey is a big thing here." The Nordiques have suggested the government raise funds to cover a new $125M arena and pay off the team's debt until the facility can be built through a new lottery or casino. Aubut met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman last week to discuss the negotiations between the team and province. Bettman "reportedly told Aubut he would not assist the Nordiques' bid to secure financing unless he was asked to get involved." The team's lease at Quebec's Colisee expires July 15 (Curtis Eichelberger, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 4/15). ROCKY ROAD BACK TO DENVER: In Sunday's BOSTON GLOBE, Kevin Paul Dupont speculates that the Islanders may be the next team to be sold, and possibly move. Dupont also mentions a possible Devils move to Denver -- the city they abandoned for NJ in '82. Dupont writes, "Wouldn't the hockey landscape play better if the Isles bolted for, say, Phoenix and the Devils hit the road for Denver? It all would be so much easier if the Board of Governors stopped worrying about lost expansion fees and encouraged some of these weak sisters to do the right thing and move to better buildings in better markets" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/16).
In the wake of the NFL's approval of the Rams' move to St. Louis, weekend reports centered on rumors the NFL is considering moving as many as three franchises to fill the now-open L.A. market. "Crazy or not ... there is talk of swapping franchises," writes S.A. Paolantonio in Philadelphia. One unnamed NFL source mentioned two possible scenarios: The Bengals to Baltimore; or the Bengals to Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium, with the Eagles moving to L.A. Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie called that report "absolute nonsense." Bengals President & GM Mike Brown: "I have not heard that, and I find that fairly strained." But Oilers Owner Bud Adams said there "has been some talk of it." Adams: "It's a helluva market out there. My lease is up in two years. I may want to take a look at L.A. myself." Another NFC owner said the Eagles "always come up in these discussions," but added that owners are "not stupid enough" to move the Eagles out of Philadelphia's No. 4 media market. The league wants an NFC team in L.A., and Lurie, a movie producer, "would seem a perfect fit." But Paolantonio writes that moving the Eagles "seems heretical even for the NFL's relentless pursuit of TV revenue" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/15). Fox Sports Spokesperson Vince Wladika called the Eagles rumor "baseless and groundless": "Why would we want a team leaving the No. 4 market?" (Mike Bruton, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/18). The "message" the Bengals' Brown took from the Rams vote was that "if a team wants to move, the NFL isn't going to fight it. Even if the team wants to come to Baltimore," according to Vito Stellino in Baltimore. On the Eagles, Stellino speculates if Raiders Owner Al Davis gets a new stadium at Hollywood Park, "Lurie could share it in this scenario" (Baltimore SUN, 4/16). RAIDERS GO HOLLYWOOD: The L.A. DAILY NEWS reports that the league will grant at least two Super Bowls and a "undisclosed sum of money" within the next two weeks to help build a Hollywood Park facility that would be home to UCLA and the Raiders (SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, 4/15). In discussions with NFL owners about building a stadium at Hollywood Park, Davis said $60M could be raised from the sale of PSL's. But Davis also would want three Super Bowls within a 10-year span, with 10,000 seats for each Super Bowl "set aside" for luxury and club seat buyers in addition to the 8,000 regularly reserved for the host team. Davis reportedly will not let an NFC team share the facility. The Raiders stadium situation "will remain in the air" until the May league meetings in Jacksonville (Will McDonough, BOSTON GLOBE, 4/16). An L.A. TIMES editorial states "it's hard to argue with the logic" of the proposed Hollywood Park deal, citing the private financing and the boost to the economy from future Super Bowls (L.A. TIMES, 4/16). IS FOX A WINNER OR LOSER? Despite losing L.A., Fox will "escape with little or no ratings damage over the remaining three years of its contract," according to Jim Thomas in St. Louis. Thomas writes the rebate was a "phantom issue" since there was no provision in Fox's contract stating they had to have a team in L.A. (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/16). But in New York, Steve Zipay sees Fox as a big "loser," as is KTTV, Fox's L.A. affiliate. Zipay's Winners: NBC, which televises AFC games and has the rights to the Raiders; and Logo Athletic, which has exclusive rights to St. Louis Rams apparel (NEWSDAY, 4/14). Possible "restitution" for Fox will "likely come in subsequent seasons, and potentially, on a non-cash basis" (Thomas Tyrer, ELECTRONIC MEDIA, 4/17 issue). Fox Sports' Wladika wouldn't respond to reports the NFL "promised" Fox a $12M rebate. He did say talks between the network and league were "ongoing" (Mike Bruton, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/18).
The "behind-the-scenes jockeying" over John Labatt Ltd. intensified Monday as a major Canadian broadcaster, CanWest Global Communications Corp., confirmed it has been approached by investment bankers about acquiring some Labatt assets if the company is sold. Meanwhile, sources disclosed that South American brewer Quilmes Industrial, SA is still considering teaming up with leveraged buyout firm Onex Corp. for a multi- billion dollar run at Labatt. CanWest has already started preliminary talks with Labatt about its intention to spin off some of its broadcast and sports assets (Marina Strauss, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 4/18). Labatt's assets include the Blue Jays, SkyDome and TSN. Speculation is that if Onex is successful in acquiring Labatt, it will sell off all of its assets with the exception of the brewery (FINANCIAL POST, 4/15).
As the May 1 deadline approaches for Manitoba Entertainment Complex to purchase Barry Shenkarow's shares of the NHL Jets and for the Winnipeg City Council to approve a new arena site approaches, the Twin Cities are preparing for a possible return of the NHL. In Sunday's Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, Jay Weiner examines the struggle to keep the Jets in Manitoba, and the possibility of moving the team South. MEC Chair John Loewen says the chances of a deal being worked out are "65-35," in favor of Winnipeg. In a sidebar, Weiner breaks down the issue. If the Jets are sold to a Canadian buyer rather than American interests, "they could lose out" on $21M because of the devalued Canadian currency and higher demand for the team in the U.S. The value of the franchise was set at C$50M in '92, which is the basis of what Shenkarow will receive for his 64%, should he sell to MEC. In Minneapolis, it is estimated a deal for the Jets could bring a total of US$70M (Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 4/16). NHL General Counsel Jeff Pash, who was in Winnipeg to meet with the interested parties last week: "We want to keep the Canadian teams in Canada." Pash says U.S. interest in teams "can be addressed through expansion at the appropriate time" (Tim Campbell, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 4/15). JET WASH: In Toronto, Greg Reekie writes the chances of a Jets move to MN "are in the 80% range. ... The accepted wisdom had been that the league wanted to keep franchises where they are in order to leave all potential expansion sites open." But since no group in MN seems willing to pay the likely $75M expansion fee, it makes sense to move the Jets. Meanwhile, Atlanta and Denver would remain open for $75M expansion franchises, "both of which are very likely" (TORONTO SUN, 4/16)....MN officials want the $20M or more reaped from the sale of the land that held the old Met Center to be applied to the purchase of a new hockey team (Sid Hartman, Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 4/15)....Former NBA Nuggets President Tim Lieweke, who was heading Denver's Pepsi Center project for Comsat before he resigned last month, is reportedly interested in being involved in a MN ownership group (Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 4/15)....Fans in Winnipeg have created a drive to save the Jets that features a page on the internet. The address: http://www.infoman.mb. ca/infoman/savejets.html (Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 4/16).