SBD/26/Franchises

COMSAT PURCHASES NORDIQUES, BRINGS NHL TO MOUNTAIN TIME ZONE

     Nuggets owner Comsat Entertainment Group yesterday acquired
the Nordiques from a Quebec group led by Marcel Aubut for $75M
and announced the team's move to Denver.
     THE DEAL:  For the $75M, Comsat receives the team, its
development squad in Cornwall, Ontario, and player contracts.
Comsat Entertainment President Charlie Lyons would not comment on
how much, if any transfer fee the club would have to pay the NHL.
 Lyons said that Comsat did not become "serious" about the deal
until late last week, as the company assumed the club would stay
in Quebec (THE DAILY).  Lyons said Aubut called him on May 17 and
asked "It's not going to work out up here.  Would you like to buy
the team?" (Curtis Eichelburger, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/26).  In
this morning's USA TODAY, Jack Carey writes that about $10M is
"presumed going toward a transfer fee" (USA TODAY, 5/26).
     RUN WITH THE BIG DOGS:  Comsat, a video entertainment and
satellite technology firm, said the team will help build their
entertainment division.  Lyons: "We want to build a significant
entertainment asset that provides great returns to our
shareholders, both in terms of income and in terms of asset
value."  Lyons noted Comsat's presence in the NBA and NHL: "It's
not going unnoticed that companies like Disney and Turner and
Blockbuster and ITT are now joining the growing group of
companies that want to expand their entertainment businesses and
really see the trophy assets to be professional sports" (THE
DAILY).  Comsat CEO Bruce Crockett, on investing in the NHL:
"The highest returns in this business come from owning a
combination of assets starting with an arena, filling it with
multiple sports teams, selling high-profit merchandise, selling
broadcast rights to cable and pay-TV and using and leveraging
your own production facilities" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/26).
     A PEPSI WITH YOUR BIG MAC?  The team will join the Nuggets
at McNichols Sports Arena for the next two seasons before moving
into the proposed Pepsi Center, which Comsat hopes to build in
downtown Denver.  Although the project has been held up in a
property tax dispute, Lyons said the arena is a necessity.
Lyons, who said the hockey team will "probably lose a little
money" at McNichols, stressed that the purchase is not contingent
on the arena deal.  Lyons: "The deal for the new arena is not
done, and we intend to get it done. ... The NHL is very clear
that they don't see this hockey team playing in McNichols much
beyond two years" (THE DAILY).  The ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS reports
that if the city doesn't help Comsat get the arena, officials
from the NHL and the NBA "will begin applying pressure on the
city."  Another NHL source called the deal was a "ticking lease"
and implied it could be settled once the mayoral race is over
(Curtis Eichelburger, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/26).
     IF YOU DON'T SUCCEED ... MARKET:  Lyons blamed the failure
of the NHL Rockies, who left Denver in '82, on poor marketing,
and "not the market."  Lyons said he considers the Denver fan
base to be "considerable," but that Comsat planned on
establishing ticket prices lower than the league average in order
to cultivate that market.  KHOW Radio in Denver reported 7,500
requests already for season tickets (THE DAILY).  Joseph Sanchez
writes in today's DENVER POST that the team had received 1,100
season tix orders six hours after the announcement (DENVER POST,
5/26).  Comsat ran full-page ads in both Denver dailies this
morning with the slogan "Pucker Up, the NHL's here" under a
goalie mask.   THE OPERATIONS:  Lyons said Comsat planned to
retain Pierre Lacroix as GM of the club and Marc Crawford as head
coach.  Nuggets marketing officials will work with the team
initially (THE DAILY).  Nuggets VP of Business Ops Gary Hunter
will reportedly handle the business end of the team, Nuggets Dir
of Marketing Shawn Hunter will handle the marketing operations,
and Lacroix will run the hockey operations (Curtis Eichelburger,
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/26).
     ADIEU, LES NORDIQUES:  Lyons said the change in the team's
name will be announced within a month of NHL approval.  While not
commenting on whether the team would be called Denver or
Colorado, Lyons stressed his desire to market the team throughout
the 10-state Rocky Mountain Region (THE DAILY).  Shawn Hunter
said the name search had been narrowed to three: "It's important
to come up with something that represents the region, the people
and the lifestyle -- something that is very hot and is easy to
merchandise throughout the region" (R.M. NEWS, 5/26).
     MARKET SATURATION:  As Denver becomes the tenth major league
market with teams in the NHL, MLB, NFL and NBA, the ROCKY
MOUNTAIN NEWS' Curtis Eichelberger this morning asks: "Can it
survive?"  Jack Vickers, who brought the NHL Rockies to Denver in
the late '70s, says Comsat's arena situation is the key but
agreed with Lyons that marketing will be important:  "I know it
takes another dollar out of the Denver sporting community, but
it's a different kind of fan, a different kind of following, and
it's still a great sport" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/26).
     GRIZZLIES FUTURE:  IHL Grizzlies President Bernie Mullen
said he would not rule out the possibility of both teams playing
in Denver next year.  Mullen said the team could split games
between the Denver Coliseum and McNichols (Irv Moss, DENVER POST,
5/26).
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