SBD/Issue 232/Franchises

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  • Venus, Serena Williams The Latest Celebs To Invest In Dolphins

    Venus (l), Serena Williams Investing In Dolphins,
    Announcement Expected Tuesday
    Venus and Serena Williams are investing in the Dolphins, according to tennis sources, becoming the latest celebrity investors in the NFL team. An announcement is expected Tuesday. News of the investment was first reported by the AP. Sources said the deal was brought together by Arlen Kantarian, the outside adviser to Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross who ran the pro tennis division at the USTA for a decade until stepping down in December. He approached the sisters around the time of Wimbledon about the opportunity, these sources said. Kantarian declined to comment. It is not believed the investment is substantial, perhaps low seven figures, an amount that would do little to offset Ross' $1.1B purchase price for the club. For the sisters, though, the investment gives them a larger platform. Discussions are believed to be under way about Venus Williams designing cheerleader outfits and perhaps selling her EleVen line at Land Shark Stadium (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal). Serena Williams yesterday said, "There have been talks, (preliminary) talks. And hopefully it will work out." In Miami, David Neal notes Ross has said that he "wants the ownership group to reflect South Florida's ethnic diversity and glamour." The Williams sisters currently live in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, which is just over an hour from the stadium. Meanwhile, just as Ross is "conscious of the Miami Dolphins name as a brand, Venus and Serena are conscious of their names as brands." Serena Williams: "There's always so many opportunities out there, and Venus and I are always trying to expand our brand and do the best that we can do" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/20). The AP's Steven Wine noted their role "will be significant in part because the NFL has no African-American majority team owner" (AP, 8/19). Serena Williams in the past "has professed a love of the Dolphins on her blog" (, 8/19).

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  • Nationals Look To Capitalize On Strasburg On And Off The Field

    Nationals Will Introduce
    Strasburg Friday Afternoon
    The challenge for the Nationals will be to develop No. 1 draft pick Stephen Strasburg "into an elite pitcher while capitalizing on his presence through increased sales of tickets and merchandise," according to Tim Lemke of the WASHINGTON TIMES. In some ways, the "two goals are incongruous; many fans will plead for the team to bring him up to pitch at Nationals Park as soon as possible -- take-it-slow approach be darned." Nationals President Stan Kasten said, "Right now he's a minor leaguer. Minor leaguers don't sell tickets." Strasburg's former school San Diego State (SDSU) this past season had a "special season-ticket package for nights" when he pitched. That kind of promotion "may be tough to replicate in the major leagues, but there are plenty of other ways Strasburg can become an integral part of the Nationals' marketing plans" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 8/20). The Nationals yesterday began offering $1 tickets online for tomorrow's home game against the Brewers in select outfield sections at Nationals Park to mark their signing of Strasburg, and all 6,000 tickets made available "sold out by early Wednesday evening." All tickets for tomorrow's game will allow fans to view the 2:00pm press conference introducing Strasburg. That will be followed by a Q&A session with the Nationals' front office (Mark Zuckerman, WASHINGTON TIMES, 8/20). The team has said Strasburg likely will not appear in the majors this year, but Washington Post reporter Zach Berman said, "Once he makes it to Washington, that’s when you’ll see the buzz hit the city, probably similar to the way Michael Jordan was when he first came into Washington” (“Washington Post Live,” CSN Mid-Atlantic, 8/19).

    ON THE RIGHT PATH:'s Jon Heyman wrote under the header, "Strasburg Signing Tops Off Nats' Recent Run To Respectability." The Nationals had "no choice" but to sign Strasburg. The leverage is "normally with the team," but in this case, with the Nationals "again holding baseball's worst overall record and coming off a year in which they failed to sign No. 1 pick Aaron Crow, Strasburg held a bit of leverage, as well." An exec from another MLB team said, "They did really well considering they had no choice but to sign the guy." However, another exec contends, "They probably could have gotten it done lower." Heyman wrote, "Perhaps that's so, but the Nats absolutely could not take that chance" (, 8/19).

    A JOB WELL DONE: In DC, Mark Zuckerman reports the Nationals today at a 4:00pm ET press conference are expected to announce that acting GM Mike Rizzo has been awarded the "full-time job." Rizzo, who has served as acting GM since March, has "continued to make a strong impression on Washington's ownership group," and the "clincher" was his ability to negotiate with Scott Boras and sign Strasburg. This comes despite recent reports that the team was "on the verge of hiring" D'Backs VP/Player Personnel Jerry Dipoto (WASHINGTON TIMES, 8/20). An MLB source indicated that the team "made the decision that Rizzo was its man a couple of days ago" (, 8/20). In DC, Chico Harlan writes the move eases a "major source of uncertainty within the organization" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/20). The AP's Howard Fendrich writes giving Rizzo the full-time job "lends a measure of stability to a franchise that rarely has enjoyed any" (AP, 8/20).

