After Panthers Owner Wayne Huizenga took his team public in November '96, his "first move" was the acquisition of two resort hotels owned partly by Huizenga and other team officials, "a move that enriched Huizenga, his friends and others who have invested with him," according to Edward Wyatt of the N.Y. TIMES. The floatation "has all worked out grandly for Huizenga, whose original investment in Florida Panthers Holdings has nearly tripled in value" to $150M. Initial investors "have done well, but many of those who bought subsequently have, at best, broken even," and some "profitable investors who got in early have expressed outrage, believing that Huizenga and his friends profited improperly. Three class-action lawsuits seeking damages have been filed by shareholders" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/25). WAYNE'S WORLD: Wyatt reports that the initial resort deals, "unrelated to the hockey club, sent the price of Panther stock soaring. But despite the sharp increase, the company did not adjust the number of shares it had offered to exchange for the resorts before the deal closed." By "ignoring a common practice when acquisitions are paid for with shares of stock, the company ended up paying" $225M for the two resorts, three times the original price. Wyatt adds that despite the teams' losses, the market value of FL Panthers Holdings "has increased sixfold" since the company went public. Profits from the hockey and arena-management operations, which now account for only about 10% of the company, "will be a blip on the company's financial screen." Wyatt: "For Huizenga, little about Florida Panthers Holdings has to do with hockey" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/25).
NOTES: Tom Clancy disputed a report that he will sell his minority interest in the Orioles in acquiring the Vikings: "I plan to follow all league rules, but nobody has asked me to sell my interest in the Orioles." Clancy's partner Marc Ganis admitted that his comments saying Clancy would sell his stake was a "misunderstanding" (Baltimore SUN, 3/25)....The Islanders hired NY-based Diamond Promotion Group to market the team and handle promotional programs, fan forums and other events (NEWSDAY, 3/25)....The ECHL's first franchise in GA will be called the Augusta Lynx (HOCKEY NEWS, 3/27 issue)....The Anaheim Bullfrogs, formerly of RHI, have joined Major League Roller Hockey (MLRH). MLB: Cablevision CEO James Dolan said that Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner told him the "ballclub is not for sale." But Dolan said that "his company will continue have a close relationship with Steinbrenner" (CNBC, 3/24)....Pro Player Stadium is expected to be sold out for the Marlins' season-opener on Tuesday (SUN-SENTINEL, 3/25)....In Cincinnati, Managing CEO John Allen is profiled by Bill Koch. Asked about his relationship with Marge Schott, Allen said, "Marginal at best." But Koch wrote that under Allen, the Reds "finally have a plan. If all goes well this year, if the Reds can draw about 1.8 million fans, they might actually make a little money" (CINCINNATI POST, 3/24)....The Orioles will have the largest player payroll in MLB history this season at $74.3M. The Braves will open the season with a payroll of $71.6M, followed by the Red Sox at $71.3M and the Yankees at just under $68.3M (WASHINGTON POST, 3/25).
A mediator "issued a non-binding ruling" that the Twins are "free to terminate the team's Metrodome lease after this season," according to Patrick Sweeney of the ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS. Robert Bowen, a retired judge hired by the Twins and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC), gave his ruling yesterday. The Twins lease allows them to terminate their agreement, provided they met either of two conditions: attendance less than 80% of the AL average from '95-97 and audited financial records showing a cumulative operating loss for the same period. Because Bowen's ruling "was non-binding," the MSFC may file suit to try to "bind" the Twins to the lease. MSFC Exec Dir Bill Lester: "We'll have to evaluate our options -- whether that's court or not" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 3/25). MSFC Chair Henry Savelkoul: "The court situation will be a last, last, last resort" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/25).