SBD/Issue 205/Franchises

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  • Cubs Bankruptcy Filing Could Be Last Piece For Sale To Ricketts

    Cubs' Bankruptcy Filing Could Be
    Accompanied By Motion To Sell
    A Cubs' Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing "could be the last piece ... to fall in place" for the Ricketts family's acquisition of the team, Wrigley Field and 25% of CSN Chicago from Tribune Co., according to Roeder & Spielman of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. The bankruptcy filing "could be accompanied by a motion to sell" to the Ricketts family, and bankruptcy experts said that it is "common for a financially troubled company to sell a healthy subsidiary in a way that shields the buyer from debts." A source close to the talks said the tactic for the Cubs "would deliver as clear a title as possible to the new owner of the team," and it is a "way in some respects of inoculating the team." CSN Chicago's Steve Stone said that bankruptcy "would provide protection" for the Ricketts family. Stone: "The sale of the Cubs will be done sooner rather than later. It's pretty well a done deal." Stone said that "all sides want to complete a sale before the season is over, so a new owner will have time to make financial decisions about players and Wrigley Field improvements for next year." Sources said that the Ricketts' deal with Tribune Co. "will be complete soon," though Roeder & Spielman note the deal first "must be approved by Tribune's bankruptcy judge" and 75% of MLB owners (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/14). CSN Chicago's David Kaplan said, "It's like driving the franchise through a car wash. Everything gets cleaned and nobody can come back to Ricketts and sue him based on the Tribune's bankruptcy" ("Chicago Tribune Live," CSN Chicago, 7/13). In Chicago, Ameet Sachdev cites sources as saying that a Cubs bankruptcy filing "would be made as a legal tactic designed to expedite the sale of the team and not because of any financial pressures on the franchise." Still, Sachdev notes such a move would "add another layer of complexity to the deal, and even the word 'bankruptcy' carries a negative perception." MLB President & COO Bob DuPuy said the league has had "no conversation to date with Tribune Company about the bankruptcy process surrounding approval of a purchase" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/14).

    NO IMPACT ON PLAYERS: In Illinois, Ted Cox notes the Cubs yesterday "took immediate pains to insist bankruptcy would not nullify any player contracts or otherwise alter any of the team's financial dealings, while not denying the move was under consideration" by Tribune Co. and Chair Sam Zell. In theory, the Cubs "would simply go into bankruptcy court, register their creditors, then go about business as usual." Univ. of Illinois College of Law professor Robert Lawless: "This is more of a legal maneuver than something actually going on with the Cubs. ... If you're solvent, the creditors should be paid 100[%]." New York Univ. Tisch School of Sports Management professor and former MLB Rangers President Michael Cramer said of the process, "You take it in the front door, and it's just like you're getting radiation. It comes out the other door about a half-minute later. It's clean" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 7/14).

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  • Nationals Send Letter To Fans Addressing Team's On-Field Woes

    Nationals' Letter To Fans Says Baseball
    Operations Will Reevaluate All Players
    In announcing the firing of manager Manny Acta after having MLB’s worst record at 26-61, the Nationals yesterday in a letter to their fans said the "status quo is unacceptable," and baseball operations will be "reevaluating all our players and our options for improvement." The lettter: "We will be determining the viability of trades or roster upgrades that can be made without doing damage to the farm system or the developing talent we expect to blossom within the next two years." The letter continued, "When we bought the Washington Nationals in the middle of the 2006 season -- just under three years ago -- we committed to a patient, long-term approach, building a strong farm system and core foundation that would deliver a perennial and consistent contender; to provide a second-to-none family entertainment value at Nationals Park; and to investment and involvement in the metropolitan Washington DC community. Today, we remain steadfastly committed to each component of that mission" (Nationals).

    A LEARNING PROCESS: In DC, Thom Loverro notes Nationals Owner the Lerner family with the letter "chose to make this pledge from a distance." No members of the Lerner family appeared at yesterday's press conference announcing Acta's firing to "answer questions about the results of the Lerner tenure." That the Lerners "deemed their presence unnecessary shows how clueless they are when it comes to public perception." The Lerners believe that this "hollow statement" of a letter "should suffice." But the letter "isn't worth the paper it's printed on if the people behind it are not willing to accept questions and explain their actions." Nationals President Stan Kasten at yesterday's press conference, when asked about the Lerners' absence, said, "I am the team president, and this is my responsibility. I am ultimately responsible for everything that goes on here, and I accept all of the blame." But Loverro notes the Lerners, not Kasten, are "responsible for turning the Nationals into a baseball industry joke." Kasten is "paying the price for their mistakes," and it is his "credibility and his legacy as one of the most successful sports executives of his time that is on the line" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 7/14).

