SBD/Issue 96/Franchises

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  • Beckham For First Time Says He Wants To Leave Galaxy For Milan

    Beckham Enjoys Highest Level
    Of Competition In Italy
    Galaxy MF David Beckham yesterday "said quite plainly what he had been hinting at for weeks -- that he wants out -- and that he wants to stay with AC Milan," according to Grahame Jones of the L.A. TIMES. Beckham: "I have expressed my desire now to stay in Milan and hopefully the clubs can come to some agreement. My main objective is stay at this club. I enjoy playing here and at the highest level." Beckham added that remaining in Milan would give him "'more of a chance' of being on England's team at the World Cup in South Africa next year." Beckham: "I have not spoken to the Galaxy, but someone has from my side and it is literally down to them to come to some sort of agreement and hopefully they will." Jones notes Beckham is due to return to the Galaxy on March 9. The Galaxy yesterday did not comment on Beckham's future. AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke "earlier promised season-ticket holders that Beckham would be back," but with Beckham "having stated his desire to remain in Italy, the more likely scenario is that Beckham will get his wish" (L.A. TIMES, 2/5). Beckham: "It's nothing against MLS and the football over there, because it's a game that will grow. But it will take quite a few years" (London TELEGRAPH, 2/5).

    NOT WANTING TO BURN BRIDGES: Beckham admitted that he is "not sure" how the Galaxy would respond to the news and that he is "wary of upsetting Leiweke, with whom he has had a good relationship." In London, Graham Spiers reports AC Milan attorney Leandro Cantamessa yesterday "joined forces with Beckham's advisers in discussion" with Leiweke about releasing Beckham from his MLS contract. A permanent move to Milan by Beckham "would not fall foul of UEFA's transfer window restrictions if Galaxy agreed to cancel his contract" (LONDON TIMES, 2/5). Also in London, Nick Harris writes with Galaxy's blessing, a permanent transfer "should be agreed quickly, in which case Milan would need to pay Galaxy a transfer fee." Beckham has a "get-out clause in his Galaxy contract but cannot trigger it without financial penalties until October" (London INDEPENDENT, 2/5).

    POWER PLAY: SI.com's Jonah Freedman writes for the "first time in MLS history, the Galaxy have huge leveraging power over one of the preeminent soccer clubs in the entire world." The Galaxy "may have no choice but to let Beckham go, but they also have a unique opportunity to hold him hostage until they get something from Milan -- something beyond the eight-figure cash offer that inevitably will be [thrown] their way." Freedman lists "three bargaining chips the Galaxy can demand" from Milan: a suitable replacement player, a visit from Milan and a "beneficial partnership" (FANNATION.com, 2/5).

    Beckham Boosted Attendance 
    Throughout MLS While With Galaxy
    WAS IT WORTH IT? In Philadelphia, John Smallwood writes "The Great Beckham Experiment" in MLS has not had "nearly the impact anyone had hoped for." The intentions for bringing Beckham to the Galaxy "were good, but the truth is, he was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time." Smallwood: "If you look at it from the broad view, Beckham's move to MLS must be deemed a failure. Yes, he's increased sales of Herbalife LA Galaxy jerseys and helped attendance leaguewide, but his coming was supposed to be a game-changer for MLS" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 2/5). YAHOO SPORTS' Martin Rogers wrote the Galaxy saga will be an "incongruous blip on his career record." Rogers: "Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan ... the Los Angeles Galaxy. In short, the biggest club in England, the biggest club in Spain, the biggest club in Italy and the 13th-best club in Major League Soccer." The Galaxy deserves "no sympathy in the affair and must accept a heavy dose of blame for the way the Beckham experiment degenerated into a farce." The club's "inability to build a team capable of anything more than repeatedly pathetic performances, despite the biggest payroll in the league, exposed the true priorities of the ownership group." Rogers: "As a money-making venture, the Galaxy must be viewed as a success. ... But as a sports organization it is rotten, having cannibalized itself with the wrong decisions made for the wrong reasons" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/4). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw: “His work is not quite done in lifting the MLS up to the level he wants it” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 2/4).

    HE BROUGHT ATTENTION TO LEAGUE: ESPN's Tommy Smyth deemed Beckham’s time with the Galaxy as a success. Smyth: "What other player in MLS can bring the world’s attention to look at MLS? ... This man was everywhere, in every newspaper you got and every magazine. It was a success, maybe not football-wise, but certainly from a marketing point of view.” While admitting MLS will "take a hit" with the loss of Beckham, Smyth said, "The league’s only an infant league. It has a lot of time to go. They will miss David Beckham, but it’s not the end of the world” ("ESPN First Take," ESPN2, 2/5).

