SBD/5/Franchises

BEHRING MAKES IT OFFICIAL: SEAHAWKS INTEND TO MOVE TO L.A.

     Seahawks Owner Ken Behring announced his intention to move
the team to L.A. on Friday, saying that King County had breached
its contractual obligations in regards to seismic and other
problems left unaddressed during the renovation of the Kingdome.
Behring said they would leave behind the team's name, colors and
logo (Seahawks).
     FIRST STEP, CALL THE LAWYERS:  Friday afternoon, King County
Judge Dale Ramerman issued a court order blocking the Behring,
within the next 14 days, from selling the team to an out-of-state
entity or entering into a contract with a third party that would
have them play elsewhere.  They are also prohibited from
transferring assets or equipment "necessary to play games at
Kingdome.  Ramerman set a hearing date for February 16, at which
time the county will ask the court to extend its ban until the
dispute is settled.  According to the POST-INTELLIGENCER, Behring
offered $1M a year for 20 years and public use of the team's
offices and camp as a buyout of the remaining 10 years on his
Kingdome lease.  The county refused.  King County Exec Gary
Locke:  "This madness of football abandoning loyal fans simply
must stop."  The Seahawks filed their own suit in Kittitas County
saying that the lease is invalid based on seismic studies
(Seattle POST-INTELLIGENCER, 2/3).  Locke: "We will never reward
people for breaking leases by letting them pay their way out"
("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/2).
     STEP TWO, FIND A BUYER:  While local officials outlined a
course of legal action, they say "their real goal is to persuade
Behring to sell the team to a local owner."  According to
Saturday's POST-INTELLIGENCER, "that would be done by convincing
Behring that a court is likely to order him to stay in Seattle
for the next 10 years, losing millions of dollars each year, as
fans stay away from the now-hated team."  Locke said Behring
indicated he "would keep the door open" to local offers, and King
County Metro Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer said he has been
working with two local buyers.  While he would not identify
either, one is known to be Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen
(Seattle POST-INTELLIGENCER, 2/3).  A spokesperson for Allen
confirmed his interest, but stopped short of saying Allen was
negotiating with Behring (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 2/3).  However,
Allen's attorneys "have been quietly reviewing the team's
financial documents, attendance records and marketing
strategies."  Von Reichbauer expected a decision by a local buyer
in about 10 days (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 2/4).  ESPN's Bob Ley
reported the county had been "brokering discussions between
Behring and ... Allen hoping Behring sell, but there is no
indication he will ("SportsCenter," 2/2).
     STEP THREE, START THE MOVING VANS:  Using a "loophole" in
the court order, the Seahawks loaded equipment in moving vans
headed for Anaheim -- the site of their new training camp.
Anaheim officials hold a press conference today to announce that
action "as a first step toward moving the entire team."  Locke:
"That's OK.  They can even practice and train in Russia if they
want.  As long as they play their home games in the Kingdome"
(POST-INTELLIGENCER, 2/5).
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