SBD/Issue 241/Franchises

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  • Sibling Strife Reportedly Led To Sudden Panthers Resignations

    Mark's (l) Resignation Seen As
    Bigger Surprise Than Jon's (r)
    Yesterday's dual resignations of NFL Panthers President Mark Richardson and Panthers Stadium LLC President Jon Richardson were fueled by "ongoing sibling disputes," according to sources cited in a front-page story by Charles Chandler of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The sources said that the brothers had "vastly different ideas about how the organization should be run, which ultimately led their father," team Owner Jerry Richardson, to "decide the best thing for the business was for both of them to leave." The Panthers in a release said that Jon "told staff members last month that he would be stepping aside," related in part to "health issues." The Richardson brothers had "equal authority but different domains" within the organization, and "neither answered to the other." Both will remain part of the Panthers' ownership group, but the "dramatic changes" mean Jerry is now the "only Richardson still involved in the daily operations." The team did not comment about "whether replacements will be hired for their positions, or what sort of succession plan was in place for the top spot in the organization." An NFL spokesperson noted that Mark "will be replaced" on the league's Competition Committee. Chandler notes changes "at the top of the organization have been rare for the Panthers." Jon is the "only stadium president in team history," while Mark has served as team president since '97 (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/2). In addition to the Competition Committee, Mark Richardson sat on the league's Broadcasting Committee and the NFL Network Committee. Jon Richardson was a member of the Stadium Security & Fan Behavior Committee (THE DAILY).

    FAMILY MATTERS: In Charlotte, Scott Fowler notes Mark had "been groomed as Jerry Richardson's heir apparent as No. 1 on the Panthers' organizational chart for years," and his resignation is the "one that absolutely has stunned the Panthers' staff." Jon's decision is "mostly lifestyle-related." Though his health is "OK for now, the long battle with cancer has taken a toll" and he "wants to have more time to enjoy life." But Mark's departure "was the shocker," and who eventually assumes Jerry's role as controlling owner is "one of the biggest questions about this announcement." But Fowler writes there is "no doubt that patriarch Jerry Richardson," who underwent heart transplant surgery in February, has "re-asserted himself" in the organization. The Panthers' press release "gave no real reason for why this was happening," so it appears as if there could be "some serious internal discontent" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/2). Also in Charlotte, Tom Sorensen notes nothing Mark or Jon "ever did or said indicated they were dissatisfied or frustrated with their jobs." But sources said that there was "acrimony between Jon and Mark and had been before the stadium was even built." Sorensen writes Jerry Richardson "does not make a decision without considering what comes next," so he "undoubtedly knows who his successor will be." The Panthers reiterated yesterday that Jerry "will neither move nor sell the team." Sorensen: "There is no chance. And even though his sons are gone, the Panthers remain his legacy" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/2).

    TOP CAT: Panthers investor Johnny Harris said that Jerry in an address to the team's investors yesterday morning was "committed to the Panthers future in Charlotte and appeared to be 'strong as a bear' and well on his way to a full recovery" after his heart surgery. Harris: "The thing that surprised me was how invigorated he was. He was committed to dealing with this operations change. ... It's pretty clear that the Big Cat is feeling good and is back in charge." Harris noted that Richardson "still plans on heading up" a new CBA between the NFL and NFLPA, adding that the "challenge ahead, proceeding without his sons involved in the day-to-day operations of the team, seems to have reinvigorated" Richardson (GASTON GAZETTE, 9/2). Panthers WR Muhsin Muhammad said, "We all have complete trust and faith in Mr. Richardson's ability to own this organization, put good people in place and run it" (WSOC-ABC, 9/1). But in South Carolina, Darin Gantt writes a "line of succession needs to be in place, even though Richardson's doing well as he recovers from his transplant surgery" (ROCK HILL HERALD, 9/2).

