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The Ackerley Group, parent of the Sonics, reported a record profit for '96, according to Greg Heberlein of the SEATTLE TIMES. Ackerley's profit was $15.8M, or $.50/share, up from a year-ago loss of $2.9M, or $.09/share. Sales were up 19%, to $280M. Ackerley Chair Barry Ackerley said player salaries, marketing expenses for a World Wide Web site and name change cut fourth-quarter operating cash flow by $1M (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/30)....In Miami, First Union National Bank has partnered with the Dolphins to put a 10,240-square-foot sign on top of the Dolphins Training Facility at Nova Southeastern Univ. in Davie, FL. The sign will be visible to all planes as they enter or exit Ft. Lauderdale Int'l airport (Dolphins). ...Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones issued a memo yesterday preventing anyone in the Cowboys' organization, including coach Barry Switzer, from discussing football-related matters with the media. Taylor calls the move "the final step in a season-long trend by the Cowboys to limit media access" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/31)....The Brewers will hold a memorabilia sale out of their clubhouse Sunday, selling everything from team jerseys to Ken Griffey Jr.'s baseball pants (USA TODAY, 1/31)....In Dallas, the Mavericks are interviewing former Knicks coach Don Nelson for their GM position (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/31).
Stock purchases made late last fall by four directors of Florida Panthers Holdings have attracted the attention of other investors, according to Cindy Krischer Goodman of the MIAMI HERALD. Recently filed records reveal the execs bought $2.87M of the company's stock "just before" the announcement of a "key" acquisition drove up the stock. The directors purchased 285,000 shares for $10.06/share from November 13-December 16, six days before the Panthers acquired two Fort Lauderdale resort hotels. The shares are currently trading for $32. Among the directors: Republic Industries Vice Chair Harris Hudson and President Steven Berrard; Huizenga Holdings President Richard Rochon; and Huizenga's Extended Stay America CEO George Johnson. Huizenga spokesperson Stan Smith said there were no "insider purchases" of Panthers stock, adding the investors "have a lot of confidence in the company and the management." But, some early investors are "miffed," and have filed suit in federal court in Ft. Lauderdale on behalf of those who sold their shares between the period in which the execs made their purchases. They charge Huizenga and other officers with securities violations and misrepresentation of the company's short-term prospects (MIAMI HERALD, 1/30).
In the midst of Hilton Hotels' hostile takeover bid of ITT, the economic value of MSG is examined by Sanger & Zipay of NEWSDAY. Under ITT/Cablevision's ownership, MSG's financial performance "has vastly improved," as MSG CEO Dave Checketts drove revenues to $425M in '96, 10% higher than they were the year before. However, with player salaries increasing, and possible renovation facing MSG, "future results may not be such a slam dunk." Financial World editor Michael Ozanian notes the Knicks "have raised ticket prices so high, it's difficult to see much more revenue out of them. The Rangers have more upside." Ozanian adds MSG "is outdated in terms of the amount of revenues it can produce," adding if there is a new buyer for the properties, "they're going to have to think about redoing that building in three to five years: better suites, better locations, more advertising, better concessions" (NEWSDAY, 1/31). TV TALK: Sanger & Zipay write that the MSG Network "is perhaps the most valuable of all the [MSG] properties." And Checketts also desires a radio station. Checketts: "I'd like to have a radio station to promote concerts and our productions and carry our sports. I don't think we would build another WFAN, but we'll have a radio opportunity" (NEWSDAY, 1/31). On "Moneyline," CNN's Sean Callebs examined the possibility that ITT "may be planning on an asset sale of its own" on "Moneyline." Noting ITT's share of the Rangers, Knicks and MSG Network "may be up for grabs," Callebs mentioned News Corp. as a "potential buyer." The Marquee Group CEO Robert Gutkowski: "Fox, from a cable standpoint, doesn't have much leverage to try and get exposure in this marketplace. If they own MSG Network, certainly that will help them from a leverage standpoint." Callebs also mentioned Walt Disney and Wayne Huizenga, although each owns an NHL franchise already, and is prohibited from buying another ("Moneyline," CNN, 1/30).
The WNBA Houston Comets unveiled their name and logo yesterday, according to W.H. Stickney Jr. of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The Comets' colors will feature "Fireball Red" and "Galaxy Blue" trimmed with "Stardust Silver." The logo is oval-shaped with stars and comets dotting the inner blue space and a basketball shooting through the oval and trailing a red comet tail. Rockets Exec VP John Thomas said the Comets have already sold 1,000 season-tickets so far and said that each of the 15,000 Rockets season-ticket holders will be sent a five-minute videotape highlighting women's basketball (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/31).