SBD/Issue 145/Franchises

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  • Bob Johnson Vows Not To Move Bobcats, But May Sell To Jordan

    Jordan Currently Has One Of The Largest
    Minority Owner Shares In Bobcats
    Bobcats Owner Bob Johnson yesterday said that he "'absolutely, unequivocally' would never move the team out of Charlotte, but he left open the possibility of selling his majority stake" in the franchise to Bobcats Managing Member of Basketball Operations Michael Jordan, according to a front-page piece by Scott Fowler of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Johnson, who reportedly has told team investors to expect losses of about $35M over the next two years, said, "If Michael picked up the phone and said ‘I'm ready to be the Bobcats owner,' I'd be more than happy to talk to him about it. I couldn't think of a better owner to do it. It's really on his timetable, not on my timetable. If he has an interest in doing it, I'm convinced he could put together the economics to do it." Johnson disclosed that he owns slightly more than 70% of the team, which has close to 20 minority partners. Johnson noted that Jordan "had one of the largest shares in that group." Johnson also said that he would "be happy to do 'equity switch' with Jordan -- staying on as a minority partner if Jordan became the majority owner -- but that Jordan would have to 'put a lot of capital into that'" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/16). Johnson said Jordan is "not getting paid a plugged nickel" to work for the Bobcats. Johnson: "He draws no salary. Nada. He flies in and out at his own expense. He doesn't submit any expense reports." Meanwhile, Johnson said, "On the business side, next year I think we'll be more credible. We've gotten 20 new corporate sponsors over the past 12 months." Johnson also discussed the Charlotte Jumper Classic, an equestrian event at Time Warner Cable Arena that "took some possible home dates away" from the Bobcats during April. Johnson said, "We think we can choose another date. That will be firmed up in the next few weeks, but it's probably going to be moved to the fall" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/16).

    COMMUNITY REAX: At presstime, the Charlotte Observer article has generated 28 comments on the newspaper's Web site. One commenter writes Johnson "won't move the team but if he sold it to the right people it would be gone in a blink." Another commenter said, "Mr. Johnson may or may not move the Bobcats - of course he is going to say he will never move the team. The moment people think the team is going to move, revenues will sink even lower." Yet another commenter writes, "The writing is on the wall relative to Jordan becoming the eventual owner, and that's a good thing. ... MJ has the potential to be a very good owner, and I could see him becoming more beloved for his dedication to the community than his star status IF he spends the time here and lives here." Another wrote the "best move" for the team is to "sell Jordan the majority ownership rights" (, 4/16).

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  • Big Names May Team For Canadiens As Next Phase Of Bidding Begins

    Canadiens Owner Reportedly Into
    Second Round Of Bidding For Team
    A consortium of singer Celine Dion, Montreal businessman Stephen Bronfman and Quebecor Media Inc. President & CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau is "considering a joint bid" for the Canadiens, according to sources cited by Andrew Willis of the GLOBE & MAIL. Canadiens Owner George Gillett reportedly is into the "second round of bids for the team" and Bell Centre, and a source said that "potential buyers who made 'initial expressions of interest' now have full access to financial data on the Canadiens" and the arena. The aforementioned three-person consortium allegedly is "contemplating a dedicated pay-TV channel in Quebec that would carry" Canadiens games and other hockey-related content as a way to "increase revenues from the team." However, sources caution that it "will be difficult to strike a partnership that satisfies the strong personalities" of Dion and her husband, Rene Angelil, Bronfman and Peladeau. Sources also noted that Cirque du Soleil Founder Guy Laliberte "dropped out of the bidding" last week. While sources said that public pension firm Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec is "not expected to be an equity investor" in the team, potential buyers are pitching the firm "for loans that would help finance the purchase, and are also trying to borrow from a number of major banks" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/16). 

    KEEP IT LOCAL: A Toronto Star-Angus Reid online poll indicated that 74% of Quebec residents said that "it's important" Gillett sells the team to someone from the province. From a given list of possible buyers, 35% of respondents said that they would like to see former Canadiens GM Serge Savard acquire the team, while 12% supported Laliberte and 9% chose Dion and Angelil. Another 16% said that it "made no difference who bought the team." Also, while 43% of respondents said that the provincial government "would be justified in lending money to local investors to buy the Canadiens," 39% opposed the idea (TORONTO STAR, 4/16).

