SBD/Issue 244/Franchises

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  • Ice Edge No Longer Planning To Participate In Coyotes Auction

     
    NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday said Ice Edge Holdings officials in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court filing stated they "currently do not intend to participate" in tomorrow's auction for the Coyotes, leaving the NHL and RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie as the only remaining bidders for the club, according to Shoalts & Waldie of the GLOBE & MAIL. A source indicated that Ice Edge told the NHL that it would "not be participating in the auction because it would not be able to get a lease agreement" with Glendale for Jobing.com Arena "in time for the auction." Ice Edge had "not officially withdrawn its offer" by last night, and its $10M deposit was "still in place." Shoalts & Waldie note Ice Edge had "expressed confidence in court filings as recently as last Friday that it would be able to reach a deal with the city," but a source said that negotiations stalled yesterday after city officials "pushed to present an amended lease agreement to council for ratification." Ice Edge lawyers said that they "couldn't agree to the amended deal." While talks have "since resumed," sources indicated that it is "unlikely a lease will be in place" by tomorrow's auction. A possible option for Ice Edge is to "wait to see if the NHL buys the Coyotes," as the league has said that it will "immediately seek a buyer for the club." The bidding group also could "make an offer for another club," and sources said that it has been "approached by several other franchises about a potential sale." Meanwhile, Bettman yesterday also noted that the NHL "decided as early as June 24 to be prepared to make its own bid for the Coyotes," more than one month before team owners "voted to reject Balsillie as an owner" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/9).

    CAN YOU TAKE ME HIGHER? In Toronto, Kevin McGran reports Balsillie's new $242.5M offer for the Coyotes -- an increase of $30M that includes $50M to Glendale if the city would "drop its opposition" to the sale -- was "met with silence from politicians worried about losing the team." Glendale spokesperson Gary Husk in an e-mail said the city is "deferring to the court and the NHL to determine the merits of this and the other bids." City officials added that "any deal could only be ratified in a public meeting." Meanwhile, Balsillie's reps want Bankruptcy Court Judge Redfield Baum to "throw out the league's demand that a relocation fee would be close" to $190M, charging that the NHL "'misled' when it argued providing relocation input to Balsillie's camp would bog down the proceedings" (TORONTO STAR, 9/9). Also in Toronto, Damien Cox wrote the "unsaid issue behind the scene has been Balsillie's deep pockets and the limit, if there is one, to how much he might be willing to pay for the Coyotes in an open auction." Cox: "This is Jim Balsillie's trump card. And a measure of how much he wants this to happen" (THESTAR.com, 9/8). In Hamilton, Milton & Peters wrote Balsillie upping his offer for the Coyotes "offered a hint of what might be yet to come," and that "has to send a chill down the collective spine" of the NHL (HAMILTON SPECTATOR, 9/8).

    HINDSIGHT IS 20-20: The NATIONAL POST's Bruce Arthur notes had Balsillie "not chosen this team, the Coyotes probably would have been peddled" to Bulls and White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf and "then quietly moved." Had the NHL "simply admitted that one of its franchises was a failure and attempted to rectify it in good faith, then perhaps the opening for Balsillie would have been closed." Arthur: "But the NHL, piece by piece, has driven itself to the brink of this most remarkable bout of jeopardy" (NATIONAL POST, 9/9).

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  • Beckham Reportedly Interested In Investing In Montreal Impact

    Beckham Exploring The Possibility Of Buying
    Montreal Impact At End Of His Playing Career
    MLS Galaxy MF David Beckham is "exploring the possibility of buying" the USL Montreal Impact "at the end of his playing career," according to Matt Hughes of the LONDON TIMES. The Galaxy and Beckham's reps "have been approached by a third party acting for" Impact Owner Joey Saputo, who is "spearheading the Montreal club's attempts to win an MLS franchise in 2012." Saputo confirmed yesterday that he "had held talks with a potential investor two months ago, but refused to confirm an identity." Saputo: "I can say yes, we were approached about two months ago, but I can't say by whom." Hughes notes Beckham's contract with the Galaxy "contains a clause enabling him to own or co-own an MLS team from 2012." Beckham: "I have the right to own an MLS franchise, which I will action immediately after I have stopped playing" (LONDON TIMES, 9/9). 19 Entertainment spokesperson Simon Oliveira, whose company manages Beckham, on Montreal's CKAC-AM said that "'it's too soon to speculate' on an eventual deal, and that 'we are certainly looking at more than one option' in regards to acquiring an MLS team." Meanwhile, a source close to Saputo said, "I'm not sure how well this would translate (in Quebec), but this story has certainly got people talking." The source added that Saputo "isn't actively soliciting partners for the MLS venture" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/9). MLS Senior VP/Marketing & Communications Dan Courtemanche said while the league has "recently had preliminary discussions with the Saputo family about future MLS expansion into Montreal, we have not had any discussions with David Beckham or his representatives regarding ownership of an expansion team in Montreal" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/8).

