SBD/Issue 49/Franchises

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  • MLB Owners Unanimously Approve Hal Steinbrenner As Yanks Head

    Hal Steinbrenner Will Lead
    Day-To-Day Yankees Operations
    MLB owners concluded their quarterly meetings in N.Y. Thursday by unanimously approving Hal Steinbrenner as the new designated control executive for the Yankees, officially ending a historic, high-profile reign of power by his father, George, dating to '73. George Steinbrenner will remain team Chair and Hal and brother Hank will remain co-Chairs. But the shift firmly codifies the 39-year-old Hal’s increasing control of the Yankees’ day-to-day business and financial operations over the past two years. “I realize this is a great responsibility. Needless to say, I’ve got a tough act to follow,” Hal Steinbrenner said. “Really, for the last two years I have been intimately involved with all aspects and all departments of the company. It’s what I’ve been doing day-to-day. My duties aren’t really going to change and my workload isn’t going to change much. So, I mean, it’s as much a procedural thing within the family, I think, as anything at this point.” Still, the move carries significance as Hal gained the control nod over older and more vocal brother Hank, who initially was the leading executive face for the franchise among the two as George’s public profile receded. Hank, according to a club statement, will continue to oversee the Yankees’ baseball operations. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and his wife, Sue, met with George Steinbrenner and his wife, Joan, last month in Florida on October 23 during the Tropicana Field portion of the World Series where the impending change was discussed (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

    HAL OF FAME: In N.Y., Jack Curry notes while Hank has been "much more talkative about the Yankees in his frequent interviews," Hal has been "more involved in the daily operations of the team." It is Hal, not Hank, who "deals with team executives and spends considerable time in the Yankees' offices" in N.Y. (N.Y. TIMES, 11/21). On Long Island, Ken Davidoff notes Hal is "far more involved" than Hank, and the move "should solidify that reality and blunt the impact of Hank Steinbrenner's routinely outrageous statements." One Yankees official said of Hal, "He wants to do things in a more normal way" (NEWSDAY, 11/21). Also on Long Island, Johnette Howard writes Hank shows the "same explosive potential" as George, which "probably helps explain why Hal ended up in control instead." Hal is the "more temperate of George's boys and, truth be told, more responsible" (NEWSDAY, 11/21). N.Y. Daily News columnist Bill Madden said of Hal, "He has been the face of ownership. All this is doing is basically confirming this. Now there’s no doubt about it. Hank might be quoted somewhere saying, ‘I’m the leader here.’ He’s not the leader. Hal is the leader” ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 11/20). ESPN's Tim Kurkjian: "Hal is just not quite as bombastic as Hank is and I think he’s just a little bit more measured in some of the things he says and does." But he added, "Both boys are going to be in charge of this team and I don’t think we can look too much into who’s in charge and who’s second in charge” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 11/20). The EXAMINER's Paula Duffy wrote Hal is an "interesting choice since fans and media don't know him as well" as Hank (EXAMINER.com, 11/20).

    HANK SUPPORTIVE OF MOVE: One Yankees source, when asked if the shift "meant Hank was being brushed aside or requested a lesser role," said, "Hank supported this move because Hal works with the finances. He is fine with it" (N.Y. POST, 11/21). Another Yankees source said that there was a "vote within the Steinbrenner family and even Hank voted for Hal." In N.Y., Anthony McCarron writes it will be "interesting to see how the dynamic plays out between the two brothers," as they are "separated by a difference in age and temperament" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/21). WMAQ-NBC's Josh Alper wrote Hank, "verbose as he is, doesn't seem to actually like baseball," while Hal is "regularly at games and regularly speaking" with Yankees GM Brian Cashman (NBCCHICAGO.com, 11/20). NEW YORK magazine's Chris Smith wrote Hank is "still very much a force, if an erratic one, in decisions" about pursuing free agents "because of his personality and his standing as first-born son" (NYMAG.com, 11/20).

