SBD/Issue 152/Franchises

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  • NHL Panthers In Merger Negotiations With Sports Properties

    Panthers' Potential Merger Deal
    Values Assets At $230M
    The NHL Panthers are "in negotiations to merge the team, its arena management company and rights to the real estate surrounding BankAtlantic Center with Sports Properties Acquisition Corp.," according to sources cited by Daniel Kaplan of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Sources said that the "potential deal values the assets at $230[M], including debt, with the plum in the talks a planned mixed-use development around the south Florida arena." Sources said that negotiations "have been taking place over the last several weeks." Medallion Financial Corp. President Andrew Murstein, who owns 18.1% of Sports Properties, and the Panthers declined to comment. Sources indicated that as part of the prospective deal, the Panthers' parent company, Sunrise Sports & Entertainment, "would receive stock in Sports Properties, making the hockey team a unit of the public company." Sources said that Sports Properties is "still looking at other assets in sports, including" the Canadiens. However, the Canadiens are "being auctioned and there are at least 10 parties that have been reported as looking to buy" the franchise. Sports Properties is "believed to be the only entity negotiating with the Panthers" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/27 issue).

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  • Vikings Draft WR Percy Harvin Despite Recent Off-Field Issues

    Recent Report Says Harvin Tested
    Positive For Marijuana At Combine
    The Vikings have "made it clear they value character in their players, but they also put a premium on playmaking ability," and by selecting WR Percy Harvin with the No. 22 pick in Saturday's NFL Draft, they "took the calculated risk that [he] will be able to deliver in the latter area, while putting any questions about the former behind him," according to Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Several NFL teams reportedly decided not to draft Harvin "because of issues surrounding his character," including a recent report that he tested positive for marijuana at the February NFL combine. But Vikings coach Brad Childress last week visited Harvin and "apparently came away satisfied with what he learned after spending time with Harvin and his family." Vikings Owner Zygi Wilf said that the team has conducted the "due diligence necessary to answer any questions they had about Harvin." Wilf: "We've got the players that have made our team a team of character, and I think he'll be a great addition" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/26). NFL Network's Mike Mayock reported the team had to get “permission” to select him because the owner has to “buy off on the character concerns" (NFL Network, 4/25). ESPN's Michael Smith noted the Vikings discussed Harvin with Wilf until Saturday morning "to make sure he signed off on it" (ESPN, 4/26).

    BUYER BEWARE: In Minneapolis, Jim Souhan wrote under the header, "Harvin Just Latest In List Of Gambles By Vikings." Harvin "is a risk," and fans can "worry about his history with drugs, injuries and temper tantrums." But "virtually every draft pick is a risk," and the Vikings "were right to gamble" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/26). ESPN’s Smith said, “Since Brad Childress got their in ’06, his main job -- more than winning football games -- has been cleaning up the image of that organization. … You have to give them the benefit of the doubt that they did their homework on this guy” (ESPN, 4/26). ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Childress in his meeting with Harvin asked him about "all the issues that they have heard about this guy and then (came) away with some type of peace that they can take him." Mortensen: "They obviously did their homework, still buyer beware here" (ESPN, 4/25). Childress admitted that he "might not have been willing to take on a player with Harvin's baggage during the early part of his tenure in Minnesota" (ESPN.com, 4/26). NFL Net's Mayock said of the selection, "That is a bold, bold move" (NFL Network, 4/25). In St. Paul, Tom Powers wrote of Harvin, "With your future on the line, who chances toking up like that before the combine? That's not real smart." But a college student smoking pot is "no big deal" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 4/26).

    Tate Says Testing Positive For Marijuana
    At Combine "A Mistake"
    BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER? The Patriots yesterday selected WR Brandon Tate in the third round after Tate also tested positive for marijuana at the combine. Tate: "I know I had made a mistake, and all that is behind me" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/27). ESPN's Mortensen: "What’s interesting ... is we know (the Patriots) don’t generally take what we would call ‘dumb players’ so they’ve done their homework on him, I assume" (ESPN, 4/26). SI.com's Andrew Perloff wrote it seems that "'character issues' are another opportunity for the wise teams to get more value out of a pick," and the Patriots are "better at choosing personnel than anyone, and they seem to add character risk every year now." If a team has "strong enough leadership, adding character issue players is clearly not a problem" (FANNATION.com, 4/26).

    BENGALS NOT WORRIED: The Bengals Saturday drafted OT Andre Smith and LB Rey Maualuga, both who have dealt with off-field issues, and YAHOO SPORTS' Matthew Darnell wrote with the "character problems that have plagued" the Bengals, they "might occasionally want to think about that during the NFL Draft" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/26). But Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said of selecting Smith, "We didn’t have any hesitation. We discussed this very thoroughly" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 4/26).

    WHAT A CHARACTER: In California, Loren Nelson examines Chargers first-round pick LB Larry English under the header, "Character Quality Key Component of Chargers' Top Pick." It is "not often that a top draft pick and instant multimillionaire travels halfway across the country for a one-day meet-and-greet with his new employers and brings his parents, younger sister, grandfather, aunt and uncle along for the ride." But English's visit was a "touching scene" and "came off as genuine." Chargers coach Norv Turner said English is "as good a person as you are going to want to have on your football team" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 4/27). Meanwhile, in K.C., Kent Babb examined Chiefs first-round pick DE Tyson Jackson under the header, "Chiefs Go For Solid Citizen In Jackson With Top Pick" (K.C. STAR, 4/26).

