SBD/Issue 24/Franchises

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  • NFL Sources: Checketts Enhanced Rams Bid By Dropping Limbaugh

    Checketts Dropping Limbaugh From Rams
    Bid Group Is Front-Page News In St. Louis
    The group bidding to buy the Rams led by Blues and Real Salt Lake Owner Dave Checketts "enhanced its status" yesterday by severing ties with conservative talk-radio personality Rush Limbaugh, according to NFL sources cited by Jim Thomas of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. A league source said, "Now Checketts can have a restart on this thing and he can clean it up. This makes the Checketts group more competitive ... it probably puts them in the top three (bidders)." An NFL source said Limbaugh was "very unhappy" when informed he was dropped from the bid group. Thomas notes the "exact makeup and breakdown of Checketts' ownership group," the only one publicly identified thus far, "remains unknown, not just to the public but to the NFL and the Rams." But sources said that they "did not anticipate any problems replacing Limbaugh's potential investment in the team." NFL sources indicated that Limbaugh has "been aligned with the Checketts bid for a couple of months," though it did not become public until last week (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/15).

    MOVING ON WITHOUT HIM: Checketts yesterday issued a statement regarding his bid for the Rams -- the first time he has publicly addressed the situation -- confirming his interest in purchasing the team. Checketts also addressed Limbaugh's role in the bid, saying, "Rush was to be a limited partner. ... However, it has become clear that his involvement in our group has become a complication and a distraction to our intentions; endangering our bid to keep the team in St. Louis. As such, we have decided to move forward without him" (THE DAILY). Checketts' statement came shortly after Limbaugh on his radio show vowed that he "had no intentions of dropping his efforts to buy the team." Limbaugh said, "I'm not even thinking of exiting. ... It's a sad thing that our country, over 200 years old now, needs pioneers all over again, but we do" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/15). Limbaugh had said that he "would take an active role in managing the team" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/15).

    RUSH'S SIDE OF THE STORY: Limbaugh opened today’s episode of his radio show talking about the failed Rams partnership. He said he saw Checketts at a golf course near St. Louis, and that Checketts talked to him about the possibilities of the Rams deal. Checketts and his group went to Limbaugh's home in late May or early June and made their pitch, telling him, “We would like you very much to be a part of this.” Limbaugh said a brief financial breakdown of what would be involved was discussed. Limbaugh: “Based on what he showed me, I said, ‘OK, I’m in.’ I said to him, ‘Are you aware of the firestorm [this will lead to]?’” Limbaugh noted Checketts acknowledged yes, saying, "I wouldn’t have approached you if I hadn’t taken care of that.” He said Checketts assured him that he would not have approached him if he had not “cleared your involvement with people at the highest levels.” Limbaugh: “He gave me some names … and he led me to believe it was all handled and he was fully prepared what was going to happen.” Limbaugh said Checketts called him Tuesday night and asked him to withdraw from the bid. Limbaugh said, “But I thought you had this wired?” Checketts said that he could not “go forward with you in the group.” Limbaugh, “I said ‘I won’t withdraw. You go public and you fire me.’ Which he did” (“The Rush Limbaugh Show,” 10/15).

    NEVER STOOD A CHANCE:'s Don Banks cited NFL sources as saying Limbaugh's role in any Rams bid had "zero chance" of being approved by a necessary 75% majority of the league's owners. A league source said, "The league would be on pins and needles for three hours a day, five days a week. The NFL isn't interested in having its own Mark Cuban situation, where (the Dallas Mavericks owner) is fined for something he said, but then pays the fine, moves on and doesn't care what he says the next time either. The league wants the focus to always be on the game, not the opinions of any particular owner" (, 10/14). In Philadelphia, Ashley Fox writes there was "no place for Limbaugh in the NFL," and the "rush to judgment was swift, effective and now complete." This was about a "professional sports league not wanting to have an alleged racist among them" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/15). Yahoo Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski: "He had no chance, and the thing with Limbaugh is he's trying to turn this into this is an attack on political conservatism. ... What this is is people do not want a bigot as an owner. He's a racist" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 10/14). Dolphins WR Greg Camarillo yesterday said, "The NFL is obviously a diverse workplace and you've got to be pretty sensitive to everybody's needs. You can't alienate any group." But Dolphins LB Channing Crowder contends, "If Rush Limbaugh will sign the checks, everybody will play for him" (PALM BEACH POST, 10/15).