    Columnists Ponder Steinbrenner's Legacy
    After Running Team For 36 Years
    LASTING LEGACY: On Long Island, Wallace Matthews writes under the header, "An Impossible Act To Follow." There is "something jolting and final about an official announcement, even when it only confirms something all of us have known for years." The shift of control "represents a sea change in New York sports history." George Steinbrenner is an "impossible act to follow," and Hal would be "well advised to not even try." Matthews: "There never was an owner in this town quite like George Steinbrenner, and you've got to figure there never will be again" (NEWSDAY, 11/21). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes of George, "We will never see another like him, and who ever would have thought, back in the day, that this would be a sad thing? So the name of the boss, lower case, changes. Even as everyone knows that the Boss, upper case, will be forever" (N.Y. POST, 11/21). NEWSDAY's Howard writes, "The Boss will never be totally gone, not as long as he's still alive." But Thursday's announcement was a "passage just the same" (NEWSDAY, 11/21). In Westchester, Sam Borden writes, "It is still a Steinbrenner running the Yankees, still the same name. It just isn't the Steinbrenner. It can't be" (Westchester JOURNAL NEWS, 11/21). In N.Y., George King writes George will be "impossible to replace," as Hank "likes to talk, but nobody roared like The Boss." Hal is "very thorough and is serious and tough, but The Boss was ultra intense and ruthless" (N.Y. POST, 11/21). In Toronto, Dave Perkins writes Hank and Hal "might prove to be windy buffoons, but they are unlikely to leave the mark their old man did" (TORONTO STAR, 11/21). But on Long Island, Steve Jacobson writes George's "legacy of tyranny shouldn't be forgotten now that he officially has withdrawn from the masthead of the Yankees" (NEWSDAY, 11/21).

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  • Rooney Brothers Will Vary In Future Investment In Steelers

    Dan, Art Rooney II Could Partner With Up To
    15 Investors, Currently Being Vetted By NFL
    Under the reorganized control of the Steelers, team investors Tim and Pat Rooney will sell their complete 16% stakes in the team to Chair Dan Rooney and his son, President Art Rooney II, while Steelers investors John and Art Rooney Jr. plan to "retain a portion of their stock and remain as minority owners" of the franchise, according to Bouchette & Dulac of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. Rooney family sources said that Tim and Pat Rooney want to sell all their shares in order to "remain involved in racetracks and casinos" in New York and Florida. John and Art Rooney Jr. each intend to "keep a little less than half" of their 16% stake. The family has agreed on a purchase value of $800M, so a 16% share is worth about $128M. Additionally, a "small portion" of the remaining 20% share in the Steelers owned by the McGinley family will be sold to Dan and Art Rooney II or to the "investors who are currently being assembled to help finance the sale." Steelers investor Jack McGinley Jr. said that his aunt, Rita McGinley, will maintain her 10% stake in the team, while the family's remaining 10% stake is spread among the six children of late Steelers investor Jack McGinley. Jack McGinley Jr.: "I can't speak for all my brothers and sister, but there's a strong likelihood a number will sell." Meanwhile, Rooney family sources indicated that there will be "at least three major investors and as many as five, with 10 to 15 total investors." The potential investors are "currently being vetted by the NFL" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 11/21).

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  • Donovan Loaned To Bayern Munich; Prelude To Permanent Move?

    Donovan To Play For Bayern
    Munich During MLS Offseason
    German Bundesliga club Bayern Munich and MLS Thursday reached an agreement that MLS Galaxy F Landon Donovan will be allowed to join Bayern Munich "for two to three months, starting Jan. 1, when the international transfer window reopens," according to Grahame Jones of the L.A. TIMES. Bayern Munich coach Juergen Klinsmann said Donovan has a "verbal agreement with MLS to play in Europe for 2 1/2 months," a deal similar to AC Milan's with Galaxy MF David Beckham. Jones notes the Galaxy is "unlikely to allow Donovan to miss the first two months or more of the 2009 MLS season, so the loan deal seems more of a prelude to a full-fledged transfer." Donovan, who has been training with the German club, "would join Bayern's winter training camp on Jan. 2." The Galaxy had no comment on the deal (L.A. TIMES, 11/21). Klinsmann has suggested that the loan "could be made into a permanent transfer." Klinsmann: "It is up to him. He can recommend himself for a longer relationship" (London INDEPENDENT, 11/21).