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  • Stars Launch Variable Pricing Plan For Some Single-Game Tickets

     
    The Stars will institute a "variable pricing strategy" for upper-bowl single-game tickets this season, with prices that can vary between $36 to $60 for the same seat on a given night, according to Mike Heika of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. The ticket price will change "based on variables that include opponent, day of the week, time of year and even how long before the event that the ticket is purchased." The strategy "means that the prices can change at a moment's notice, and that fans will have to continue to check in and possibly gamble on the price of a seat -- just as they do with airline tickets." Stars Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Geoff Moore said that the plan is to "not go below the per-game price that a season-ticket holder would pay for a seat." Austin-based software company Qcue CEO Barry Kahn, whose company is instituting the Stars' system and administers a similar program with the MLB Giants, said of fluctuating prices, "There are so many things that can change whether a game is desirable or not -- and that can happen in the span of a season." Kahn: "If a certain player or team becomes hot in the league, or if two teams are battling for a playoff spot or a division crown, that will change the pricing strategy for the game" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/9).

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  • Dolphins Owner Ross Continues To Stress Fan Experience

    Ross Says Dolphins Looking To
    Create A Better Fan Experience
    Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross said the reason the team is "looking to create a better fan experience is to have more fans," according to Hal Habib of the PALM BEACH POST. Ross: "I don't think a team, any team, wants to play before a half-empty stadium or a stadium that's not excited and doesn't anticipate winning." Ross said the Miami area is "about entertainment, celebrity and lifestyle and that's what we're putting together." Ross: "How can the fans say, 'Hey, you're going to buy a team and not do anything?' I mean, you've got to wake up people. There's got to be a wake-up call. You've got to create excitement." Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said, "We ran an online survey last year and roughly two-thirds of our self-described hardcore fans became hardcore fans prior to 1987. The good news about that is we have a lot of long-term, hardcore fans. ... But the other news is the franchise hasn't picked up a lot of those new hardcore fans." However, Dee noted the team's "concentration is on winning" this year, adding "all this other stuff is on the margin." Ross said, "We understand the line between football and the fan experience." He added if there is "anything that's even questionable in terms of distracting the players, I check with" Dolphins Exec VP/Football Operations Bill Parcells. Ross: "Bill Parcells loves the idea of making sure those stands are filled up." Ross noted the Dolphins are working with team investors Gloria and Emilio Estefan and Marc Anthony on concerts at Land Shark Stadium, but he said, "That wasn't part of any obligation they have, to perform or sing" (PALM BEACH POST, 9/5).

    FANNING THE FLAMES: Washington Univ. professor and author Michael MacCambridge said of the Dolphins' emphasis on fan experience, "I get the impression that it's perhaps the right thing for this team in this city. ... The idea that this is Showtime Southeast -- from T-Pain to Serena [Williams] to Jimmy Buffett to Gloria Estefan -- none of those things are bad things in today's celebrity-driven culture." MacCambridge said that last year's AFC East title "makes it less likely the celebs will be perceived as a substitute for winning." Meanwhile, the PALM BEACH POST's Habib wrote Ross has "little use for the most misleading statistic surrounding the franchise -- that it has sold out every regular-season home game since 1998." It is "no secret many sellouts were induced by TV stations buying thousands of tickets to avoid a blackout" (PALM BEACH POST, 9/6).

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  • Charter Flight Dispute Impacting Pro Sports Teams' Travel Plans

    If Transportation Ban Remains In Place,
    Upcoming NHL Season Could Be Disrupted
    A dispute between the U.S. and Canada over charter flights is "causing havoc for sports teams across North America and could disrupt the coming NHL season," according to Paul Waldie of the GLOBE & MAIL. U.S. and Canada transportation officials "have banned charter airlines carrying sports teams from making multiple stops, something that had been allowed for years," and if the bans remain in place, NHL teams "will have difficulty playing back-to-back games in the United States or Canada and could be forced to return to their home country between each game." Miami Air Int'l, which provides charter services for the Blue Jays and five U.S.-based NHL teams including the Penguins, last week was told to "cancel nearly 60 flights to Canada in September for NHL preseason games," and the company "must also drop four Jays trips." Miami Air President Ross Fischer said that teams "will have to find a second carrier, at an added cost, or fly back and forth across the border." He noted that Canadian teams "will be hit hardest." Dallas-based Paradigm Air Carriers, which flies the Stars and Coyotes, "has to cancel six flights for September," and Air Canada, which serves teams including the Raptors and all six Canadian NHL clubs, "has been told to drop all team contracts." Waldie noted sports teams for years "had been given special consideration by both countries," as foreign airlines are "generally not allowed to move passengers between domestic cities in either country," a practice known as cabotage. The current dispute "began last month after the U.S. Department of Transport audited Air Canada's flight services" for the Bruins and the Bucks during the '08-09 season, and the audit "allegedly found Air Canada engaged in cabotage on several flights" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/7). NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly "warns the charter ban will create a complicated 'patchwork' of travel that could 'wreck havoc' with the oncoming hockey schedule as teams scramble to book flights under the new rules." Daly: "It's crazy and very destabilizing to our business." CANWEST NEWS SERVICE's Don Martin noted the Ducks "have pulled back from an Air Canada contract and there are concerns existing clients" like the Bruins and Bucks "will follow suit" (CANWEST NEWS, 9/4).

