SBD/Issue 236/Franchises

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  • NHL Enters Bid For Coyotes After Reinsdorf Group Withdraws

    Reinsdorf Group Declines To Submit
    Binding Offer, Deposit By Deadline
    The future of the Coyotes shifted again yesterday when the NHL offered to buy the club just as a group headed by Bulls and White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf withdrew its bid. Reinsdorf, Arizona attorney John Kaites and former Nationals President Tony Tavares in a statement said they were unable to meet the court's August 25 deadline to put forward a firm offer for the team. The group blamed an "organized publicity effort" that chilled negotiations with the city of Glendale and said it failed to reach a lease agreement to operate Jobing.com Arena. Because the Reinsdorf group failed to negotiate a lease for the arena, it declined to submit a binding offer and an accompanying $10M deposit in time to meet yesterday's deadline. The departure of the group, which had put forward a $148M offer to keep the team in Glendale, led the NHL to put forward a bid to buy the Coyotes. Terms of the bid weren't available. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the league remains supportive of other offers to buy the team and keep it in Glendale. He added, "We believe this step was necessary at this time in order to best preserve and maximize the value of the Club asset for benefit of the Club's creditors and for the community of Glendale." Daly said the bankruptcy has damaged the club's business and added that the sooner the team exited bankruptcy, the sooner it could restore operations. If the league's offer is approved by the court, Daly said it will "conduct an orderly sale process to a third party buyer outside of bankruptcy" (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal). Bill Walker, a spokesperson for RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie, who seeks to buy the Coyotes and move the team to Hamilton, said the NHL's move "obviously comes as a surprise." Walker: "But we look forward with interest to seeing what the NHL's bid is. What we've said since Day 1 when we launched our bid is all we ask for is the opportunity to get into an auction where all the bids can come forward on a level playing field and may the best bid win" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/26).

    RAZOR'S EDGE: In Toronto, Paul Hunter notes Ice Edge Holdings also "submitted a firm bid believed to be worth" $150M in advance of yesterday's court imposed deadline (TORONTO STAR, 8/26). Research Edge LLC Managing Dir Daryl Jones, who serves as COO of Ice Edge's bid, said, "In the last eight weeks we have worked with the NHL, the city of Glendale and members of the Coyotes organization to develop a solid plan for the successful operation of the Coyotes in Phoenix." Ice Edge officials said that they have "reached an agreement in principal on a repayment plan with the Coyotes' largest secured creditor, SOF Investments." The AP's Bob Baum notes Ice Edge officials also "repeatedly mentioned working" with Coyotes Managing Partner & coach Wayne Gretzky. The NHL and Ice Edge offers are expected to give Coyotes Owner Jerry Moyes "little if anything" in return for money Moyes says he loaned the team, "contending the money was lost equity not a loan" (AP, 8/25).

    Writers Call NHL's Move To
    Join Coyotes Bidding Desperate
    DESPERATE MOVE? In Hamilton, Steve Milton writes there has been "no more desperate move than last night's announcement the league has now joined the bidding" for the Coyotes. Balsillie's reps "had exactly the right instincts when they turned up the heat on the court by announcing that he owns the team by Sept. 14 or he and his $212.5[M] walk," as Balsillie "correctly smelled that the Jerry Reinsdorf bid was in trouble, if not dead" (HAMILTON SPECTATOR, 8/26). In Toronto, Rob Longley writes the NHL's move "smells of desperation," and the tactic is "curious given the reported financial struggles of a number of its franchises" (TORONTO SUN, 8/26). YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote, "This is public relations torment for the NHL. Not only is it in the fight without a surrogate like Reinsdorf, but now it's fighting to save the team that no one wanted" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/25). In Winnipeg, Paul Friesen writes, "It's becoming painfully obvious -- surprise, surprise -- that there aren't any real bids for a team that loses tens of millions of dollars a year" (WINNIPEG SUN, 8/26). The NATIONAL POST's Bruce Arthur writes the "truth is that nobody else was foolish enough to own and operate the team in Glendale, and the NHL is desperate to keep it out of the hands" of Balsillie. But to do that, the NHL "will have to pay." Ultimately, the NHL "loses no matter what" (NATIONAL POST, 8/26).

    TWO FOR ONE: Balsillie's attorney Richard Rodier in a filing yesterday said that Balsillie "would be 'delighted' to share" Copps Coliseum in Hamilton with the AHL Bulldogs this season. Rodier said that there are "only six conflicting dates" between the franchises. Rodier: "My expectation is that they can be easily resolved." But Bulldogs President Glenn Stanford said of the proposal, "It's the first we've heard of it" (HAMILTON SPECTATOR, 8/26).

