SBD/Issue 163/Franchises

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  • Tribune May Delay Cubs Sale Because Of Wrigley Sale Talks

    Tribune Co. Could Delay Sale Of
    Cubs Because Of Wrigley Field Talks
    The Tribune Co. is indicating "privately that it might delay selling the [Cubs] if the inevitable need for costly repairs at Wrigley Field ... discounts the bids it fields for the ballclub," according to sources cited by Phil Rosenthal of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Sources involved in the bidding process said that "word is filtering back to ... potential buyers that Tribune Co. will hold onto the team rather than sell at distressed prices" if potential buyers drop their bids too much "in anticipation of having to pay for Wrigley Field renovations themselves." While analysts suggest that Tribune Co. this week "may have bought time on a Cubs sale" with its $650M sale of Newsday to Cablevision, the deal "merely relieved financial pressure on the media company for this year, not forever." Rosenthal reports despite rejecting the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA) latest proposal for Wrigley earlier this week, the two sides are still in negotiations. Neither side has "completely ruled out an ISFA deal of some sort for the ballpark," despite a report yesterday that Tribune Co. had decided to package the Cubs and Wrigley in a sale. Separate sales would "potentially maximize the return for Tribune Co." Meanwhile, Tribune Co. has sent the Cubs' financial data to MLB for "review covering both scenarios with and without ownership of the ballpark included." But sources said that the finances have not yet been forwarded to MLB-approved bidders (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/14).

    STILL NEGOTIATING: ISFA Chair James Thompson yesterday confirmed that he is "still negotiating with the Cubs and still hopeful the state can find a way to buy and renovate Wrigley Field with 'no taxes of any kind' that is acceptable" to Tribune Co. Chair Sam Zell (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/14). Chicago Tribune reporter Fred Mitchell said of ISFA-Tribune Co. talks, "It sounds to me it needs to be tweaked a great deal to satisfy Sam Zell.” Chicago Tribune reporter David Haugh: “It would seem to be cleaner to sell the Cubs and Wrigley Field as one. ... The bigger issue that people are wondering about is the naming rights and then renovation” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” CSN, 5/13).

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  • Magowan Reportedly Set To Surrender Control Of MLB Giants

    Magowan Could Announce His Resignation As
    Giants Managing General Partner On Friday
    The MLB Giants have called a meeting of the team's ownership for Friday, and "word is that longtime [Managing General Partner] Peter Magowan will announce he's stepping down," according to Matier & Ross of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The Giants' front office this week sent an e-mail to the team's 30 investors, asking them to attend a 10:30am PT meeting Friday at AT&T Park to discuss "some investments the Giants are contemplating." Sources said that the "real topic is ... Magowan's planned retirement, which could lead to his ownership shares -- estimated to be worth well over $70[M] -- being offered to fellow partners." The Giants are valued "in excess of $500[M]." There was "no immediate word on who might succeed Magowan, but the job is expected to go to someone already connected to the ownership group." The "names mentioned most frequently" are Giants General Partner William Neukom and Principal Partner John Scully. Matier & Ross note whoever takes the job is "likely to play a more limited role than Magowan," who has run the team since '93. Some partners "privately complained that Magowan's managing style was autocratic," and Matier & Ross write it "left him open to criticism and second-guessing from both inside and outside the organization" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/14).

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  • Redskins Offer Suite Guest Passes In Response To Lobbying Laws

    The Redskins' sales office has given a one-page handout to a potential customer headlined "Government Ethics Rules re: Suite Tickets" that states that congressional officials "could accept a free 'Suite Guest Pass' to a skybox as long as they have a ticket for anywhere else in the stadium, including a $25 standing-room-only ticket," according to Jeffrey Birnbaum of the WASHINGTON POST. The team's "new twist" skirts a law that "forbids congressional officials from accepting anything of value from lobbyists without repayment." The document states that such guest passes "allow only a 'short visit,'" but does not "define 'short visit' or say who would monitor the requirement." Jan Baran, who specializes in ethics for law firm Wiley Rein, said, "This doesn't sound kosher to me." Redskins General Counsel David Donovan said that the document was "not legal advice and that it was intended simply to provide information to customers who had asked about the impact of the new lobbying rules." Donovan: "All we're trying to tell people is what is required to comply with the rules, not how to get around them." Redskins VP/PR Karl Swanson said that the document was "used by the team's sales force as 'a talk sheet' to provide answers when a customer asked about government ethics rules and their impact on the suites" and that the sales staff used the document with customers "fewer than 10 times in the past year and a half." Some of DC's "top ethics experts ... are not convinced that a free pass to a skybox, even if only for a short visit, is acceptable under the new law for congressional officials," and top lobbying managers also said that they "would steer clear of the free passes." But Donovan said that the team had "cleared its approach with government ethics officials" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/14).