    MOTOWN BLUES: In Toronto, Mark Zwolinski reported the dispute "already has forced a small change" for the Blue Jays' trip to Detroit on Miami Air tomorrow. Blue Jays Manager of Team Travel Mike Shaw said that Canadian officials "have nixed the team's plans to fly from Toronto to Windsor and then entering the U.S. from Windsor." The team "has since booked a flight directly into Detroit," and Shaw said that if Canadian officials "balk at that flight, the team will charter a bus to get to Detroit." Shaw added that if the dispute "carries on into next season, the Jays will likely bus to Buffalo and fly to their U.S. destinations from there" (TORONTO STAR, 9/6).

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  • John Henry's New Wife Reportedly Calling Shots On Fenway Plans

    Red Sox Owner John Henry's new wife, Linda Pizzuti Henry, is "calling the shots when it comes to the team's development plans at Fenway Park," according to Thomas Grillo of the BOSTON HERALD. Sources indicated that Henry "benched" former Senior VP/Planning & Development Janet Marie Smith "just weeks after his June wedding." A source said, "Janet Marie was told to go because Linda’s taking over the whole damn place." Smith last week spoke of her departure, saying that the "bulk of the work to renovate the park has been completed and that she does not really know Pizzuti." Smith: "Eight years was long enough to work on a project, and it was time to go." But a source indicated that "conflict centered on factors that have been brewing within the Sox organization" since Henry bought the club in '01 and hired Smith. Some Red Sox employees, including President & CEO Larry Lucchino, "praised Smith for encouraging Henry to buy properties around the ballpark to keep developers from building apartments or offices that could tower over Fenway." However, other team staffers "wanted the Sox to maximize the property the team purchased under the name of New England Sports Ventures" (BOSTON HERALD, 9/8). Pizzuti Henry denied the story on her Twitter page, writing, "Ludicrous and sexist Boston Herald article about me by Grillo relying on unnamed sources that constructed a soap opera that never happened" (TWITTER.com, 9/8).

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  • MLB Franchise Notes: Where Has Hank Steinbrenner Gone?

    On Long Island, Jim Baumbach cites sources as saying that Yankees co-Chair & General Partner Hank Steinbrenner was "truly relevant to Yankees fans for only a very short time, and he has been irrelevant for well more than a year now." Steinbrenner "still reports to work" at the team's facilities in Tampa, and Yankees President Randy Levine and GM Brian Cashman both said that he was an "active voice behind closed doors around the trade deadline." But the team's BOD appointed his brother, Hal, as Managing General Partner, and Hank is "no longer playing the act of George Junior" (NEWSDAY, 9/9).

    MOOR IS LESS: Former Padres Majority Owner John Moores said that he has "stepped away from the day-to-day operations of the club and some of his commitments" to MLB. Moores is in the process of selling 90% of his share in the Padres over a five-year period to a group led by Vice Chair & CEO Jeff Moorad, and Moores "structured the deal so he could remain the club's control person at owners' meetings until the new group purchased a majority share." But Moores said that he is "also going to pass that baton to Moorad." Moores: "I don't want to overstay my welcome. Right now I'm going to keep as low visibility in baseball as I can" (MLB.com, 9/5).

    SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE: Pirates President Frank Coonelly said that the team, set to record an MLB-record 17th straight losing season, will "keep season-ticket prices the same for 2010, marking an eighth consecutive year without an increase." Coonelly: "We understand that the economy remains tough, and we want to make sure we remain extremely affordable for families. We thought it was the right thing to do." Coonelly indicated the team might be "considering increases in other areas," however. Coonelly: "We are looking at other types of pricing. I'm not a fan of the premium-game concept, but we continue to look at it" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 9/5).

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