    POTENTIAL LIFELINE? An El Mirage, Arizona, city spokesperson said that the city is "looking at a pitch from developers of Main Street, the shopping and dining complex envisioned around Glendale's spring training facility, that would extend loans for local manufacturing and renewable energy projects as well as" the Coyotes. Scottsdale-based HB Equities "recently approached the city with the idea, though exactly how the developer plans to help the Coyotes is unclear" (AZCENTRAL.com, 8/25).

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  • Ricketts Reportedly Plans To Keep Cubs Chair Crane Kenney

    Not Yet Known If Kenney Will Keep Current
    Role, Or Be Named Cubs President Instead
    Cubs Chair Crane Kenney will "continue with the Cubs after the sale to the Ricketts family is completed," according to Paul Sullivan of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. How long Kenney will remain with the club and "what role he will assume" is unknown. Meanwhile, the Cubs are "likely to shift more games" to CSN Chicago, despite an agreement for WGN to "continue as the primary over-the-air broadcaster." Kenney earlier this year said that cable TV "is the future of the Cubs" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/26). ESPN CHICAGO's Bruce Levine cites sources as saying that Kenney will "continue as the team's point man under Ricketts." It is not known if Kenney will retain his title or be named team president (ESPN.com, 8/26). ESPN CHICAGO cited a source as saying that the Ricketts family is "placing a good deal of importance on keeping 'continuity' at the top of the organization." Kenney has been a "lightning rod of criticism lately, with reporters and columnists criticizing him for everything from inviting a priest to bless the Cubs dugout during the playoffs last year to inappropriate fraternizing with the players." But he has served on the Cubs BOD for a "number of years" and provides "some sense of stability in the organization" (ESPN.com, 8/25). However, CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS' Ed Sherman writes Ricketts might ask Kenney to "help facilitate with the transition, but that's it." The new era "likely won't include" Kenney. Keeping Kenney "represents business as usual," and that is the "last thing Cubs fans want" (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 8/26).

    BEST-CASE SCENARIO: CSN Chicago's Steve Stone said the Ricketts are "going to be the best thing that ever happened to the Chicago Cubs." Stone: "I don’t know if they’re going to win right away, but they will win, and one of the things that you can be ensured of is that they’re in it for the long haul, and that’s important. ... There’s always been a face attached to every team that won the World Series. I think that’s the way it’s supposed to work” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” CSN Chicago, 8/25).

    Wrigley Field Renovations Not Expected 
    For A Couple Of More Years
    WRIGLEY RENOVATIONS NOT UPCOMING: CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS' Mike Colias wrote Cubs fans "shouldn't expect major changes anytime soon" to Wrigley Field, as sources said that a "major overhaul of the 95-year-old park is probably four or five years out." One source added that "even then, the job likely wouldn't exceed" $250M. Colias noted that total "would be far less ambitious" than the $450-600M renovation "envisioned by state officials when they attempted to buy the stadium from Tribune Co. last year." Meanwhile, a source said that the Ricketts family views the "development of the so-called 'triangle building' on the stadium's west side ... as perhaps its biggest new moneymaker." The development "would likely include a restaurant, shops, parking and other amenities," but the source said that the Ricketts family "doesn't yet have firm plans for the project" (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 8/25).

    DESERT STORM: In Arizona, Sonu Munshi reported Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, City Manager Chris Brady and state House Speaker Kirk Adams are "headed to Chicago mid-September to do whatever they can" to keep the Cubs for Spring Training. The timing of the trip is "no coincidence," as Mesa officials see the sale to Ricketts as a "way to proceed with negotiations on improved spring training facilities for the Cubs" (EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE, 8/25).

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  • Venus, Serena Williams Officially Become Dolphins Part-Owners

    Serena And Venus Williams
    Join Dolphins Ownership Group
    The Dolphins have added "some serious talent to their ownership group, this time in the form of athleticism instead of entertainment," as Venus and Serena Williams yesterday were officially introduced as part-Owners of the team, according to Jeff Darlington of the MIAMI HERALD. The Williams sisters join entertainers Gloria and Emilio Estefan and Marc Anthony, "all of whom have bought a small stake in what is becoming a star-studded cast of owners." Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross said the addition of the Williams sisters to the team's ownership group "further reflects our commitment to connect with aggressively and embrace the great diversity that makes South Florida a multicultural gem." Darlington notes the Williams sisters become the "first black females to hold a limited stake in an NFL team." The NFL has "no black majority owners" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/26). The Williams sisters said that they will "attend games when they can, help with charity events in South Florida that benefit the team's foundation and even lend their business acumen." Dolphins Senior Adviser and former USTA Chief Exec of Professional Tennis Arlen Kantarian said that Venus' interior design company, V Starr Interiors, "might design a stadium lounge," and her EleVen clothing line and Serena's Aneres apparel and accessories company "might do some cross-promotion with the team" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 8/26). In West Palm Beach, Hal Habib writes, "How high their profiles will be now remains to be seen" (PALM BEACH POST, 8/26). Ross said the Williams sisters joining the team helps "create an excitement that I think is needed in today's times and really marketing and selling football and it's very inspirational." Serena said becoming part-Owner is a "good opportunity, being role models." Serena: "I think we've always considered ourselves role models and kind of embraced being a role model for other children of all ages, of all sexes, and of all races. And I thought that this is, this would be another opportunity to expand our role model status" (THE DAILY).

