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SBD/Issue 129/FranchisesPrint All
Gillett Currently Holds 80.1%
Stake In Canadiens
NO OTHER CHOICE? The GLOBE & MAIL's Sean Gordon in a front-page piece writes though it "would appear no sale is imminent, the announcement comes at a time when the team's playoff future -- and the attendant millions it derives from postseason games -- hang in the balance." Sources said that while Gillett is "carrying considerable debt, it would be wiped out almost entirely were he to divest one of his marquee holdings such as the Canadiens or Liverpool." But so far no one "has been willing to meet the asking price for Liverpool and the Canadiens, which, along with the Bell Centre and Mr. Gillett's concert promoting business, are his best-performing assets" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/24). In Montreal, Pat Hickey reports while the Canadiens are "sold out for every game and Gillett has a thriving concert business based in Montreal, his other enterprises aren't faring as well," which is why he has "called in banks in four countries to evaluate his portfolio and advise him on the possible sale of assets." There is "no danger of the team following the Expos out of town," but there "has to be concern over who's next if Gillett leaves." Hickey writes RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie would be "on the top of my list of new owners," though sources indicated that Balsillie is "holding out hope he can buy any one of the many failing franchises in the U.S. and move it closer to his home" in Ontario (Montreal GAZETTE, 3/24).
Montreal Mayor Says Fans
Won't Let Canadiens Leave
GILLETT WOULD BE MISSED: The GAZETTE's Hickey writes if Gillett is "forced to sell the Canadiens, he will be missed." There was "apprehension in 2000 when Molson" sold the team to Gillett, an American. But the brewer "couldn't find a Canadian, let alone a Quebecer, to buy the team," and Gillett has been a "good owner" (Montreal GAZETTE, 3/24). In Montreal, Dave Stubbs notes less than four months after he "absolutely, even aggressively, denied any interest in selling the Canadiens, the hugely diversified Gillett might dispose of the club and its Bell Centre home should a buyer park enough zeroes in front of a decimal point." However, Gillett and his family since acquiring the team have "proven to be passionate, caring owners, treating the Canadiens as a public trust." Gillett now is "respected, even beloved," for buying the franchise (Montreal GAZETTE, 3/24). Canadiens LW Chris Higgins said of a possible sale, "We all want the Gillett family to stay with us -- they've done amazing things for our team and the organization -- but it's not going to change the way we play. I don't think it will affect us at all." Canadiens RW Georges Laraque said, "It doesn't matter if the team is for sale or not. As long as the team stays in Montreal, whoever owns it doesn't matter" (CP, 3/23).
LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN: In Toronto, Damien Cox noted the Canadiens would be the second NHL franchise to officially "go up for sale since the global economic crisis struck," as the Coyotes "have been for sale for several months." There also has been "great speculation about the future of the money-losing" Lightning. However, the Canadiens are an "entirely [different] proposition" (THESTAR.com, 3/23).
STILL KICKING: In Manchester, Andy Hunter notes Gillett has been looking to sell his 50% stake in Liverpool for "over a year and is under increasing financial pressure as the July deadline approaches" on paying back a US$515.85M refinancing loan he arranged with Liverpool co-Owner Tom Hicks. However, it is possible Gillett could "strengthen his role" with Liverpool, as money acquired from a sale of the Canadiens "would allow Gillett to meet the personal guarantees in the Anfield refinancing deal and continue his controversial ownership of the club" (Manchester GUARDIAN, 3/24).
If Bills Agree To Toronto Games For '10-12, Team
Would Play 25% Of Home Games Outside Buffalo
BORDER PATROL: In Toronto, Steve Simmons writes it is "indeed baffling that in the worst economic conditions in recent history that Rogers Communications has become even more aggressive in its pursuit" of the Bills. Simmons: "How else to interpret the Rogers' questionnaire, clearly attempting to increase the eight-game Bills series in Toronto to 11 [NFL] games between now and 2012? It becomes even more confounding when [the original deal] was a bad one from the beginning for Rogers -- we're told they lost $7[M] on the first NFL games in Toronto." If Toronto gains a second regular-season game during the three years, it "complicates the possibility of a sale to someone who would be playing 25% of its home schedule outside the country." Simmons notes a corporation "cannot own an NFL team," as an individual "must own at least 30% of a team's shares." Sources yesterday said that there are "still those willing to stand up and be the 30% owner of a Toronto franchise, but it isn't specifically known who that someone would be" (TORONTO SUN, 3/24).