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  • Rays' Fast Start In Standings Not Drawing Fans To Ballpark

    Rays Still Struggling To Draw Crowds
    Despite Being Atop AL East Standings
    The Rays, despite leading the AL East and owning the best winning percentage in the team’s 11-year history, rank 13th out of 14 AL teams in attendance and 27th in MLB, according to Aaron Sharockman of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. The Rays for Monday’s game against the Yankees drew 13,932 fans at Tropicana Field, the smallest crowd in MLB that day; last night's Yankees-Rays game drew just 16,558. Sharockman notes, "People always believed that if the Rays won, fans would flock to Tropicana Field." Rays President Matt Silverman: “We’re certainly not happy about being at the bottom of the league in attendance. Everyone in the organization wants to see packed stands. And the players will tell you it makes a difference on the field.” More Silverman: “We’re just focusing on what we can control: making the Trop a great environment for the team and making it a great place for fans to watch the game” (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 5/14).

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  • Chivas USA Reaching Out To Community To Grow Fan Base

    Chivas USA Reaching Out To
    Community To Grow Fan Base
    What MLS Chivas USA President & CEO Shawn Hunter and his employees are hearing from the Latino community is “painfully obvious, but not easily deliverable under the MLS structure,” according to Lisa Dillman of the L.A. TIMES. Hunter: “They want players from Mexico that are young, that are exciting on the field. If I could wave a magic wand, they’d say, ‘Well, next month bring us (Omar) Bravo, (Ramon) Morales, (Oswaldo) Sanchez.’ And then you’re a smart guy.” Hunter, who joined the club in September, said of Chivas USA, “Some of the mistakes they made on the field, frustrated what should be the fan base. They alienated a lot of Hispanic fans and because they didn’t market at all to non-Hispanics, it left a big hole in the middle. That’s what we’re here to do: be relevant with the Hispanic community and also be welcoming to the general market.” Dillman notes Chivas USA after three home games this season at The Home Depot Center is averaging 12,805 fans, 10th in MLS. The club last month held its first community practice in April. Hunter: ‘The mistake was made four years ago, assuming that we had a built-in fan base, that it was going to be there. We’ve got to go hand-to-hand, building these relationships, not only with the Hispanic community but with the non-Hispanic community, making sure they feel welcome and part of the family” (L.A. TIMES, 5/14).

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  • Franchise Notes

    Arsenal Considering Offering 
    Kroenke Seat On BOD
    In London, Jason Burt reports English Premier League club Arsenal is "considering inviting" investor Stan Kroenke, who owns a 12% stake in the team, to "take a place on the board." Arsenal is "increasingly impressed by Kroenke and want[s] to foster closer relationships with the American who has signed up to the lock-down agreement over share sales which effectively prevents the club being taken over before 2012 -- although there is a termination clause in October 2010." It is "unlikely he will be offered a place on the board in the near future but such is the degree of trust that has developed between the parties" (London TELEGRAPH, 5/14).

    BULLS: In Chicago, Jay Mariotti writes with Mike D'Antoni choosing to coach the Knicks instead of the Bulls, Bulls Owner Jerry Reinsdorf "once again was a slow, sluggish, dilly-dallying leader lacking the ability to cut a deal." Reinsdorf "should sell the Bulls to someone who cares about basketball. If there was any justice, he'd sell the franchise" to Bobcats Managing Member of Basketball Operations Michael Jordan. Reinsdorf "refuses to talk to the agents of coaches," and the Bulls by winning just one playoff series in 10 seasons have "become the [Celtics] after their '80s glory years" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/14). D’Antoni jokingly said of choosing the Knicks over the Bulls, “I was listening to all you guys (in the media) and everybody said I should go to Chicago, so I knew New York was the place to go” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 5/13).

    BLACKHAWKS: Blackhawks Senior Exec Dir of Ticketing & Business Development Chris Werner said the team is "seeing a tremendous upswing in demand in interest for Blackhawks tickets." Werner said the club is trying to "create more price points for people to choose from, and tickets are as affordable as $15 per ticket.” Werner added the team will put the “press on group sales for corporate partners that want to get involved and bring out a large number of their employees ... and that will be relatively new for the Blackhawks. Although they did sell group tickets in the past, we never focused on that” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” CSN, 5/13).

    PACERS: Pacers Sports & Entertainment Chair & CEO Herb Simon and President Jim Morris last week met with the Indianapolis Star's editorial board and "acknowledged how far out of favor the team has fallen with the community." Morris "promises to increase the team's involvement in the community and to improve the franchise's support services for young players who must learn to cope with wealth, fame and a multitude of readily available temptations." Simon also "wants fans to understand" that the WNBA Fever is "entering a period critical to its future." Attendance "must grow if the franchise is to finally break even," and Simon's "ability to continue writing off the Fever's financial losses is no doubt constrained by the Pacers' problems" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/10).

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