    POSTSEASON RENTAL: The MLS Fire Thursday announced MF Cuauhtemoc Blanco will be loaned to Mexican Primera Division club Santos Laguna for the postseason, which begins this weekend, but Blanco "is expected to return to Chicago for the 2009 MLS regular season." Santos Laguna President Alejandro Irarragorri said that Blanco will "return to Chicago after the league's apertura season playoffs conclude, which could be as late as January, if Santos Laguna reaches the final." Financial details of the loan were not disclosed (SOUTHTOWN STAR, 11/21).

    GALACTIC ERROR: In L.A., Steve Dilbeck writes the Galaxy's partnership with Beckham has been a "failure." Dilbeck: "If certainly not complete disappointment, I still mark down AEG's bold experiment for three reasons." The Galaxy have "failed to make the playoffs during both of Beckham's seasons with the team," no "truly significant international player has taken his lead and followed him to the MLS" and Beckham and the Galaxy "have faded to back pages of sports sections and become almost invisible to the electronic media" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 11/21).

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  • Ticket Exchange: T'Wolves Struggling In Post-Garnett Era

    T'Wolves Have Only Won Two Playoff Series, 
    Both With Kevin Garnett, In 20-Year History
    Friday night's Celtics-T'Wolves game marks the first time Celtics F Kevin Garnett will play against his old team since being traded in '07, and for the T'Wolves, a "franchise that forced change because it concluded it was headed nowhere with him has traveled from indifference during Garnett's final season or two in Minnesota to irrelevance without him," according to Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The T'Wolves this season have only sold the equivalent of 5,000 full season-ticket packages, and T'Wolves F Kevin Love said, "From the new players to the new court, the new uniforms, the new logo, we've pretty much changed everything around just trying to give us a new face." But Zgoda notes it "says something about a franchise celebrating its 20th season that Garnett won two playoff series ... in his 12 seasons and is considered the Michael Jordan of Minnesota basketball" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 11/21). In Boston, Marc Spears writes while Garnett is "long gone" from the T'Wolves, he is "still revered here." NBA City Restaurant Manager Mike Bruce, whose store is connected to the Target Center, said, "Garnett jerseys sell more than what the Timberwolves have." Bruce said jersey sales for Love and T'Wolves F Al Jefferson are "doing well," but added Garnett is "still the big sell." Bruce: "We actually had to reorder (Garnett Celtics jerseys) for this season." The T'Wolves at Friday's game will hand out "commemorative Garnett posters" to fans in attendance (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/21).

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  • Bobcats Hoping To See More Of Michael Jordan In Charlotte

    Jordan (l) Not Expected Back
    In Charlotte Before December
    Bobcats Managing Member of Basketball Operations Michael Jordan since his investment in '06, rather than becoming the "face of the franchise," has been "more of a shadow," according to Jon Saraceno in a sports-section cover story for USA TODAY.  Both Bobcats Owner Bob Johnson and coach Larry Brown "would like to see Jordan in the home arena more often." Brown: "I just want Michael really, really, really involved. The players need to see him because of what he accomplished. I talked to him about it." During Tuesday's Mavericks-Bobcats game at Time Warner Cable Arena, Jordan was not in attendance and "empty seats were everywhere." While Jordan appeared at many of the team's games earlier this season, his assistant in an e-mail said, "With his travel schedule and the holiday season upon us, I don't expect he will be back (in Charlotte) before December." Saraceno notes Johnson "relies on Jordan to resurrect pro hoops hysteria in a hotbed of college basketball, pro football and stock car racing." Jordan sightings at Bobcats games were "unusual until this season," but Johnson and Bobcats President & COO Fred Whitfield "urged Jordan to show his face." The team's home attendance so far this season is down 9% to an average of 13,040 in the 19,026-seat arena, which is 27th among the 30 NBA teams. Bobcats F Gerald Wallace said, "We have to give fans a reason to come out." Bobcats F Jared Dudley added, "I definitely think it matters when Michael Jordan is around" (USA TODAY, 11/21).