Toronto Series GM Says Deal With Bills Could
Be Reopened To Add More Games In Toronto
FORWARD PROGRESS? NFL.com's Vic Carucci reported the NFL is "still sorting through potential opponents" to face the Bills in Toronto this season. A source indicated that the list "includes at least one team," the Buccaneers, but "that isn't nearly as sexy as" the Colts, who were previously reported as a possible opponent. The Colts were "one of the biggest-drawing cards on the Bills' schedule" because of QB Peyton Manning. However, the NFL "appears to be leaning more strongly in the direction of choosing an NFC team." It was "originally speculated that the league would make an announcement about the game during" the league's meetings currently taking place in Dana Point, California, this week, but that is "not expected to be the case" (NFL.com, 3/23).
Jones Believes New Stadium
Could Debut In Prime Time
Cowboys Reportedly Had AT&T Lined Up For
Stadium's Naming Rights, But Deal Put On Hold
John Stallworth Joins
Steelers Ownership Group
Johnson Won't Say How Much
He's Saving With Furloughs
The Jets are forcing 60 employees to take a two-week unpaid furlough this summer despite signing free-agent LB Bart Scott to a $48M contract and "arranging for private planes for his [GM] and head coach to go on scouting trips," but Owner Woody Johnson called the furloughs a "different deal," according to Gary Myers of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Johnson, making his first public comments on the furlough plan, said, "One is a salary cap and you have to spend. You have to put a product on the field. The other is getting ready for dealing with the financial reality, just like the NFL and just like every business in the U.S. The furlough is less drastic than actually letting people go." Johnson "wouldn't say how much he is saving other than it is 'enough that we didn't have to let people go.'" Johnson: "We could avoid it. When we come out of this, we will be better prepared." Meanwhile, Johnson said the Jets' PSL sales for the new Meadowlands stadium are "doing well," but he did not offer any numbers. Giants President & CEO John Mara yesterday said that 90% of his team's current season-ticket holders are "buying PSLs in the new stadium, although some are reducing the number of tickets they are purchasing." Mara: "We're pretty close to being sold out." Myers notes the Jets and Giants are "not close to a naming rights deal" for the new stadium. Giants co-Owner Steve Tisch: "It's a challenging time. It's a matter of patience, pursuit and timing" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/24).
Benson Confident Saints And Louisiana Will
Have Long-Term Lease In Place Soon
BUCKING BRONCOS: In Denver, Jim Armstrong reports the Broncos "haven't taken an economic hit" from the public fight between coach Josh McDaniels and QB Jay Cutler. The team is “wrapping up their season-ticket drive and feeling no effects from hard times among their fan base or hard feelings between their coach and quarterback.” Broncos Exec Dir of Ticket Operations Kirk Dyer indicated that the team has seen a 90% renewal rate for season tickets. Meanwhile, Armstrong notes Broncos players "have been told by Josh McDaniels not to talk about Cutler" (DENVER POST, 3/24).
STADIUM QUEST: Vikings VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley said that the team's stadium situation is "'rising on the agenda' of the NFL after the team provided league officials with an update on their quest to get public funding." In Minneapolis, Chip Scoggins notes Vikings and NFL officials yesterday at the owners meetings met to "discuss the stadium situation" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/24).
PERSONAL TOUCH: In Cincinnati, Joe Reedy reported with the Bengals ticket renewal deadline "drawing close," season-ticket holders are "getting an audio message from [QB] Carson Palmer either thanking them for renewing or reminding them to call the ticket office where [representatives] would work with them on payment plans" (CINCINNATI.com, 3/20).
