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One of the Expos' ballpark project's "high-profile promoters has cast aspersions on Expos president Claude Brochu and on the near-impenetrable veil of secrecy surrounding the project he was recruited to sell," according to Stephanie Myles of the Montreal GAZETTE. In a radio interview, Jean Coutu said, "I think Brochu is a very good administrator, but maybe he should step aside and let someone else promote the project." Brochu would not comment. Coutu joined the Expos' ballpark effort in March, but he now says he is "no longer active in the project." Coutu: "It's excessively difficult to put that good name we [he and the other businessmen assisting in the ballpark push] have into something we don't understand ourselves. Who will own the stadium? We don't even know. It smells a bit like what went on in Quebec City with the Nordiques." Coutu: "They haven't known how to sell it to business, government and the fans." Meanwhile, the Expos have invited members of the business community to accompany them to Baltimore today to tour Camden Yards (GAZETTE, 8/19).
With a 30-day window for potential buyers of the Twins open to September 14, the two who had "publicly declared interest in acquiring" the team say they "are undecided about whether they will make an official bid," according to Tom Powers of the ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS. Minneapolis lawyer Clark Griffith, son of former Twins Owner Calvin Griffith, said he will "take the next two weeks to decide whether to make an offer." Mike Veeck said he will take part in a conference call with his financial partners today. But Powers writes that Veeck "no longer seems interested" in buying the team (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 8/19). TWINS PEAKED? In his column, Powers notes that the Twins drew an average of 2.3 million fans from '87-93, and writes that the lack of a new ballpark is "not the reason Carl Pohlad has lost millions of dollars the past five seasons." Powers: "Let's get real. The reason Pohlad has lost a lot of money is his team stinks. His team stinks because he won't spend enough to make it competitive. Period. Quit blaming the market for everything. ... The point is, instead of trimming the payroll from $26 million to $20 million, why not invest in the team by signing some much-needed talent?" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 8/19).
Today is the day that "seven aspiring owners of the Browns pitch themselves in front of all 30 NFL team owners" in Atlanta, according to Tony Grossi of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Grossi: "No prize is awarded at the end of the day, but a good presentation could sway some votes when the owner is selected in another month." Jaguars Owner Wayne Weaver: "I think it's kind of a dog-and-pony show. ... We all will form opinions and impressions. And when it comes right down to it, it seems to me what they say and what they present will become fairly significant. Because in the final analysis, there won't be a great disparity in the bids." Grossi writes that while the first bids are "signed and sealed," the second bids -- due after each applicant visits the NFL "data room" in New York -- will "separate the field." If the bids "are close," an NFL owner speculated within $50M of each other, "factors such as Cleveland connections, minority participation and likability could play a larger role." Through a draw from a hat, Cleveland developer Bart Wolstein will go first (PLAIN DEALER, 8/19). Wolstein: "From what I've been reading, the price is going to be the most important thing" (BEACON JOURNAL, 8/19). WHO ARE THE ODDS-ON FAVORITES? Grossi reports that while Al Lerner "looks like the front runner ... nothing is always what it seems in the NFL" (PLAIN DEALER, 8/19). USA TODAY's Gordon Forbes lays his odds, putting Lerner at 3-1; Wolstein at 7-2; Charles/Larry Dolan at 9-2; Howard Milstein at 6-1; Richard Jacobs at 10-1; Thomas Murdough at 15-1; and Jeremy Jacobs at 25-1 (USA TODAY, 8/19). In an AKRON BEACON JOURNAL survey, Murdough was the fans' pick to become the Browns' owner, receiving 27% of the vote. The Dolans got 22%; Lerner 16%; Wolstein 14%; Milstein 12% and Richard Jacobs 4.5%. Lerner "drew the strongest response, both pro and con" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 8/19). In St. Pete, Hubert Mizell calls Lerner the "best bet" (ST. PETE TIMES, 8/19). STADIUM LOAN: With a 5-2 vote, OH's Controlling Board approved a $21.8M loan to help finish the Browns' stadium. The loan -- "in effect, a cash advance on a state construction budget" -- will be repaid with stadium aid appropriated in the November budget (PLAIN DEALER, 8/19).
Alberta Treasury Branches paid a C$4M "break-up" fee to Rockets Owner Les Alexander "after he lost out on his bid" to buy the NHL Oilers in May, according to Jac McDonald of the EDMONTON JOURNAL. Alexander "is entitled to" another C$4M if the agreement keeping the Oilers in Edmonton until 2004 is "relaxed in any manner," making it easier for the club to be relocated. The fee agreement, obtained by the JOURNAL, says that the additional money is due "whether or not the club is then relocated." The fees "were part of Alexander's second offer to purchase the Oilers." Treasury Branches spokesperson Darlene Dickinson "confirmed" that Alexander received the C$4M, out of the C$100M proceeds of the sale. Dickinson: "It was his requirement that if the local buyers succeeded in purchasing the team, he would require a break-up fee. This is quite normal under transactions of this type" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 8/19).