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  • Redskins Fans, Spurred By Ads, Voting En Masse For Pro Bowl

    Watch The Clip
    Due to an "aggressive marketing campaign by the team's front office," Redskins fans have "turned Pro Bowl Internet voting into a tidal wave of burgundy and gold," according to Chris Chase of YAHOO SPORTS. The club is running a series of "Vote the Redskins Ticket" ads, including one featuring Redskins radio announcers and Pro Football HOFers Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff, encouraging fans to "vote early and often" for Redskins players for the Pro Bowl. The team as of Tuesday had "four of the top 10 vote-getters in the NFC" and had players leading at a "staggering 21 positions of the 26 possible starting positions" in fan Pro Bowl balloting. Chase noted while some of the players leading the voting are "good enough to play in Hawaii," such as RB Clinton Portis, there are also "other, uh, less-worthy members of the Redskins are current leading" at their positions. However, fan votes only "make up one-third of the Pro Bowl criteria, so don't expect to see all those Redskins in Honolulu" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/19). Redskins P Ryan Plackemeier, who was leading the balloting at his position, said, "It's nice to be, I guess, liked by the fans. ... Usually as players, when we vote on it, we just pick the highest average guys in the league and obviously I'm not up there." But Plackemeier added "it all evens out" when the vote from other players and coaches is included (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 11/19). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon noted the Redskins' campaign "has been so effective, the NFL took notice and raised the issue in an e-mail to all 32 teams recently” ("PTI," ESPN, 11/20).

    MAKING A MOCKERY OF THE SYSTEM? In New Orleans, David Gladow writes due to the "formula the NFL currently uses, some of the players' leads will be nearly insurmountable for other players to overcome, whether the coaches or players vote for those players or not." The situation is "ridiculous, and it calls to attention the problem inherent in letting the fans decide who actually gets to go" to the Pro Bowl (NOLA.com, 10/20). ESPN’s Mark Schlereth said the Redskins’ campaign is "why fans should not be allowed to vote for the Pro Bowl.” Schlereth: “I wouldn’t even let players vote. I would keep it at (GMs) and coaches” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 11/20). ESPN’s Kevin Blackistone: “Fans are turning it into a mockery of voting here. ... Let’s not turn it into a joke like this. Guys actually make extra money off of going to the Pro Bowl and that makes a big difference.” Former Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti said, “If I could just be assured it was people who knew what they were doing and not (Redskins Owner) Dan Snyder and his people back there stuffing ballot boxes, like the old Cincinnati Reds back in the old days, I’d have no problem with it. But it’s fun and I think in the end, the actual, realistic players are going to make (the Pro Bowl).” Denver Post columnist Woody Paige: “If the Washington Redskins are smart enough to figure out how to manipulate the system, I’m all for them. Who’s voting in Houston or Tampa Bay?” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 11/20). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser: “If it's just coaches (voting), they're prejudiced. If it's just players, they're prejudiced. If it's just fans, they're prejudiced. Get rid of the Pro Bowl. ... It’s a junky game” (“PTI,” ESPN, 11/20).

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  • NBA Franchise Notes: Thunder Drawing Less-Than-Capacity Crowds

    Thunder Coming Up Short
    Of Sell-Outs At Ford Center
    In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel wrote fan response to the Thunder this season "certainly is not what we expected after the romance of the Hornets." Wednesday night's Clippers-Thunder game at the Ford Center was attended by 18,312 fans, 824 short of capacity, and that has "become their standard crowd." The team "would have had a sellout had management not made the still-strange decision to cap season-ticket sales." Tramel: "Prediction: the Thunder won't make that mistake again. ... I thought it would be a season sellout, and I think the Thunder management thought so, too." But if 18,200 is going to be the "bad crowds, then the [Thunder] are the least of the NBA's attendance problems" (NEWSOK.com, 11/20). Thunder fans have started booing the team, and ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "People in Oklahoma City should not be booing. They should be crawling on the ground to kiss the feet of the athletes who go to Oklahoma City to play pro ball” (“PTI,” ESPN, 11/20).