Predators minority partner Herb Fritch Friday said that he has hired Nashville-based attorney Bob Tuke "because the complexities of ownership are much greater than when he first joined" the team in '07. Fritch added that the "financial stakes and additional guarantees placed on owners have risen," and the stock market's "decline has made his original $15[M] investment in the Predators a larger portion of his assets." Fritch: "I really don't like the notion that I feel like I've got to get to the point of having an attorney look things over for me. I've asked Bob to just be involved in all the different things between the bank agreements and the bankruptcy dealings with [former Predators investor William "Boots" Del Biaggio]. It's gotten more complex than I envisioned" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 3/21).
Bruins Exec Says Team Has
Renewed 95% Of Season Tickets
FUTURE OUTLOOK: In Buffalo, Bucky Gleason noted during the NHL GM meetings earlier this month it "became clear that the sorry economy could actually benefit teams such as" the Sabres, as the $56.7M salary cap will "likely stay the same next year or decrease to the $55[M] range." With the Sabres "a tad over" $50M this year, the team "actually is better prepared for the future than most teams" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/22). But in Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote for the Sabres, who are currently 10th in the Eastern Conference, missing the playoffs for a second season in a row in a "struggling Buffalo economy" could "really mean a dent in their 2009-10 box office." Dupont, referring to RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie, wrote all of this "would be added bad news for any entrepreneur -- someone with, say, a background in technology gadgetry -- dreaming of bringing another NHL team to southern Ontario" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/22).
LIFE ON THE ROAD: The Vancouver PROVINCE noted the Canucks' schedule for the '09-10 season will be impacted by the '10 Vancouver Games men's and women's hockey tournaments being played at GM Place from February 13-28, as the team will be "forced to vacate" the arena from January 28-March 6. Canucks VP/Hockey Operations & Assistant GM Laurence Gilman: "The league almost had to do our schedule in advance of the 29 other teams. We have issues and we want our schedule to be as efficient as possible given the extensive travel we're going to have" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 3/22).
Sources Say Hicks Willing To
Consider Minority Investors
EXPANSION PLANS: MLS Commissioner Don Garber in an e-mail to Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien yesterday said that the league "has no intention of abandoning Ottawa as an expansion franchise" despite awarding Vancouver and Portland expansion clubs for the '11 season. Garber said that MLS is "eager to 'expand our Canadian footprint' now that Toronto FC and Vancouver are in the fold." Garber: "Every element of the Ottawa application, as well as the ongoing interaction with [Senators Owner Eugene] Melnyk's group during the past year, has been nothing short of impressive. Add to this a vibrant soccer market in a city that holds a unique role as the nation's capital and there is no question that the league remains interested in bringing an MLS expansion team to Ottawa" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 3/24). Garber in the e-mail said that he "plans to continue to meet with Melnyk's group 'to discuss the next steps in the expansion process and the status of the stadium'" (OTTAWA SUN, 3/24).
SOCCER HOTBED: SOCCER BY IVES' Ives Galarcep wrote MLS' recent movement "toward the Pacific Northwest is about a league going where the fans are and where the passion for the sport is." Galarcep: "The reality is that the people in cities like Seattle, Vancouver and Portland genuinely love their soccer, and they are ready to embrace Major League Soccer with open arms" (SOCCERBYIVES.net, 3/23).
NO A+ FOR PR: In San Jose, Ann Killion writes A's Owner Lew Wolff "interrupted the building anticipation of spring training with a dismissive snub to his team's hometown," saying he would not pursue the building of a new ballpark in Oakland. The timing of Wolff's "missive -- a few weeks before opening day -- was baffling." Wolff has admitted that "season-ticket sales are down," and Killion writes, "The economy is in tatters. Almost anyone considering buying tickets to a ballgame could be easily talked out of such an expenditure" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 3/24).
JOINING THE CLUB: In Dallas, David Moore notes the Mavericks have become the "latest NBA team to announce a reduction in ticket prices for next season," as more than half of the seats at American Airlines Center "will cost less" in '09-10. Upper-level seats will be "reduced by $4 to $8," while lower-level seats will be "reduced by either $5 or $6 depending on their location" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/24).