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  • Yankees' Levine Fires Back At Garber After Empty Seats Comment

    Levine Describes Garber's Discussion
    Of Yankees' Attendance As A Joke
    A day after MLS Commissioner Don Garber commented on the empty seats at the new Yankee Stadium, Yankees President Randy Levine “blasted back,” according to the AP. Levine: “Don Garber discussing Yankee attendance must be a joke. We draw more people in a year than his entire league does in a year. If he ever gets [MLS] into the same time zone as the Yankees, we might take him seriously.” Levine added, “Hey Don, worry about Beckham, not the Yankees. Even he wants out of your league.” Speaking Thursday to the APSE, Garber said of Yankee Stadium, “It’s incomprehensible that you watch a game, and there will be front-row seats empty.” After being told of Levine’s remarks, Garber said through an MLS spokesperson, “When I mentioned the New York Yankees [Thursday], my comments were part of a larger assertion that all businesses -- even the most successful sports entities -- are experiencing some impact from the economic downturn. The Yankees are one of the world’s strongest sports brands and the context of my comments about a few empty seats at Yankee Stadium was to illustrate the economic challenges we are all facing” (AP, 4/24).

    TOUGH TIMES ALL AROUND: In New York, Peter Abraham wrote the economy is “having an impact on every franchise in some fashion as corporate sponsors have fled, television ratings are down and seats are going empty.” Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira, who signed an eight-year, $181M deal in December, said, “It’s a tough time. The players are out their working their tails off and hopefully the fans will continue to support us. Unfortunately, if there’s no disposable income, they’re not going to come. Let’s just hope that changes soon” (Westchester JOURNAL NEWS, 4/26). Baseball HOFer Cal Ripken Jr. said, “I ... applaud what many major league teams are doing by running promotional night[s] that make going to a ball game cost about the same as going to a movie” (Washington EXAMINER, 4/26).

    PIRATES' TREASURE: In Pittsburgh, Rob Biertempfel wrote despite “small crowds for three rain-soaked games earlier this week, the Pirates’ home attendance this season is running ahead of last year’s pace.” Through the first nine games at the 38,362-seat PNC Park, the team is averaging 17,059 fans -- a “jump of almost 19[%] (2,721 fans per game) compared to the same point last year” (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 4/25).

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  • Spurs Owner Peter Holt Says Franchise Is Financially Sound

    Holt Says SS&E Would Eventually Like To
    Develop And Expand Into Central Texas
    Spurs Sports & Entertainment (SS&E) Owner Peter Holt said that the Spurs are "financially sound and on course to match last year's season ticket sales," according to a front-page piece by Tom Orsborn of the SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS. Holt: "Financially, we're in as good a shape as maybe we've been, because we've had some great years." Holt added, "All these years, none of the (Spurs shareholders) took any money out of the business at all. So it just pays down debt, pays down debt, leaving our debt really low. And none of the owners, luckily, make a living directly off the business. So we're all in good shape. The Spurs are financially sound." Orsborn notes the team "declined to take a handout" from the $200M line of credit the NBA recently secured, and Holt said, "We didn't need it." In January, Holt announced a freeze on ticket prices for the '09-10 season and while "declining to reveal how many packages have been sold," Holt "stressed the numbers are solid." Holt: "It took us 30 more days, but we're not that far behind where we were at this time last year. We're feeling pretty good. In fact, we're feeling better than we thought we would at this time." Meanwhile, Holt said that talks with the USL about bringing an expansion team to San Antonio are "stalled because there's no public money to build a multi-use stadium." Holt: "We think soccer can work in San Antonio, it's just a question of when. And right now is not when." Orsborn notes, "One venture that's on SS&E's front burner is strengthening its stake in Central Texas." SS&E owns the NBA D-League Austin Toros, and Holt said, "We'd like to build some teams in Austin too, more minor-league type situations. We want to expand in Central Texas in the sports business. Central Texas is expanding, so why not it be us?" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 4/27). SS&E also owns the AHL Rampage and the WNBA Silver Stars, and SS&E Senior VP/Marketing & Sales Frank Miceli said that it is “important to leverage SS&E’s ‘model franchise,’ the Spurs, in building up its other franchises.” He added the goal is to keep each of SS&E’s sports teams “incorporated in the collaborative effort as best we can” (SAN ANTONIO BUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/24 issue).

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  • 49ers Unveil New Uniforms For '09 Season During Draft Party

    49ers' Moran Norris (l), Former Player
    Rathman Help Unveil New Uniforms
    The 49ers Saturday during their annual NFL Draft party unveiled new uniforms for the '09 season. The home jerseys are red with solid white numbers and lettering, while the road jerseys are white with solid red numbers and lettering. Numbers on the jerseys were moved to the top of the shoulder instead of on the side. The logo remains the same, with the only difference being the color change to red (49ers). In S.F., John Crumpacker wrote the 49ers revealed the new uniforms in a "loud and dark ceremony that paid homage to the past while promising a better future." The 49ers this season "will be outfitted in cherry red jerseys similar to those worn by championship San Francisco teams in the late 1980's, with the difference coming in modern mesh material that breathes and moves with the players." 49ers VP/Marketing Michael Williams said, "This was two years in the making. We wanted to make sure we went through painstaking details to get it right." Williams said that the team "consulted with focus groups comprised of fans along with NFL officials and current and former players before settling on the new uniform design" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/26). In Sacramento, Matthew Barrows wrote the new uniforms "aren't exact replicas" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/26).

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