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Rogers Becoming Sole Owner Of Blue Jays
Toronto-based Rogers Communications is "poised to become the sole owner of" the Blue Jays after "buying up the minority stake" of Belgium-based Interbrew S.A., according to Tyler Hamilton of the TORONTO STAR. Rogers CEO Ted Rogers: "I think we're on track with the Blue Jays. ... We own 80[%] of it. We're buying out the 20[%] shareholder now. That sounds to me like a commitment." Rogers, who purchased the 80% stake in '00 for C$164M, has "held the option of acquiring Interbrew's minority share at any time," but Interbrew "held the right to require Rogers to purchase the rest of the team" for C$45M, with 9% annual interest. Rogers "did not say how much his company would pay or whether Interbrew is forcing the equity purchase." Interbrew officials were unavailable for comment. Dominion Bond Rating Services Analyst Rory Buchalter said that Rogers' purchase would "take funding away that would otherwise go to reducing Rogers' debt" (TORONTO STAR, 1/21).
$80M Payroll Moves Braves
Into Middle Of The Pack
The Braves' projected $80M payroll in '04 will be $15M "below last year's figure and likely will drop them from sixth in the majors to near the middle" of MLB payrolls, according to David O'Brien of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. Braves GM John Schuerholz said of the trimmed payroll, "That should not be a negative message. That's still a lot of money. It's enough, as the last two world championship teams have shown." Braves President & Chair Terry McGuirk said, "I would never use that word [middle-market]. I think we are an elite team. The economics of baseball are extremely flawed, and there is a huge adjustment going on with most teams." The Braves claimed annual losses of $15M or more in recent years, and McGuirk believes that "reducing payroll and using more prospects from the minors is a sign of the times." McGuirk: "By and large, we have a system (in baseball) that has gone out of control from a cost standpoint and I think you're seeing unilateral attempts by individual owners to get their business in order" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/21).
Following Key Acquisitions, Angels
Prepared For Record Ticket Sales
The Angels, who drew a record three million fans in '03, project "another record year of season ticket sales, defying conventional wisdom that dictates sales rise the year following a successful season and fall the year following a miserable one," according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. The Angels sold a record 21,500 season tickets following the '02 World Series, and Angels VP/Communications Tim Mead said that renewals this winter are "running substantially ahead of last winter's" 95% renewal rate. New season tickets sales total about 2,800. Mead: "They've seen the Angels in the news since the season ended, and they like what they see" (L.A. TIMES, 1/21).
SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY: Angels Owner Arte Moreno, on his investments in the team, including the offseason acquisitions of P Bartolo Colon and RF Vladimir Guerrero: "I can afford to do some things to invest in our business and our team. Any time you are in any kind of business, you want to put your people and your team in a position to win." MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said of Moreno, "He has created a lot of interest in the game and a lot of interest in the second-largest market. You can see the energy he has brought." Rangers Owner Tom Hicks: "I wish he was in a different division. He is speaking more loudly with his actions than his words" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/21). Washington State Univ. Sports Economist Rodney Fort: "If a new owner comes in and spends tons of money, that means he anticipated that the old owners were screwing up fundamentally. If not, a new owner comes in and says, 'Yeah, I guess the previous owner had it pegged pretty good.' If he's putting a bunch of money into player payroll that wasn't there before, Mr. Moreno apparently sees something Disney didn't about his market" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 1/21).
The latest bid for the Nets from the New Jersey-based partnership of Charles Kushner and U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) is "believed to have at least matched [Bruce Ratner's $300M] offer during negotiations with executives at Lehman Bros. and Goldman Sachs" yesterday, according to John Brennan of the Bergen RECORD. One Nets investor "predicted that the offer would leave Kushner and ... Ratner in a $300[M] `dead heat'" (Bergen RECORD, 1/21). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reports Ratner and Kushner "raised their bids modestly," but it was "not known how far beyond $300[M] Ratner ventured, or how much more than his longstanding $267.5[M] bid Kushner went." Two officials said that Kushner's new offer "was two-tiered: for an all-cash purchase, ... he raised his bid by a small amount, and for one that would include a longer payout to the sellers, he raised the gross amount by a somewhat larger figure." Kushner "may be hoping that he has gone high enough to match a reduction in the actual value of Ratner's bid based on factors like projected losses during the years the Nets would still play at Continental Arena before the Brooklyn arena would be built" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/21). In Newark, Parks & Jordan cite sources as saying that Kushner is "waiting to find out the true value of the Ratner bid before raising his offer" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 1/21).