    Writers Differ On Opinions Of
    Nationals' Firing Of Acta
    TURNING THINGS AROUND? In DC, Tom Boswell writes in firing Acta, the Nationals have "finally done something the way a normal baseball team would do it." Boswell: "They did it right by the book, just like a major league outfit. What a switch." In a season in which the Nationals have been "embarrassed on every front, a fired manager has been added to their meal of crow," as the "numbers in the league standings won the battle." Kasten has "always been Acta's biggest booster," but perhaps he "didn't want another failure on his Nats watch" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/14). But Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal said, "The whole thing was just handled so oddly." Rosenthal: "I don't know if A knows what B is doing and vice versa. Until they get it straightened out and that means a permanent manager, a permanent general manager, and a Stan Kasten who has actual power, they're going to struggle" ("Washington Post Live," CSN Mid-Atlantic, 7/13).'s Ted Keith wrote for "anyone who has been to the brand-new but still mostly empty Nationals Park, where the residents are beating a slow march to what may wind up being the worst season in the modern-day history of the game, it seems especially ludicrous to suggest that this team is building anything other than a case as the worst team baseball has seen in years" (, 7/13).

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  • Bettman, Daly Submit To Questioning Regarding Coyotes Bidding

    Daly (l), Bettman (r) Will Be Questioned By
     Lawyers For Coyotes Owner Jerry Moyes
    NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly "have agreed to submit to questioning about whether they have interfered in the bidding" for the Coyotes, according to Paul Waldie of the GLOBE & MAIL. Attorneys for Bettman and Daly yesterday "reached an agreement" with reps for Coyotes Owner Jerry Moyes, who has been "pushing for the court-supervised examinations." Bettman and Daly "will be questioned in New York by lawyers for Moyes," though U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Redfield Baum said that he "may participate as well." Baum "rejected similar requests from Moyes to examine" White Sox and Bulls Chair Jerry Reinsdorf, saying that he "did not want to discourage bidders who have until July 24 to make an offer." Moyes in court filings has alleged that NHL officials "have blocked other potential bidders from coming forward," citing a "recent comment by Daly in a media interview in which he said the others had 'coalesced' around a bid from" Reinsdorf. While the NHL has said that "three other groups are interested" in bidding for the Coyotes and keeping the team in Phoenix, Reinsdorf is the "only bidder to come forward." Meanwhile, lawyers for Coyotes Managing Partner & coach Wayne Gretzky said that they are "working out a deal with the City of Glendale about handing over various documents," as the city has "questioned the standing of Gretzky and Moyes as creditors" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/14). In Phoenix, Carrie Watters reports Moyes has "agreed to provide Glendale data regarding the team's losses and his investments." Meanwhile, Glendale, which "financed and owns" the Coyotes' Arena, "agreed to provide Moyes some documents but declined to provide information on lease negotiations with bidders" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 7/14).

    BUSINESS AS USUAL: In Toronto, Kevin McGran reports Baum yesterday allowed the Coyotes to release their exhibition schedule for the '09-10 season and to "pursue arbitration hearings" with C Daniel Winnik and LW Nigel Dawes, whose contract status "had become caught up in the fine print of U.S. bankruptcy law." Baum in a hearing said, "It's the Phoenix Coyotes until somebody says otherwise" (TORONTO STAR, 7/14).

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  • Lightning Co-Owner Len Barrie Must Deliver $10M To NHL By Friday

    Barrie Needs $10M To Prove
    He Can Keep Funding Team
    Lightning co-Owner Len Barrie has a Friday deadline to come up with $10M to "prove he can continue funding the team," according to Damian Cristodero of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. The deadline was imposed by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who in a meeting last month demanded that Barrie and co-Owner Oren Koules "settle their financial and philosophical differences about how to build the team." Barrie "must come up with cash or an irrevocable letter of credit from a financial institution payable to the NHL." The money is to "cover his share of the team's projected losses for the fiscal year that began July 1 and provide an additional cushion." Consequences for "not complying were unclear, though it is conceivable Bettman could take away Barrie's managerial rights." If Barrie meets the deadline, the status quo "likely remains -- Koules as CEO and governor with Barrie's input required for all major player decisions -- while Bettman combs through papers submitted by both sides to determine who should run the team" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 7/14).

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  • David Beckham Committed To Staying In MLS Beyond This Season

    Beckham Intimates He Could Head Back On Loan
    To AC Milan In January, Then Return To Galaxy
    MLS Galaxy MF David Beckham yesterday intimated that he will "probably be heading back on loan to AC Milan in January, and then return to the Galaxy for at least a few months, and possibly for a season or two" after next summer's World Cup in South Africa, according to Grahame Jones of the L.A. TIMES. MLS might be where Beckham, whose contract with the Galaxy ends after the '11 season, "ends his storied soccer career." Beckham Thursday will make his season debut with the Galaxy against the Red Bulls, and yesterday he said, "I intend to stay until the end of my contract and maybe further. I've always said that. I've always said, even when I went to Milan, that I'm committed to the Galaxy and to MLS, and that hasn't changed." Beckham added, "My family is happy here. The kids are happy. ... There are always going to be people speculating whether we're going to go back to England or Europe, but I can't say enough about how happy my kids and my family are here." Beckham yesterday also said that it "might be a while before a decision is made on where he goes in January" (L.A. TIMES, 7/14). Beckham added, "I've said so many times I'm committed to this cause and committed to this plan going forward. It's something I believe in." MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, "David is committed -- he really is committed. I believe he's committed. I could not and cannot ask more from David (in showing) his commitment to us." In L.A., Nick Green writes fans will "see, beginning Thursday, just how committed Beckham really is." Green: "Will fans believe him? And how should we measure his commitment to the Galaxy? ... Commitment is about more than just showing up. And let's face it, so far in MLS Beckham hasn't even done much of that" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 7/14).