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  • Enthusiasm Builds Over Blue Jackets' First Playoff Appearance

    Blue Jackets GM Says Playoffs Add Credibility
    To Franchise, Help Win Fans' Trust Back
    The excitement over the Blue Jackets-Red Wings Stanley Cup Playoffs series starting tonight at Joe Louis Arena "may be more palpable in Columbus" than Detroit, as the Blue Jackets are making their first playoff appearance, according to Bill McGraw of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. The standard explanation for the "relative nonchalance in Hockeytown is that the Wings getting in the playoffs has become as predictable each spring as the potholes returning to Orchard Lake Road." McGraw notes you could "scan the radio dial Wednesday and pick up nothing on the Red Wings' playoff opener," and you could "walk up to the Joe Louis box office and ask about tickets for tonight's game and the man would tell you, 'We've got a little bit at every price'" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 4/16). The GLOBE & MAIL's Tim Wharnsby writes the timing of the Blue Jackets' first playoff appearance "could not have been better," as the franchise "had seen attendance dip substantially last fall to crowds of under 12,000." Now, there is a "buzz in the air." Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson: "I know some said that if we didn't make the playoffs this year, the franchise was going to die. I never believed that. But the playoffs add credibility to the franchise and (help) winning that trust back. The fans have been disappointed and were somewhat cynical because they had been disappointed too often." Blue Jackets TV analyst Danny Gare: "This is a market that started out real well, probably because of the newness of it. ... The notoriety wore off. They had to make changes to make the playoffs" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/16). The Blue Jackets also saw significant gains during the second half playoff run, as home attendance jumped 15.9% for the 22 homes games after January 11. The chart below lists average attendance for the franchise since it began play in the '00-01 season (THE DAILY).

    Season Canceled

    SIGN OF THE TIMES: The GLOBE & MAIL's Matthew Sekeres notes the Canucks "did not announce a sell out as per usual" for last night's Blues-Canucks Western Conference quarterfinal game one. The GM Place atmosphere was "excellent, but some sections of the lower bowl may not have been too flattering on television." The weekday game "clearly ... was a difficult sell" in this economic climate, as ticket prices "soared 40[%] on average, and 60[%] in some of the high-end seats, some priced at $382" (, 4/16).

    BREAKING THE HAB-IT? In Montreal, Anne Sutherland noted the Canadiens-Bruins Eastern Conference quarterfinal series starts tonight, but "unlike last year, souvenir shops and other magnets for fans are doing lackadaisical business" in Montreal. At The Habs Zone at Bell Centre Tuesday, there were "few customers" (Montreal GAZETTE, 4/15).

    DON'T GIVE UP: In Pittsburgh, Rob Rossi reports NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who last night attended game one of the Flyers-Penguins quarterfinal series, "downplayed speculation of troubled franchises" in the U.S. and "preached patience regarding" the Coyotes. Bettman: "What everybody can learn from the Pittsburgh situation is don't take a snapshot, don't speculate and don't write off franchises, because when things are looking bleak, it doesn't mean that franchises, when you solve their problems, can't be fixed and saved" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 4/16).

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  • Jets Upset Two Home Games Coincide With Jewish Holidays

    The Jets yesterday called the NFL office to "complain about their first two home games of the 2009 season being scheduled for Rosh Hashanah and then hours before the start of Yom Kippur, the two holiest holidays in the Jewish calendar," according to Gary Myers of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. NFL Senior VP/Broadcasting & Media Operations Howard Katz, who "oversees the creation" of the NFL's schedule that was released Tuesday, said, "There was miscommunication between the Jets and the NFL office, for which I take full responsibility. All we can continue to do is look and see if there is a solution to this." Myers notes the Giants "requested the NFL put them on the road Sept. 20 and Sept. 27, the second and third weeks of the season," and Katz said that the Jets "also requested not to play at home on those days, but the message did not get through" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/16).'s Adam Schein wrote, "How in the world does the NFL schedule two Jets home games on Jewish holidays in back-to-back weeks against the Patriots and Titans in Weeks 2 and 3?" The league "should have at least made things easier with" a 1:00pm ET kickoff against the Titans instead of 4:15pm, as Yom Kippur begins at sundown that day. Meanwhile, the NFL scheduled Chargers-Titans on Christmas Day, a Friday, and Schein wrote, "Does the NFL really need to play on Christmas on a Friday night when there are never games scheduled on Fridays?" (, 4/15). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote scheduling the games in conjunction with Jewish holidays "might not be an issue in other cities, but it's apparently a huge deal in New York." Florio: "Look for the league office to be swamped with complaints over this one" (, 4/14).

    SCHEDULE NOTES: Katz said the league talked to the Bills about playing their Bills Toronto Series game, which will be played against the Jets, on a Thursday night. Katz: "There were a number of opponents that were considered there. We thought the division game was pretty good and the reception that we got from the Bills, the response, was pretty positive. So it is actually the first that I am hearing that they would have preferred not to have a division game up there" (, 4/15)....In Baltimore, David Steele writes "everybody in town wants to know why the Ravens come off an AFC championship game appearance and are on national television only three times." Steele: "Offense sells tickets. Offensive players bring in ratings. Quarterbacks bring more juice than linebackers. ... Defense is why the Ravens are the Ravens, and that has never made any team in any sport must-see TV" (Baltimore SUN, 4/16).