APPLE OF HIS EYE? In N.Y., Harvey Araton writes the Nets "have virtually disappeared from the metropolitan area sports consciousness. They have become an athletic afterthought, a business-transaction-in-waiting. Don't think that [NBA Commissioner David] Stern hasn't noticed, that he isn't relieved the wait on the sale of the Nets will soon be over and that the buyer is expected to be" Ratner, who wants to move the team to Brooklyn. Stern, on the Nets: "For us it's a New York metro-area team, and during the course of the negotiations we have adjusted to the notion that it might stay where it is, move to Newark, Brooklyn or Long Island." While Araton writes Stern "has always scoffed at the notion that the NBA needs contenders in New York to thrive nationally," Stern said, "It never hurts to have strong teams in the largest media market because many attitudes are shaped there" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/21).
Magnier & McManus Now
Own 25% Of Profitable Club
Cubic Expression, an investment vehicle co-owned by Irish racing tycoons John Magnier and JP McManus, confirmed Monday that it had bought 3.3 million shares of Manchester United, bringing its total to 66.5 million shares, or about 25.5% of the team, according to Nick Harris of the London INDEPENDENT. The move will likely "fuel fresh speculation about a takeover," as any investor who amasses a 30% stake in the company "is required to make a bid offer to all other shareholders." Shareholders United, an organized group of fans, has said that it "would fight any attempted takeover." Harris noted the move "increased the likelihood that the pair will seek representation" on ManU's BOD (London INDEPENDENT, 1/20).
The MLB Rangers announced yesterday that individual ticket prices at The Ballpark in Arlington will remain the same for the '04 season. The team will also roll back the price of over 15,000 seats to '94 prices for the final five games of the '04 opening homestand, April 11 versus the Angels and April 12-15 against the A's (Rangers). In Dallas, Evan Grant notes it marks the team's third straight season without a ticket increase. Rangers COO Jeff Cogen: "It's been well-documented that our attendance has dropped. The supply and demand quotient doesn't lend itself to raising ticket prices." Attendance has dropped from more than 2.8 million in '01 to 2.1 million last season, the fourth straight last-place finish in the AL West for the Rangers. Grant notes that in '04 the Rangers will increase the number of home day games from 13 to 19, the most the team has ever scheduled; and the "big switch is with Sunday starts." The Rangers traditionally played Sunday games at night but this year will play 11 of 13 Sunday games during the day, with all but two starting at 1:05pm CT (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/21).
A-Rod To Red Sox
A-ROD: In Fort Worth, Kathleen O'Brien reports rumors of a trade involving Rangers SS Alex Rodriguez and the Red Sox "resurfaced" yesterday when ESPN Radio's "The Dan Patrick Show" and ESPN.com cited an MLB source as saying that "talks are continuing on a possible trade" for OF Manny Ramirez and cash considerations. But Rangers Owner Tom Hicks said, "There is no possibility of a trade" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/21). In a conference call with Boston media on an unrelated subject yesterday, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein called the report "completely baseless" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/21).
A-ROD JERSEY HOAX: In Boston, Bob Hohler writes a "number of Web pages displayed an image from MLB.com's shopping site of a replica Sox home jersey dedicated to Rodriguez that purportedly was available for $99.95." The sales copy read: "Be one of the first to own a jersey customized with the name and number of the newest ... Red Sox, Alex Rodriguez!" Hohler notes it seems "someone with access to private MLB computer material retrieved an image that had been prepared in case the deal was completed. The image apparently was posted briefly on the shopping site, reproduced, and circulated on the internet." MLBAM Senior VP/Corporate Communications Jim Gallagher said, "An authorized person conducted an unauthorized hoax. We're embarrassed. We take this very seriously, and we are currently investigating" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/21).