    DID NOT NEED THE RISK: ESPN's Colin Cowherd said the NFL is "so powerful it doesn't need anybody. Rush Limbaugh is a very controversial host, and the NFL is like a very elite country club and they're not going to let members in just because you have the money. They don't need to gamble" ("SportsNation," ESPN2, 10/14). ESPN's Jim Rome: "It's like trying to join Augusta National or any other exclusive golf club: It doesn't matter how much money you have or how famous you are, if they don't like you, you're not getting in and they don’t need to provide you with an explanation" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 10/14).

    Owners Question Checketts'
    Involvement With Limbaugh
    SHOULD HAVE CHECKED TWICE? Checketts in his statement asserted that Limbaugh's involvement "made sense because he was born 100 miles south of St. Louis, is an avid NFL fan, and had an interest in keeping the Rams in St. Louis." But several NFL owners "quietly wondered why a savvy businessman like Checketts would hitch his hopes for the Rams to Limbaugh" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/15). An NFL source "voiced puzzlement over Checketts not discerning the potential backlash of Limbaugh's participation." The source said, "I would have assumed he would have run it up the flagpole with the league before it became known. Then a tepid response would have told him where things stood" (, 10/14). In N.Y., Filip Bondy notes Checketts now will "have to scramble for that kind of money, and it won't be that simple for him to make skittish owners forget about the association with such a controversial personality" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/15). In Salt Lake City, Kurt Kragthrope notes Checketts "showed signs of enlightenment, and just in time." It became clear in recent days that Checketts "miscalculated the big mouth's ability to lie low, and that he should have had more misgivings about including him even in a minor role" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 10/15). In St. Louis, Bernie Miklasz writes Checketts is "normally a smooth operator with keen instincts," but he "never saw it coming, the fierce firefight that erupted." However, Checketts has proven to be an "effective leader," and "that's why, when facing a heavy blitz of political correctness, Checketts chose to take the safe way out" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/15). The PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER's Fox writes, "At least Checketts came to his senses" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/15).

    UNDER REVIEW:'s Darren Rovell noted some sources "expect Limbaugh to fight Checketts." But Rovell wrote, "I don't. I expect the straight shooter in Roger Goodell to call Limbaugh up and say his money is not welcome at any time. You can do that when you're a private business. Even if you are trying to assist in selling a hopeless team" (, 10/14). In Orlando, George Diaz writes talk of Limbaugh's interest in the Rams "turned ugly the last few days," and that "does absolutely nothing to advance race relations in this country." Diaz: "That's the game that Rush plays. And that's not in the NFL playbook" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/15). But in Ft. Lauderdale, Ethan Skolnick wrote the NFL "should not have blackballed Rush Limbaugh, which is essentially what it did." The league "should have let 'market forces' ... work." It should have let Limbaugh "go through the process, rather than applying enough public pressure to force his removal" (, 10/14). WSCR-AM’s Matt Rodewald said Limbaugh "comes out a winner" in the situation because the NFL likes the "quiet aspect of the league, and he gets all the PR and he gets to come away looking good for once” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” CSN Chicago, 10/14).