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  • Bettman Plays Down Coyotes Concerns, Praises Owner Moyes

    Bettman Feels Sun Belt Franchises
    Can Succeed, Winning The Key
    NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman last night appeared via telephone on FS Arizona's broadcast of Coyotes-Red Wings and said most of the "tremendous amount of speculation and commentary about the state of the Coyotes ... has been terribly unfair to the Coyotes' organization, to the players and most importantly, the fans." Bettman: "Obviously, there are some issues that we're working on in terms of getting a new capital infusion for the club which will probably take the form of some new partners for (Coyotes Owner) Jerry Moyes or even a possible sale of the franchise, but these reports about the franchise's demise are just ridiculous." Bettman added Moyes is committed to both the team and the city of Glendale, where Jobing.com Arena is located. Bettman: "He's been a real good guy and he's somebody who believes that the Coyotes' future, as do I, is in Glendale." Bettman added he thinks "all of this blanket categorization of 'hockey doesn't work in the Sun Belt' is complete hogwash." Bettman: "We have a lot of great fans throughout the Sun Belt. … I think the Coyotes have a bright future on the ice and I think fans are going to respond even increasingly to that." Bettman also said in markets where attendance is down, it is "normally directly related to a team that's been struggling on the ice for a long period of time." Bettman: "As the Coyotes get increasingly competitive, which they are, the attendance will increase which is what you're seeing this season" (FS Arizona, 2/4). Meanwhile, NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly last night at the Conn Smythe Celebrities Dinner & Auction in Toronto expressed the opposite outlook on the Coyotes as Bettman.

    KEEPING IT CLOSE TO THE VEST: The GLOBE & MAIL's Patricia Best reports the "word circulating among business people in Calgary" is that English Coca-Cola Football League Championship club Derby County co-Owner Brett Wilson "is trying to snag ownership" of the Coyotes. When asked about his interest in the Coyotes, Wilson would only refer to the city of Phoenix and said twice, "I've been there, I've golfed there." Best notes Wilson has "come right out and said he's interested in owning a piece" of the Predators, and he "has made no secret over the years of his desire to own a couple of NHL teams." Wilson in October said, "Would I be interested in buying into the Predators? In a heartbeat, yeah. The NHL knows I'm interested. I've supplied all the paperwork" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/5).

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  • Rooneys In Talks To Possibly Add Another Investor For Steelers

    Rooney Reportedly Looking To Add
    Philadelphia Native As Fourth Investor
    The Rooney family "may bring on an additional investment partner as it seeks to complete a new ownership structure that consolidates" the Steelers into the hands of Chair Dan Rooney and President Art Rooney II, according to Timothy McNulty of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. Michigan-based private equity firm Equity 11 Managing Partner J.B. Smith yesterday confirmed that he is in "investment talks with the Rooney clan, after he was viewed at the Steelers victory party and other Super Bowl events over the weekend." Smith "would not say how much he is putting into the team, but said it was 'a sizable investment' in the tens of millions of dollars." Smith, a Philadelphia native, said, "I could invest in other places with better returns, but I want to help these guys out so they keep control." McNulty notes Smith would be the fourth new major investment partner since Dan and Art took control of the team. Smith "would not describe his role in the investment team, but said it was due to be finalized by March 31, the closing date the Rooneys gave the NFL." Equity 11 owns companies including identity theft prevention firm iSekurity and Ecology Coatings. The proposed Steelers investment "would be from a division of Equity 11 called Reign Sports" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 2/5).

    CELEBRATORY COSTS: Pittsburgh Public Safety Dir Michael Huss said that the city "spent $79,500 to deploy 258 police officers and legions of clean-up crews" for the Steelers Super Bowl XLIII victory parade, which drew an estimated 350,000 people on Tuesday. In Pittsburgh, Jeremy Boren notes the Steelers "did not contribute any money, and the team did not return a call seeking comment." After the team's win Sunday, fans "flooded city streets," and costs were "higher in part because of overtime shifts and use of police, firefighters and other personnel." Huss said that the money to "cover both celebrations will come from an annual allocation the state gives Pittsburgh to host 'regional events'" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 2/5).

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  • Was Gregg Popovich Inconsiderate Of Fans In Sitting Spurs Stars?