    THE BECKHAM EFFECT: USA TODAY's Billy Witz notes one question surrounding Beckham's return is "just how many will bother watching?" The Galaxy's home attendance is down more than 25% this season, a drop of nearly 7,000 fans per game, and for the first time since '02, the team is not leading MLS in attendance. Sunday's AC Milan-Galaxy exhibition game at the 27,000-seat Home Depot Center is "not yet sold out," while just 40,000 tickets have been sold for the team's August 1 friendly against FC Barcelona at the Rose Bowl. Galaxy President Tom Payne said of Beckham's return, "What's the effect? Are people over it? Will the Beckham buzz help us sell? It's all going to be interesting" (USA TODAY, 7/14).

    BENT OUT OF SHAPE: In N.Y., Jack Bell notes SI's Grant Wahl in his new book, "The Beckham Experiment," examines the "internal dynamics of the Galaxy, casting an unflattering light on Beckham's management company, 19 Entertainment, and how it co-opted and outflanked" AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke. Wahl said, "I don't think these guys, the players or the league recognized how big Beckham is." He added, "Leiweke never accepted that the rules of MLS, with its hard salary cap, meant you can't build a European-style powerhouse in MLS. It's really next to impossible. Instead, he created this dysfunctional management structure." Bell notes with the "lion's share of its salary budget dedicated to a few players, the Galaxy had little capital for building a competitive team" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/14). Look for a conversation with Wahl in THE DAILY later this week.

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  • Soccer Franchise Notes: Sounders Have Become Model Franchise

    Dynamo President Hopes To 
    Learn From Sounders FC
    In Houston, Bernardo Fallas wrote the Sounders have "become a model franchise in MLS, one many teams are rushing to emulate." So it is "no wonder then" that Dynamo President Oliver Luck, who "seldom goes on road games, was bound for Seattle on Friday" to watch his team play the Sounders. Luck: "I'm going up there to try to see with my own eyes what they are doing and hopefully come back with a few things that we should be able to do. ... Seattle is an A+ team. I don't think you can do it any better." Meanwhile, the Dynamo "appear to be faring well" themselves. The team through its first eight home games at Robertson Stadium has averaged 15,689 fans, which is about 5% "less than after eight games last season" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/11).

    UNION WORK: In Philadelphia, Pat Leonard reports MLS Philadelphia Union GM & coach Peter Nowak has “revealed plans to build a youth development academy in the mold of respected European clubs.” Meanwhile, the expansion franchise's owner, Keystone Sports & Entertainment, has formed a partnership with Comcast-Spectacor to “help the Union manage its planned 18,500-seat stadium, provide food and beverage concessions and catering, and support the club’s ticket sales” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 7/14).  

    DOWN BY THE BAY: A’s GM Billy Beane said he watches soccer games on TV, but besides that has "no involvement" with the MLS Earthquakes, who are owned by A's Owner Lew Wolff. Beane: "While every other general manager is playing 18 holes of golf, I watch soccer. It's just an interest" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 7/12).

    STILL FOR SALE: In Manchester, Louise Taylor notes there is a "growing possibility that Newcastle United will not be sold this summer." Although two consortiums "remain interested in buying Newcastle for a figure close" to the US$163M asking prices and others "hover in the background, the due diligence process is understood to have exposed troubling facts about the club's financial liabilities" (Manchester GUARDIAN, 7/14). However, the IRISH TIMES' Carl O'Malley reported Irish business execs Charlie Chawke and Louis Fitzgerald are "seeking investors to join them in bidding" for Newcastle (IRISH TIMES, 7/13). Chawke, who was part of a consortium that bought Sunderland in '06 before selling its stake in the club earlier this year, said that talks on buying Newcastle were at an "early stage" (REUTERS, 7/12).

    DELAY OF GAME: In Manchester, Jamie Jackson reported Falcon Equity Chair Sulaiman al-Fahim's proposed takeover of EPL club Portsmouth "could be delayed until next month," as Fahim has "still not agreed [to] a price to buy the club." Fahim's lawyers informed the EPL that "negotiations are ongoing" with current Owner Alexandre Gaydamak. But the news "raises fresh concerns over whether the buy-out will go through," and the EPL has "yet to receive the statements they require, beyond the 'fit-and-proper persons' documents, regarding the provenance of finance for the deal" (Manchester GUARDIAN, 7/12).

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