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  • Redskins Sold Tickets To Brokers Instead Of Fans On Wait List

    Thousands of Redskins general admission tickets in recent years have been "sold to brokers, who resold them on the secondary market, often at higher-than-retail prices," according to a front-page piece by James Grimaldi of the WASHINGTON POST. The team, whose season-ticket waiting list "has 160,000 names on it," acknowledged that the "sales were made but said they were against team policy." Redskins General Counsel David Donovan said that the sales "involved about 15 ticket brokering companies," and he added that the employees involved "were disciplined." Redskins VP/PR Karl Swanson: "Somebody in the ticket office was doing something they shouldn't have been doing, and when it was discovered, it was all dealt with." Donovan said that Redskins Owner Dan Snyder was "unaware of sales to brokers," and when Snyder found out, Donovan said that Snyder "'was livid' and tried to have the accounts canceled immediately." Donovan said that "most of the brokers' contracts for bulk tickets were canceled." But some brokers "have been permitted to continue to buy hundreds of Redskins season tickets because they demanded that their contracts be honored and threatened legal action." Maryland-based ASC Ticket bought "at least 5,000 tickets for nearly $600,000 during the 2007 and 2008 seasons," including 1,690 general admission seats in the 100 sections of FedExField's lower bowl, "among the most coveted seats in the stadium." ASC Ticket Owner Jeff Greenberg said that he was "offered the lower bowl seats on the condition that he also buy club seats." Greenberg: "I was forced to buy club seats. There were strings attached to this." Greenberg's '07 arrangement "covered 1,360 individual tickets that he bought for about $60,000." ASC in '08 "bought 217 season tickets and 2,000 seats to individual games." NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said that the league has "no policies governing sales on the secondary market" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/2).

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  • Canucks' Aquilini Family Offered To Buy Coyotes Before Chapter 11

    Aquilini Family Was Interested In
    Buying Coyotes Last Year
    Canucks Owner Francesco Aquilini's mother Elisa "offered to buy the Coyotes a couple of months before the club filed for Chapter 11 protection from creditors so that her husband, Luigi, could own an NHL team," according to court documents cited by Paul Waldie of the GLOBE & MAIL. Coyotes Owner Jerry Moyes' attorney Earl Scudder in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court filing said that the NHL "would not have approved Elisa owning a stake in two clubs, so the couple discussed putting the Coyotes ownership into the hands of another family member," but "in the end, no offer was made." Francesco Aquilini confirmed his parents' interest but said it "didn't work out." He added, "There was some concern (about) a husband and wife owning two different teams." Scudder in the filing noted that the Aquilinis were "among more than a dozen potential buyers of the Coyotes." Others included film producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who "backed out at the $200[M] asking price for the Coyotes," and Calgary businessman Max Chambers, "who Scudder said was more interested in buying an NFL team." NBA Kings Owner the Maloof family also expressed interest in the Coyotes, and EPL club Liverpool co-Owner and outgoing Canadiens Owner George Gillett "offered to help find a Canadian buyer" for the team. But Waldie notes "despite all the approaches, only three bids have emerged" for the Coyotes -- the NHL, Ice Edge Holdings LLC and RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie. The details of the offers "were included in a stack of documents filed this week in preparation of a hearing today on whether Balsillie can remain a bidder," and the filings also included details about a proposal by Balsillie's lawyer Richard Rodier to "compensate Glendale ... for losing the club." Former Coyotes CEO Jeff Shumway in one filing said that Rodier "suggested paying off the city or moving" the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs "to Glendale." The Bulldogs "play in Copps Coliseum, where Balsillie hopes to locate the Coyotes" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/2).

    FIGHTING ON: In Toronto, Kevin McGran notes the NHL "threw a few more punches yesterday in arguing it's too late for the Coyotes to move to Hamilton this season," and the league "took umbrage with the notion it wasn't doing as Balsillie had asked in making a second schedule with Hamilton as the home for the club." The NHL in a brief filed last night said, "There is something sad ... about Mr. Balsillie's inability to grasp the plain fact that it is his conduct, insensitivity, perceived lack of trustworthiness and unwillingness to accept responsibility for his own actions over several years that has caused the NHL Board of Governors to wish to not be associated with him in the business of professional hockey" (TORONTO STAR, 9/2). A TORONTO STAR editorial notes the NHL, "in submitting its own bid for the Coyotes," reserved the right to "move the franchise after one year." The destinations reportedly "preferred by the NHL" are Las Vegas and K.C. The editorial: "So the NHL ... is throwing every legal roadblock at its disposal to prevent a move of the team back to Canada. Shamefully going along with the league are the owners of the other Canadian teams." Canadian fans are the "losers as a result" (TORONTO STAR, 9/2).