    Spurs' Decision To Sit Healthy Tony Parker (l)
    Does Not Go Over Well With Fans In Denver
    Spurs Fs Tim Duncan and Michael Finley and Gs Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker were healthy scratches from Tuesday's game against the Nuggets, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made a "joke of an NBA game more than 18,000 people paid good money to see," according to the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS' Dave Krieger, who writes under the header, "Popovich Rips Off Nuggets Fans." When a fan buys a ticket to a Spurs-Nuggets regular-season game, "you're paying for Tim Duncan & Co," to play when healthy. Krieger notes he received a message from a fan who paid about $500 to attend the game with his family to celebrate his birthday, but instead watched what the fan called "an NBADL game." Krieger writes the "disregard Popovich showed for the fans still willing to drop these ridiculous sums in very tough economic times is simply astounding. And repugnant. And repulsive." Popovich "gave the old single-finger salute to NBA fans and got away with it free and clear." Krieger: "Just imagine if Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had done what Popovich did" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 2/5).

    OUT OF LINE? ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser: “If I went to that game in Denver and I paid probably $300 for two seats, at least, and they gave me (Spurs G) Roger Mason Jr. … and I missed out on all the great talent, I’d be very upset because how many times am I going to go to a game?” He added, “If you’re David Stern, you have to care about the ticket-buyer. So strategically, (Popovich) may have done the right thing, but I’m not sure anybody in the league is happy” (“PTI,” ESPN, 2/4). FANHOUSE.com's Brett Pollakoff wrote, "What about the fans? What about all of those people that voted to have the game televised on NBATV?" (FANHOUSE.com, 2/4). ESPN’s J.A. Adande: “It’s disappointing to the fans in Denver who paid their money. (But) guess what? Gregg Popovich does not have to answer to the fans of Denver. He has to answer to his owner and his Spurs fans, and he’s doing what’s best for them.” Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan: “There’s no sympathy for the fans in Denver because anyone who buys a ticket in pro sports it’s ‘Caveat emptor.’ You take your chances” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 2/4).

    BAD PRECEDENT TO SET: In San Antonio, Buck Harvey writes the NBA should "hope others don't copy this, and so should Spurs fans." Maybe the Cavaliers for the February 27 road game against the Spurs should rest F LeBron James the "only night he's in San Antonio" this season. But Harvey writes, "How can the NBA lecture Popovich about hurting the product -- when the league hurts it more?" The NBA "can't fine a franchise for not playing certain players, especially after an inactive list replaced a system that once encouraged teams to invent phantom injuries" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 2/5).

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  • Predators In Talks To Add Calgary Banker As Investor

    Wilson In Discussions
    With Predators Ownership
    Coca-Cola Football League Championship club Derby County co-Owner Brett Wilson "might be about to take a position in the Predators," according to Gordon & Maki of the GLOBE & MAIL. Wilson is "keenly interested in buying into the Predators given his business connections in [Nashville] and affinity for hockey fans there." He confirmed that he met with Predators Owner David Freeman last week in Nashville and that they "spoke again this week." Wilson: "We're still returning each other's phone calls but nothing's finalized. We'll see what happens in a week." Wilson previously has said that his "eventual share in the Predators would be 'nominal.'" Gordon & Maki note with "efforts under way by Freeman and his co-owners to recoup the 27[%] share" belonging to former team investor William "Boots" Del Biaggio III, it "wouldn't be a stretch to imagine Wilson increasing his involvement." Wilson also "leads a consortium" that owns the Double-A Southern League West Tenn Diamond Jaxx. Gordon & Maki write if the Predators opportunity "doesn't pan out there may be other options for Wilson," as Wilson said that he has been "contacted 'by an investment banker' about investing in the financially troubled Phoenix Coyotes, who are effectively up for sale" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/5). 

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  • Comcast-Spectacor Sells AHL Phantoms To Brooks Group

    Comcast-Spectacor has reached an agreement to sell the AHL Philadelphia Phantoms to Pittsburgh-based Brooks Group. Comcast-Spectacor will continue to operate the Phantoms until the conclusion of the '08-09 season, the team's last at the Wachovia Spectrum. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Brooks Group owns the ECHL Wheeling Nailers and has ownership interests in the Pirates, Penguins, Double-A Eastern League Altoona Curve, Single-A New York-Penn League State College Spikes and Single-A Carolina League Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Comcast-Spectacor). Brooks Group's Jim and Rob Brooks in August confirmed that "their preference is to have an arena built in Allentown to be the new home of the Phantoms as well as community entertainment events" (Allentown MORNING CALL, 2/5). In Pennsylvania, Anthony Sanfilippo reports a deal is in place for Comcast-Spectacor's Global Spectrum to "manage a new facility" for Brooks Group, "guaranteeing at least 170 year-round jobs in the new building, as well as several events aside from minor league hockey." A source said that an announcement "will come one week from today in Allentown," and is "expected to lay out the details of a public-private partnership between" Brooks Group, Lehigh County and the state of Pennsylvania (DELAWARE COUNTY TIMES, 2/5).