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  • Balsillie In Filing Contends NHL Has Allowed Criminal Owners

    Balsillie Challenges NHL
    On Character Ruling
    RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie yesterday in a document filed in bankruptcy court said the NHL has "long tolerated, indicted and even convicted criminals among its ranks," disputing the argument that his potential ownership of the Coyotes should be "rejected by the league for lacking 'good character and integrity,'" according to Paul Hunter of the TORONTO STAR. Balsillie's contention is that "moral grounds and questions of character have never been used 'in the entire history of the NHL to reject any applicant.'" Balsillie in the filing "fired darts at NHL executives," including Senators Owner Eugene Melnyk, MSG Exec Chair James Dolan and Bulls and White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf. Balsillie noted that Reinsdorf in '90 sued the NBA over "how many of his Bulls games were being televised," but now Reinsdorf is the NHL's "preferred purchaser of the Coyotes." Also, Dolan in '07 sued the NHL over team Web site control but was "not asked by the league to remove himself as an owner." Balsillie also pointed out Melnyk recently "reached a settlement with the Ontario Securities commissioner for alleged violations of the Canadian Securities Act" (TORONTO STAR, 8/20). Balsillie's filing states, "The NHL may not 'like' Mr. Balsillie but that is not a basis for rejecting him as being morally unfit to become an NHL owner" (HAMILTON SPECTATOR, 8/20).

    AGREE TO DISAGREE: The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts reports the NHL and Balsillie yesterday reached a partial agreement that will allow Balsillie's attorney, Richard Rodier, to "attend today's deposition of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and tomorrow's grilling of deputy commissioner Bill Daly." But the NHL "refused a request for Rodier to sit in on its questioning of Balsillie next week," and that decision will be up to Bankruptcy Court Judge Redfield Baum. Baum also will "have to decide which e-mail messages and other documents" between Rodier, Balsillie and Coyotes Owner Jerry Moyes "have to be turned over to the NHL." The various parties over the past three days have filed more than 60 documents, "some as long as 100 pages." Meanwhile, Research Edge LLC Managing Dir Daryl Jones, who serves as COO of Ice Edge Holdings' bid for the Coyotes, said that he is "confident they will meet Tuesday's deadline for NHL-approved bids to be filed with the court" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/20).

    JET LAGGED: In a front-page piece for the HAMILTON SPECTATOR, Ken Peters notes Daly Tuesday in a court filing argued that "any court directive that would force the Coyotes to play in Hamilton this season would disrupt the other 29 clubs' ticket sales and marketing, potentially breach contracts with broadcasters and 'severely damage' each club's relationship with fans." Daly noted that the '09-10 NHL schedule has teams playing the Coyotes in a "back-to-back situation 21 times." The opponents in those games would be "forced to travel an additional 24,446 miles if their away games against the Coyotes were played in Hamilton instead of Glendale" (HAMILTON SPECTATOR, 8/20).

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  • YouTube co-Founder Chad Hurley To Be US F1's Primary Investor

    Hurley Will Bring Outside
    Experience To US F1
    US F1 has "pulled off a major coup by securing the services" of YouTube co-Founder & CEO Chad Hurley for the team's '10 F1 debut, according to Noble & Rencken of Hurley will be the team's "primary investor," and beyond his financial input, USF1 said that Hurley will "bring his outside experience to the team to help with its corporate strategy and media planning going forward." Hurley: "Getting in on the ground floor of a project of this size and scope is a tremendous opportunity, and I look forward to helping shape the US F1 vision and corporate strategy for years to come" (, 8/19). US F1, formed by former Haas CNC Racing Technical Dir Ken Anderson and former Speed pit reporter Peter Windsor, will be the only F1 team based outside Europe and the "first American team in 40 years" (, 8/20).