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  • Lightning's Koules Nears Completion Of Plan To Buy Out Barrie

    Koules Close To Buying
    Out Barrie's 35% Share
    Lightning co-Owner Oren Koules is "putting the finishing touches on a plan to buy out" co-Owner Len Barrie, and Koules "hopes to present it to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in less than a week," according to a league source cited by David Shoalts of the GLOBE & MAIL. Koules is "close to making a deal" with former Lightning Owner Palace Sports & Entertainment (PSE) to "increase his financing in order to buy out Barrie's 35[%] share of the franchise." When Koules, Barrie and "several smaller partners bought the Lightning" in June '08, PSE "essentially took back a mortgage that covered about half of the $206[M] purchase price." Shoalts notes Barrie was "given the first opportunity to put together a buyout, but his serious financial troubles with his Bear Mountain real estate development in Victoria hampered his efforts." An NHL source said that Barrie told Bettman that he "could not manage a buyout and would have to withdraw." Barrie "denied this," claiming that he is still talking to Sansone Group Principal Tony Sansone Jr. "about joining him in the buyout." But NHL sources said that there is "no sign of a deal" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/2).

    BEAR ESSENTIALS: Barrie serves as Bear Mountain Resort President & CEO, and Scott Bye, a financial adviser to a group of NHL players who was appointed to the Bear Mountain Resort Exec Committee "after the players became concerned about its finances," yesterday said Barrie owes Bear Mountain between C$16-20M. Barrie on Monday said that "all of the money in question was either paid back or accounted for, following a damning report by the company's auditor," but Bye said that "this was not true." Barrie "insisted again yesterday that he did nothing improper," saying that his debt to Bear Mountain is C$5M, not as much as C$20M. Barrie: "The number was five and it's been paid back" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/2). Barrie said the charges he misappropriated funds at the resort are "B.S." Barrie: "It's real funny when you're close to almost getting a deal done, and something like this comes out." Barrie on the Bear Mountain Web site wrote, "The report being referenced ... is consequently nine months old, and the issues and concerns raised in the report have all been reviewed and addressed with Bear Mountain Resort's executive committee and investors" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 9/2).

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  • Mets Insist Wilpon Won't Have To Sell Team Due To Madoff Losses

    Mets Refute Arvedlund's Claims That Wilpons
    Will Sell Team Due To Madoff Losses
    Author Erin Arvedlund and Mets Exec VP/Business Operations Dave Howard Monday appeared on Fox Business' "Americas Nightly Scoreboard" and discussed whether Mets Owner Fred Wilpon will have to sell the team due to his financial losses. Arvedlund, who recently published "Too Good To Be True," detailing the Bernie Madoff scheme, said "it's my opinion based on my research" Wilpon will have to sell the Mets because of his losses from Madoff. Arvedlund: "What's going on with the Wilpons and with lots of other investors is that they borrowed money and leveraged up their investment, so sadly the investment was more than just the original amount. It might have been two or three times." Arvedlund claimed Wilpon lost $700M, and the figure came from one of her two sources "who worked in the front office of the Mets for about two decades." But Howard said Arvedlund's claims were "outrageous, unfounded, irresponsible, grossly irresponsible given the fact that I actually had a conversation with her on Friday, which to my knowledge was the first time she ever had a conversation with anybody in the front office of the New York Mets." Howard added there is "no former employee who would have that information because that information is flat-out wrong." Howard: "Quite frankly, it's very disturbing to hear that she is continuing to articulate these false and irresponsible claims." Arvedlund responded, "Like I said, it's my opinion and I think time will tell." Howard: "It is not an opinion. It's either fact and it's either true or it's not, and it isn't." Howard added the team has "said from the outset that the losses incurred as a result of the Madoff fraud have not and will not affect the operation of the Mets." Howard: "The team is not for sale. ... Her source is bogus, her claims are false and irresponsible" ("America's Nightly Scoreboard," Fox Business, 8/31).