    SKATING AWAY: Comcast-Spectacor President & COO Peter Luukko said of the sale, "Emotionally, it's disappointing, but we have to make good, viable business decisions. Every business venture has a viable lifespan and (the team) was becoming less and less viable, and over the next 10 years it was going to require millions of dollars to operate." In Philadelphia, Ed Moran notes the move was "prompted by the planned development of the Wachovia Center area into a shopping and entertainment complex." Luukko said that the team "needed a new home and the immediate Philadelphia, Trenton or Atlantic City area just wouldn't work" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 2/5). 

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  • Pistons' Home Sellout Streak At Palace Ends At 259 Games

    Pistons Were 356 Fans Short Of
    Continuing Home Sellout Streak
    The Pistons' home sellout streak of 259 games at the Palace of Auburn Hills ended last night against the Heat, according to Vince Ellis of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. The streak began January 19, 2004, and Palace Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Tom Wilson "cited the economy as the main reason for [the] streak's end." Wilson: "It was coming. We knew that at the beginning of the year with the economy being what it is, we knew it was coming. We didn't know how long we could get through." Last night's official attendance was 21,720, 356 short of the Palace's 22,076-seat capacity. Previous games "may have looked like non-sellouts with many empty seats," but Wilson said that "all tickets were sold and fans just didn't feel like paying the extra costs of things like parking and concessions." The Pistons have lost nine of their last 13 games and have a 26-21 record. Wilson: "Now we have a hell of a target to shoot for down the road" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 2/5). Wilson added, "We are still leading the league (in attendance) which is great, but the last few weeks have been really tough." In Detroit, Chris McCosky reports the Pistons have led the league in attendance five straight years, and Wilson said that he "expects they will again this season." Wilson: "The tickets have been sold. But I think more and more, people are making the decision not to come (to the arena). If our record was better it probably would have prolonged the streak" (DETROIT NEWS, 2/5).

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  • Franchise Notes

    Fire Sued For Only Playing Two Matches
    During Planned Three-Match Mexican Tour
    In Chicago, Luis Arroyave reported Mexico-based soccer promoter Administradora de Proyectos Neomed (APN), which promoted the MLS Fire's preseason tour of Mexico in '08, "is suing the MLS club for breach of contract." APN President Gustavo Parente, who filed the lawsuit last week, "claims the Fire broke its agreement when it failed to play the third match of a three-game tour." The company in the lawsuit claims that the Fire "told APN it was canceling the rescheduled match so the Fire could concentrate on the MLS season," and that APN "had already paid for airline tickets and hotel reservations in advance." The lawsuit states APN "has been damaged in an amount in excess of $500,000, to be determined at trial" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/3). Meanwhile, Arroyave today notes EPL club Fulham FC, the former club of Fire F Brian McBride, "attempted to acquire [McBride] before last Monday's transfer deadline." But Fire Technical Dir Frank Klopas said that the offer "was turned down because it didn't make sense for the Fire" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/5).

    DEEP FREEZE: The Wild yesterday announced that the team will not raise season-ticket prices for the '09-10 season or the '09 Stanley Cup playoffs. Current Wild season-ticket prices range from $18-86 per game. The team has 16,500 season-ticket holders and more than 7,500 deposit holders on a waiting list. The Wild have the longest current sellout streak in the NHL at 350, including preseason and playoff games (Wild). In Minneapolis, John Shipley notes if the team makes the playoffs, tickets will range from $32-100 "for a first-round series, rising to between $65 and $183 if the Wild make the Stanley Cup Finals" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 2/5).

    COUNTRY TWANG: KUKLASKORNER.com's Dirk Hoag noted the Predators after the conclusion of the Super Bowl broadcast locally aired a new ad featuring musician Taylor Swift. The promo is "another example of how the new ownership group is bringing fresh energy to their advertising campaign, and doing a fine job getting their message out to the broader audience" (KUKLASKORNER.com, 2/2).

    SUCH A MAVERICK: In Dallas, David Moore reported the NBA office told Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban that it "will not allow him to make a donation to charity in" Nuggets G J.R. Smith's name. Cuban last month was fined $25,000 "for what the league termed 'improper interaction' with" Smith, and "whenever Cuban is fined by the league, he consistently matches that amount and donates to charity." But making a donation in Smith's name "was a dig at the league, one the league chose not to play along with" (DALLASNEWS.com, 2/2).

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