    Irsay Has Said He Would Vote
    Against A Group Including Limbaugh
    POT CALLING THE KETTLE? YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase noted Colts Owner Jim Irsay, who Tuesday vocalized his opposition to Limbaugh's interest, was "part of perhaps the most contemptible ownership moment in recent NFL history -- lying to the city of Baltimore for months before taking" the Colts to Indianapolis. Chase: "I just find it amusing that Irsay is publicly taking the moral high ground after he and his family willfully abandoned it so long ago. ... Jim Irsay should be careful throwing stones from that glass house of his" (, 10/14). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck wrote, "I think longtime Baltimore sports fans are going to find it humorous that Irsay would suddenly get all high and mighty" (, 10/14).

    LEADING BY EXAMPLE: In Manchester, Lawrence Donegan writes under the header, "NFL's Resistance To Rush Limbaugh Puts English Football To Shame." The NFL, like English soccer, has "strict guidelines on who can and cannot own a team," but unlike English soccer, "these guidelines are strictly applied, not just in letter but also in spirit." Donegan: "What a stunning contrast to the self-serving indifference and greed that has characterised the response of football in this country as a succession of hucksters and tinpot dictators have tunnelled all the way into the very heart of the game" (, 10/15).

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  • Dodgers Owners Frank, Jamie McCourt Reportedly Divorcing

    McCourts, Who Have Been Married Since
    '79, In Middle Of Divorce Proceedings
    Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie, the team's CEO, are "in the middle of divorce proceedings," according to sources cited by Ken Rosenthal of Sources said that the McCourts, who have been married since '79, are "living in separate houses," and one source added that the divorce "will not be amicable." Community property laws in California would give Jamie 50% of the couples' "share of the Dodgers and any of her husband's other assets." Rosenthal notes any uncertainty in the team's future ownership "could be resolved if one McCourt buys out the other." Sources said that Jamie "would be better positioned to make such a move." It is "not known whether a pre- or post-nuptial agreement exists between Frank and Jamie McCourt that would allow for an orderly ownership transition." Jamie was promoted to CEO in March, becoming the "highest-ranking woman" in MLB (, 10/15). The McCourts yesterday in a statement confirmed they have separated, but Frank's attorney Marshall Grossman said that the couple "has not filed for divorce." Grossman noted that Frank is the "sole owner of the franchise and is registered as such" with MLB. He added that Jamie remains CEO "for now but could not say whether that would continue." Grossman also said that "there was 'not a chance' that the team would be put up for sale," and that he "did not expect a legal battle over the team." Padres Majority Owner John Moores and his wife Becky agreed to sell the franchise as part of their divorce proceedings, but Grossman said, "This is not going to be another San Diego-like debacle." In L.A., Elliott & Shaikin note the news explains the "long-visible tension between the McCourts," who were "not seen together often this season and sat in separate rows of the owner's box last week during" the Dodgers-Cardinals NLDS (L.A. TIMES, 10/15).

    FALLOUT COMING:'s Buster Olney prior to news of the McCourts' separation reported there are "major changes looming within the structure of the Dodgers' organization, changes that will be dictated by the direction that ownership takes in the months ahead." Dodgers Exec VP & CMO Charles Steinberg reportedly is "out the door, and headed back to Boston," where he previously served as Red Sox Exec VP/Public Affairs (, 10/14). Sources said that Steinberg is "allied with Jamie McCourt and lost influence as she did" (L.A. TIMES, 10/15).

    Torre Says He Still Intends
    To Retire After '10 Season
    TORRE REFUTES RETIREMENT CLAIM: Dodgers manager Joe Torre said that working for Frank McCourt "was not so unbearable that he would leave the club before his contract expired after next season." Torre: "My relationship is fine here. It’s far from the living hell that it seems to say I was going through. ... I know nothing about where that came from." Torre re-stated that he intends to retire after the '10 MLB season (Tim Brown, YAHOO SPORTS, 10/14). ESPN's Peter Gammons yesterday said he "wouldn't be surprised" if Torre retired following the postseason. Gammons: "A lot of things will probably come out here in the next few months, but I think life with the Dodgers is pretty much a living hell." ESPN Radio 1050 N.Y.'s Michael Kay asked, "So he thought he had it bad in New York and now it's worse there?" Gammons: "There'll be a lot that comes out in time with Dodgers ownership, but that is a mess. I don't think anyone wants to have to put up with it for too long" (ESPN Radio 1050 N.Y., 10/14).

