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In Boston, Peter May on Larry Bird saying he plans to return to basketball in a front office position: "In short, [Celtics Chair Paul] Gaston is the one in whose hands this whole matter lies. His judgment is on the line. His stewardship of the franchise is on the line. His fiduciary responsibility to shareholders is on the line. He has the franchise's most valuable resource in the last generation issuing a clarion call. Will he listen?" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/30)....Washington Sports President Susan O'Malley, on reaction to ticket increases for the Bullets and Caps at the new MCI Center: "The (fans') reaction is what we though it would be." In DC, Heath & Solomon note although "several" interviewed expressed concerns over MCI Center, including parking, safety, and the ticket price increases, most said they would stay with the teams (WASHINGTON POST, 3/30).
A group of Hartford business and political leaders "want to broker an agreement" with the Whalers to keep the team in a new arena in Hartford, according to Mike Swift of the HARTFORD COURANT. The group is "reaching out" to Owner Peter Karmanos "with a carrot and a rope" to bring him back to the bargaining table with CT Gov. John Rowland. The group is asking the Rowland Administration to delay final approval of the team's $20.5M exit agreement with the state and is offering the team $20M in support from the city. Swift writes that Karmanos "apparently did not understand the full value of the city's offer" when he rejected the state's final bid last week. Whalers President Jim Rutherford: "I hope that the change in the offer is enough to make this deal work." Also, Brian Foley, owner of the CBA Connecticut Pride, said he would head a group to buy the Whalers if operating losses "can be cut" to $6M annually. They are now estimated at $15M/year (HARTFORD COURANT, 4/1). REAX: Hartford Mayor Michael Peters, who is leading the effort at mediation: "I gotta give a damn. I'm the mayor" (Tom Puleo, HARTFORD COURANT, 4/1). An editorial in Friday's COURANT called Karmanos' "cavalier fatalism about what to the Hartford region is a major economic blow was galling." It also wrote that Rowland's negotiations with Karmanos "seemed lethargic from the outset. His tone never reflected the urgency of the situation" (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/28). COURANT sports columnist Jeff Jacobs gave two reasons the Whalers failed: a history of poor performance and the fact that "distant fiefdoms in our state don't give a hoot about" the team (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/29). The COURANT's Swift & Keating wrote an extensive page-one piece Sunday entitled "Anatomy Of A Deal That Didn't Happen" (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/30). In N.Y., Frank Brown wrote "just about everybody" did their "best" to keep the team in Hartford. Brown: "It didn't work out, and that's that. You can't keep throwing good money after bad, so goodbye" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/28). SUITORS: ESPN's Keith Olbermann: "Remember hockey fans, this team could be yours, if -- the price is right" ("SportsCenter," 3/27). Karmanos, on potential new homes for the Whalers: "Columbus is in it big time. I like Columbus." He also said St. Paul, MN, and Raleigh-Durham, NC, "are at the top of his list" (Kevin Allen, USA TODAY, 3/28). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote that "insiders say" that Las Vegas "is a Karmanos favorite" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/30). In MN, Gov. Arne Carlson said he would support bonds to renovate the St. Paul Civic Center in an effort to lure the team (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/28).
Delta Center officials are "protesting" UT's process for determining sales taxes on the arena's luxury suites, according to Sheila McCann in the SALT LAKE TRIBUNE. Arena and Jazz officials "are also objecting" to the state's decisions to tax promotional items given out at games, and to tax handling fees collected for telephone ticket orders. UT Tax Commissioners ruled against the arena and the Jazz in February, but an appeal was filed last Wednesday in District Court by the parent companies of the team and arena. The taxes in question have already been paid, and cover an audit period between October '91 and September '94. According to Bob Hyde, VP/Finance for the Jazz and Delta Center, the disputed amount is "significant," but is not a "major financial setback" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 3/28).
An agreement yesterday between NBC and Cablevision "converted" NBC's stakes in cable services owned by Cablevision's Rainbow Programming Holdings "into 25 percent of Rainbow itself," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. Rainbow owns 50% of MSG and has agreed to purchase the rest from ITT by '99. By owning 25% of Rainbow, NBC will "ultimately own" 25% of MSG. Sandomir: "The possibility that Rainbow, with the Garden as one of its assets, could go public is intriguing" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/1). The agreement did not include a cash transaction and NBC will assume no debt. NBC said future projects with Rainbow "could include" new cable networks and local TV programming (Mark Robichaux, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/1).