    GETTING IN THE RACE: Hurley said the opportunity is "more than a business opportunity for me." Hurley: "I love all sports. I love competition, and it's just an honour to be involved in US F1 and to be racing next year in the world championship." Hurley said he sees "tremendous potential for all sports to integrate more media, more social connections, connect with the fans and build a fan base." Hurley: "And that's exactly what I hope to bring to US F1. ... Obviously video is something I am deeply involved with today, and that is going to be a big part of what we do at US F1." Hurley added what attracted him to the team is that it is "a start-up." Hurley: "And it's a very similar situation to one that would be in Silicon Valley -- it's a small team of talented, smart individuals trying to break the mould, trying to accomplish something that others think is impossible." Hurley said he is "definitely going to be involved in helping the team with sponsors, helping the team with business relationships, and helping the team with integrating technology" (, 8/19).

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  • Packers See Increase In Corporate Sponsorships From Last Season

    Murphy Says Lottery Deal Is Way For
    Team To Tap New Revenue Stream
    The Packers have been "able to increase corporate sponsorships" for the '09 season despite the economy, according to Mark Kass of THE BUSINESS JOURNAL OF MILWAUKEE. Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy said that the team "had to work hard to renew sponsors and add new business." Murphy: "We are projecting that we will be slightly up. We've tried to be flexible and work with companies. We know that some of our sponsors are struggling. We've worked with them and figured out ways to get value out of our relationship." Kass notes the Packers in FY '09 recorded net income of $4M, a drop from $23.3M in FY '08, and the $4M total was the "lowest level of net income the team has seen" since its $295M renovation of Lambeau Field in '04. Murphy: "There is no question that the economy impacted us last year. It is hard to say what one thing caused us to be down in local revenue last year. There was the (Brett) Favre (trade) situation, the fact that we were in a terrible recession or that we had a losing record. I think all three contributed." But Murphy added he thinks the team will "have a good year from the business side" this year. Murphy also said the team's deal with the Wisconsin Lottery is a "way to open up other revenue streams." Murphy: "It is a good partnership. Beyond the revenue potential, I think it is a good way to partner with the state." Meanwhile, Murphy said the team is "working on" selling patches on its practice uniforms. Murphy: "Everyone is a little behind and we are continuing to work on it. I think long term it will be an asset for us." And Murphy said plans for Lambeau Field renovations or growth around the stadium are "really still in the planning stages." Murphy: "The concept is to grow on the initial success of the original renovation. The idea is to bring even more visitors to the area. It is hard to put a timetable on it. One of the things that I look at is to try and position ourselves to be ready when we come out of this recession" (THE BUSINESS JOURNAL OF MILWAUKEE, 8/14 issue).

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  • Franchise Notes

    In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell reported Bobcats Owner Bob Johnson might take the team "off the market" after reportedly being within a couple weeks of a deal with The Postolos Group Owner George Postolos. Bonnell: "I don't think a final decision has been made, but it sounds like Johnson has misgivings, either about whether to sell or what he's been offered" (, 8/19).

    Blue Chip Hospitality Group Shopping Suite
    For November 1 Vikings-Packers Game
    THE SUITE LIFE OF BRETT AND AARON: In Milwaukee, Don Walker reported California-based Blue Chip Hospitality Group has been "shopping a 20-person VIP suite" at Lambeau Field for the November 1 Vikings-Packers game, featuring QB Brett Favre's first return to Green Bay since he was traded after the '07 season, for an asking price of $22,750. Blue Chip President Damian Scribner said that "people around the country had contacted him about the suite," and that it is "safe to say the price of that suite will go up at least another $5,000." Scribner: "Favre has driven the price up" (, 8/19). Sources indicated that the Vikings will pay Favre's $12M salary this season in three $4M installments. Favre also reportedly would receive $6M if he were "released before the start of the regular season" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 8/20).

    RED BULL TAKES YOUR WINGS: In N.Y., Michael Lewis cites MLS sources as saying that the Red Bulls, who have a 2-16-4 record, are "primed to clean house after this abysmal season," which includes firing Sporting Dir Jeff Agoos and coach Juan Carlos Osorio. In addition, a source contends that F Juan Pablo Angel, the team's designated player, is "unhappy with the state of the team and he may not return for next season." An MLS source said of the Red Bulls, "It's a train wreck of a history. It's probably the worst year an MLS club has had" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/20).

    WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE:'s Geoff Hobson noted there has been a "huge reaction to the scene" in the first episode of HBO's "Hard Knocks" last week in which Bengals Owner Mike Brown is "sitting in front of a room leading a personnel meeting of coaches and scouts." The clip has fueled "criticism painting Brown as a dictatorial" GM, but Bengals coach Marvin Lewis Monday said that Brown "does ask for the coaches' input." Lewis: "From what I've heard, too much is being made out of that" (, 8/17).

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