    SILENT WARRIOR: In Oakland, Monte Poole noted the Warriors have "spent the past couple of months going about their business" as if Warriors Exec VP/Basketball Operations Chris Mullin, who is in the final year of his contract, is "off in the distance, isolated, clinging to an impressive title but stripped of real power." Mullin is "seen but not heard," which is "odd for a lot of reasons." Since Warriors President Robert Rowell suspended G Monta Ellis for 30 games, it has been "all [Rowell], all the time," even when it involves a matter "directly related to basketball -- which theoretically falls under Mullin's authority." The relationship between the two "begs for clarity to ease minds and to end the choosing of sides among fans and observers" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 11/20).

    CASH-STRAPPED: In Atlanta, Kristi Swartz reports NBA President of League & Basketball Operations Joel Litvin Thursday testified that whether Texas business exec David McDavid "had enough cash on hand to support the money-losing Hawks would have been a concern for the NBA had the league received his application to buy the team." Court documents indicated that McDavid, who attempted to buy the Hawks, Thrashers and Philips Arena's operating rights from Turner Broadcasting in '03, had a net worth of $181M. The documents also showed that "about $80[M] of that was in cash -- $60[M] of which McDavid said he would pay up front to buy the teams." McDavid filed a $450M breach-of-content lawsuit against Turner for selling to the Atlanta Spirit, but Turner execs have testified that the Spirit was "a better deal for the media company, partly because the investors had the cash to do the deal" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/21).

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  • Franchise Notes

    Savage Apologizes To Fan
    Over E-Mail With Expletive
    In Akron, Patrick McManamon notes Browns Senior VP & GM Phil Savage this week "responded to some harsh and nasty words from a fan" during the Browns' win over the Bills on "MNF" by "advising the fan to root for Buffalo." Savage ended the e-mail with an "implied expletive, though he used symbols and did not spell the word." Savage said in a statement via Browns VP/Communications Bill Bonsiewicz, "It happened. We have both apologized to each other since." McManamon writes this "kind of thing ranks way up there on the embarrassing scale and simply should not happen." Such words "should not be directed to a fan from a front office of a professional football team, much less the guy running the front office" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 11/21). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser applauded Savage's reaction, but said, "He shouldn't have done it, and I'm sure today he realizes he should not have done it." ESPN's Michael Wilbon: "Any public response now is dicey" ("PTI," ESPN, 11/20).

    MOVING ON UP: While the Hurricanes "don't release season-ticket figures," the team said that it has "surpassed last year's total" this season. Hurricanes President & GM Jim Rutherford said that 10 of the RBC Center's 66 suites are "not leased for this season, although single-game suite rentals can offset that loss of revenue." Rutherford added that 22 suites were "up for renewal this year but that the net loss was four suites." Rutherford: "All in all, that's pretty good considering some companies merged or do not have the same (financial) circumstances." Hurricanes Dir of Corporate Sales Mike Hurley said the team is a "little ahead of where we were last year." Hurley added that "convincing corporate leaders to spend has become more difficult" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 11/21).

    CHICAGO HOPE: Blackhawks President John McDonough appeared on “Chicago Tribune Live” Thursday and discussed trying to turn the franchise around. McDonough: “Our fan base was indifferent, which is really worse than furious or angry. So we’ve gotten them to the point now where they’re curious and interested. They’re in the ‘show me’ phase, but what we have found out is that this hockey community is much, much greater than we had ever envisioned.” WSCR AM 670’s George Ofman: “I’m not that surprised that they’re selling out all the games." Fans were "waiting for some reason to come back. ... They were so alienated by the previous administration from Bill Wirtz to Bob Pulford and the product on the ice. All of these (changes) happened in the span of a few months” (CSN, 11/20).

    TURKEY TROT: In Detroit, Steve Schrader notes there is a threat that the Thanksgiving Day Titans-Lions game on CBS "will be blacked out" in Detroit, which would be "simply unacceptable." It "surely won't happen, though the game isn't a sellout yet," but even the "thought of that tradition being threatened -- a tradition other teams have coveted while the Lions and the NFL have protected it -- show just how bad things have gotten" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 11/21).

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