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  • MLS Franchise Notes: Red Bulls To Undergo Management Shake-Up

    In N.Y., Jack Bell reported the MLS Red Bulls are "bracing for a management overhaul that will try to bring accountability and a discernible identity to a club that has had neither during its 14 years." The two parts of the organization -- one in Austria led by Red Bull Managing Dir for Soccer Markus Egger and another in the U.S. led by Red Bulls Managing Dir Erik Stover -- are "engaged in an international search for a new sporting director and coach." While Egger is "working with a short list in Europe, the names of several possible sporting directors have emerged." The list includes Cal State Univ.-Los Angeles women's soccer coach Chris Chamides, who "helped build the first incarnation" of the MLS Earthquakes; MLS/SUM Senior VP/Strategic Business Development Nelson Rodriguez; MLS Rapids VP/Finance Charlie Wright; "and possibly" former Hamburg SV Sporting Dir Dietmar Beiersdorfer (N.Y. TIMES, 9/1).

    KICKING IT UP A NOTCH: In Salt Lake City, Michael Lewis noted until its last home game, Real Salt Lake (RSL) was "among just three teams" in MLS that had "enjoyed an attendance increase from last season." The team now is averaging 16,091 fans and is "almost exactly dead-even with last season's pace." But RSL is "giving away far fewer tickets than it once did, leading to about" a 30% increase in ticket revenue "despite the nearly identical attendance figures." The team "plans to revise certain undisclosed aspects of its season-ticket packages for next season, to better appeal to fans and hopefully stoke sales" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 9/1).

    OUT OF THIS WORLD: The N.Y. TIMES' Bell reported the NASL New York Cosmos' "trademark, video library, trophies, everything" were "sold in a multimillion-dollar deal" to former EPL club Tottenham Vice Chair Paul Kemsley. Kemsley: "I have nothing to say right now. In due course, I will. I will say that I didn't buy the whole company to not do something exciting with it in the future" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/1).

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  • Franchise Notes

    T'Wolves Exec Says Team Has No
    Regrets About Drafting Rubio
    T'Wolves President of Basketball Operations David Kahn said he has "no regrets at all" about drafting G Ricky Rubio with the No. 5 pick in June's NBA Draft, even though Rubio has decided to stay in Spain for at least another two seasons. Kahn: "Depending on our circumstances two years from now, he's still the highest-value pick we could have made. At the end of the day, he's still ours" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 9/2). FanHouse.com's Jay Mariotti said of the T'Wolves, "This is a team that was 27th in attendance a year ago. This is one of the NBA franchises I would be concerned about in a bad economy because since (Kevin) Garnett left, what have they done?" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 9/1).

    GETTING A BARGAIN? In N.Y., Ken Belson notes the Yankees "appear to have heeded the complaints of their fans" by offering some ticket prices for the playoffs that are "identical to the prices listed for the regular season." The Yankees also touted that prices would cost less than tickets for equivalent seating during the '07 MLB postseason, but the "price of seats that are not in suites or club sections had already increased" an average of 86% this season from '07. So the team will "still be making plenty of money by charging those same prices during the first round of the postseason" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/2).

    HOW LOW CAN YOU GO? In Denver, Adrian Dater reported the Avalanche are "practically giving season tickets away" this offseason. Some fans have bought season tickets in Pepsi Center's lower bowl for an average of $25 per game, while others have purchased upper-deck seats for "less than $10 a game." While the deal "might still prove to be a cash-for-clunker" offer, if fans are "going to watch another year of bad hockey, they won't lose quite as much cash as last year" (DENVER POST, 9/1).

    FAST CARS & FREEDOM: SI.com's Tom Bowles wrote NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski's move to Penske Racing starting next season was the "best he could have made under the circumstances." Penske "emerges the big winner in the sweepstakes for NASCAR's hottest free agent," and the switch "puts Keselowski in the perfect position of growing with a program that's even better positioned for success in 2010." With Richard Petty Motorsports "likely bolting for Toyota, the full resources of Dodge in Cup will be thrown behind" Penske Racing (SI.com, 9/1).

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