    FIRST THINGS FIRST: Jamie McCourt yesterday on Bloomberg Radio said she "unequivocally" would like the Dodgers to face the Yankees in the World Series. McCourt: "They're the childhood team that I revered. ... It would be fantastic for the entire country from coast to coast. It will be great for TV and keep everybody riveted. It would be two centerpiece teams, two icons" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 10/15).

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  • Ice Edge Holdings Waiting To Buy Coyotes Once NHL Gets Control

    Ice Edge Holdings Has Reached Agreement In
    Principle For Lease Of Arena
    Ice Edge Holdings is "ready to buy the Phoenix Coyotes once the NHL completes its side of the transaction, but everything is on hold until the league finishes sparring in court" with Coyotes Owner Jerry Moyes, according to David Shoalts of the GLOBE & MAIL. Ice Edge has "managed to reach an agreement in principle" on a lease for Arena with the city of Glendale. Ice Edge Holdings COO Daryl Jones yesterday said that the arena lease "will not include any direct subsidies from the city," but there "will be ways for the team and the city to share revenue." Jones "declined to go into detail because the group does not want to make its ideas public yet." Shoalts notes an "interesting addition to the group of businessmen which makes up Ice Edge is John Breslow," a Coyotes investor who "once expressed an interest in making his own bid for the team before dropping out." Bulls and White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf reportedly is "negotiating again with city officials for an arena lease in order to buy the club," but sources contend that there is "no sign he is back in the running." Ice Edge "still plans to play five regular-season games a year in Saskatoon if it buys the club." Jones said that the NHL "has not agreed to the plan, but it has not rejected it, either." Jones added that Ice Edge is "keeping a light in the window" for Coyotes Managing General Partner and former coach Wayne Gretzky. Jones "played down the notion" that CFL Toronto Argonauts co-Owners Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon, "who have spoken to Ice Edge and other NHL owners about buying a team, have joined the group of eight businessmen" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/15).

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  • Franchise Notes

    Modest Number Of Tickets Still Available
    For Most Capitals Games This Season
    In DC, Tim Lemke reports a "modest number of tickets are still available for most" Capitals games this season, despite predictions "that the team would sell out all games at Verizon Center." The team failed to sell about 300 tickets for Monday's game against the Devils and has "tickets in all sections available" for tonight's home game against the Sharks. The Capitals this offseason limited season-ticket sales "to ensure that as many as 1,500 tickets could be sold on a single-game basis." Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis Tuesday said that the team now "may consider making more season tickets available if the full allotment of single-game tickets isn't sold." The team has a waiting list for season tickets (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/15).

    GETTING BACK IN THE GAME? In London, Adrian Curtis reports former EPL club Birmingham co-Owners David Sullivan and David Gold are "seeking another club after selling their stake" in the team. Sullivan grew up as a fan of West Ham United, but the club's finances are "reportedly in a desperate state, and he could be put off by a possible" US$162.4M asking price. Sullivan: "The debts that appear to be at West Ham seem huge. I'm not sure I could face what is going on there" (London INDEPENDENT, 10/15).

    NOTES: The MLB Rangers have told fans who purchased playoff tickets that "refunds won't be coming until sometime in November, possibly not even early November because 'the money is tied up with MLB'" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/15)....The Jazz prior to a scrimmage Tuesday night "used the crowd on hand at EnergySolutions Arena as a backdrop while filming three TV commercials." One spot featured F Andrei Kirilenko "handing off a 'Buy Tickets' sign" to coach Jerry Sloan "after getting called into an imaginary game" (DESERET NEWS, 10/14).

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