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  • Phillies To Launch Extended Tribute To Kalas At Friday's Game

    Phillies To Have Moment
    Of Silence For Kalas
    The Phillies tomorrow night will honor late broadcaster Harry Kalas during their game against the Padres, the first game at Citizens Bank Park since Kalas' death Monday, according to Andy Martino of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. Kalas' sons Todd, Brad and Kane will "throw out the ceremonial first pitches," and Kane will sing the national anthem. The first half-inning of the game on CSN Philadelphia "will feature no commentary" and an "extended moment of silence" for Kalas. All fans in attendance "will receive an 8-by-10 color photograph of Kalas," and during the seventh-inning stretch, a video of Kalas singing "High Hopes," his signature song, will be shown at the stadium. Kalas' signature will be "displayed on the field during the seven-game homestand beginning tomorrow," and throughout the homestand, a "black drape will hang in front of the Phillies' radio and television booths, and the Phillies' flag in Ashburn Alley will be at half-staff." A circular "HK" patch has been sewn onto the "front of the Phillies' jerseys and will remain there for the entire season." The Phillies also will name the TV booth at the ballpark the Harry Kalas Broadcast Booth, joining the radio booth, which is named for Kalas' former partner, late Phillies broadcaster Richie Ashburn (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/16). A billboard honoring Kalas "will be displayed on the outfield wall" for the rest of the season, and after every Phillies home run, his "Outta here!" call "will be played over the public-address system as the Liberty Bell lights up" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/16). In Philadelphia, John Gonzalez wrote, "It's sad and impossible to accept that Harry won't call another game. But he can still serenade us, and what a comfort that would be" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/15).

    NEXT STEPS: In Philadelphia, Paul Hagen notes the Phillies "haven't announced how they'll revamp their broadcast rotation to cover for Kalas, who did the first three innings on television, the fourth on radio, took two innings off, and then finished the game back on TV." For now, Phillies announcer Tom McCarthy "will do all nine innings as the play-by-play man, with Chris Wheeler working the first three and last three innings as the color commentator and Gary Matthews the middle three." There is "no indication whether that's the permanent plan, although it wouldn't be surprising to see that setup for the remainder of the season" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/16). Also in Philadelphia, Frank Fitzpatrick writes the Phillies are a "franchise looking for a face," and they "haven't faced this kind of problem in at least 60 years." If the team stays in-house, McCarthy, who joined the team last season, "seems a logical choice" to replace Kalas. McCarthy is a "little too chatty for some but long on likability," though he "hasn't yet been exposed enough here for fans to have formed solid opinions or connections" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/16).

    ENDLESS PRAISE: The DAILY NEWS' Hagen wrote Kalas was a "genuine, largely uncomplicated man who loved baseball and loved people." Hagen: "Sadly, they don't seem to make them that way very often anymore" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/15).'s Peter King wrote Kalas was a "classy, personable guy who never thought the game or the story was about him." King: "I thought it was great that he took his last breath doing what he loved to do -- broadcast a baseball game" (, 4/14).

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  • NBA Franchise Notes: Grizzlies Losing Relevance In Memphis

    Writer Says Grizzlies Have
    Become Almost Irrelevant
    In Memphis, Geoff Calkins writes this "wasn't just another lousy season" for the Grizzlies, this was the "season the team became almost totally irrelevant." Calkins wonders, "When's the last time you ... felt really passionate about the Grizzlies?" A story about the Univ. of Memphis men's basketball team on the paper's Web site "will generate 400 comments," while a story about the Grizzlies "will generate four, possibly." Memphis fans "stopped caring about the Grizzlies because they perceived that management stopped caring about the Grizzlies." This is the summer for Grizzlies Owner Michael Heisley "to change that" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 4/16).

    AHEAD OF THE PACE: In Indianapolis, Mike Wells notes the Pacers "were one of two NBA franchises to increase attendance by at least" 10% this season, and Pacers co-Owner Herb Simon said, "We spent money finding out what upset the fans. We had focus groups and everything. We tried to correct what turned the fans off. The style of play the coach has put in is something the fans like. I'd rather have 16,000 people pay a little less than 13,000 paying a lot. It's something we had to give back to our loyal fans. We want them to come as often as they can. We just felt we had to lower prices." Simon added, "I think we've made a lot of progress this year, despite the fact we didn't make the playoffs" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 4/16).

    JOB OPENING: T'Wolves Owner Glen Taylor said that the team's new top basketball exec "will select the next head coach." Taylor: "If I'm going to have a person in charge of basketball operations, I want that person to be comfortable with who is going to coach here." Taylor said of possible candidates for the position, "Basically, we've had a number of candidates, but we probably have four outside candidates, so we'll have six people that will go through the whole process." Taylor said that T'Wolves GM Jim Stack and Assistant GM Fred Hoiberg are the "inside candidates" for the job (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/16).

    DISAPPEARING ACT: In California, Marcus Thompson III wrote Warriors Exec VP/Basketball Operations Chris Mullin, "once the face of the franchise for the second time in a generation, has practically disappeared." Mullin is "expected to be gone completely." Team sources indicated that Mullin's days as the franchise's "head basketball honcho are numbered." The situation has "many fans and NBA insiders scratching their heads" (CONTRA COSTA TIMES, 4/13).

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