    SINGING A DIFFERENT TUNE: Ross, when asked about the team's new fight song and playing Jimmy Buffett's Fins when the team scores, said, "You don't get a feeling for impact until you try something. We're experimenting. That's what preseason is for. I think Jimmy Buffett will definitely be part of it, he's not going away. We happen to like the song, we've gotten a tremendous amount of favorable comments with regard to that. I think the T-Pain version was controversial. You have to realize, people inherently don't like change. Same old, same old." Dolphins CEO Mike Dee added, "T-Pain contributed that song, we played it at the first preseason game. Again it was a preseason game, we were experimenting and continue to experiment. There are at least two other people I know of, who want to contribute their own version of the fight song, different than T-Pain's." More Ross: "We want to start a ritual, we don't know what song it will be, after the third period, there will be a song we'll sing on a continual basis. I can't tell you what that song will be. To inspire people, like the seventh inning stretch, and really inspire the team." Meanwhile, when asked if the team has "plans to change the team colors and uniforms," Ross said, "We haven't even looked at that. I haven't thought of it" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 8/25).

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  • Perenially Sold Out Texans Have Tickets Remaining For Opener

    Could Texans Be Heading To A Blackout
    For First Time In Franchise History?
    While the Texans have "sold out every home game in the franchise's history," the team could be "heading into the dreaded NFL blackout territory," according to Jerome Solomon of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. One would "think the Texans might be the hottest ticket in town ... with 2 1/2 weeks left before the 2009 season begins," but tickets remain available for the September 13 Jets-Texans opener at Reliant Stadium. However, Texans President Jamey Rootes said blackouts are "not an issue" for the team. Rootes: "There are seats we hold back and release slowly in the marketplace. That is what you're seeing" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8/26).

    BLACKOUTS SELF-DEFEATING: ESPN.com's Tim Keown wrote the NFL's blackout rule "has always struck me as one of the more self-defeating ideas in the marketplace." Keown: "By withholding local television coverage in markets that don't sell out games, the NFL employs a passive form of blackmail: Go to the game, or miss it altogether." In the current economic climate, can the NFL "expect fans in Detroit and Oakland and St. Louis to continue to support terrible teams run by terrible organizations if they punish them for refusing to pay inflated prices to see an inferior product?" But NFL Dir of Corporate Communications Dan Masonson said the league's blackout policy is "not changing," and officials "haven't had any discussions about changing it." Masonson: "It's been a successful policy long-term. ... We've worked with teams to address the current economic situation by creating some variable pricing plans. We're working with them on flexibility and options. Some teams are allowing fans to pay for season tickets on installment plans" (ESPN.com, 8/25).

    ON THE BRIGHT SIDE: In Orlando, Mike Bianchi wrote the possibility that the Jaguars' eight home games "will likely be blacked out this season" is "good news for Orlando," which has been designated as a Jaguars market. Orlando's WKMG-CBS is "required to carry the Jags when they are not blacked out," and station VP & GM Skip Valet said the blackouts "will certainly open up our options." Valet: "My responsibility is to give our viewers the best games possible, and the Jaguars have not always been our most popular team despite the geographic proximity. ... If you're an NFL fan in Orlando and not a Jaguars fan, this is good news. If you're a Jags fan, this isn't good news" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 8/22).

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  • D'Backs Promoting Cheaper Ticket Prices, Concession Options

    D'Backs Have Launched Season-Ticket
    Renewal Drive With No Change From '09 Prices
    The D'Backs "will continue their marketing strategy built around curbed consumer spending, with the front office promoting cheaper tickets, less expensive concessions and the family experience at Chase Field," according to Sunnucks & Casacchia of the PHOENIX BUSINESS JOURNAL. The team has "already launched its season-ticket renewal drive" for next season, with "no change from 2009 prices." Extended payment plans "will be offered to season-ticket holders," who will get first dibs on '11 Cactus League tickets at the team's new spring training stadium in Scottsdale and on the '11 All-Star Game at Chase Field. The D'Backs have "steered marketing efforts away from individual players," and instead are "pushing 10-game ticket plans, an all-you-can-eat section and low-price concessions such as $4 beers." D'Backs Senior VP/Corporate Partnerships & Marketing Cullen Maxey said that the team is "considering expanding" the all-you-can-eat program to "include a similar option for premium seats." Maxey "acknowledged the team's losing season has taken a bite out of attendance, but said it was too soon to tell how season-ticket renewals will do" (PHOENIX BUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/21 issue).

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