SBD/Issue 28/Franchises

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  • Tulsa's New WNBA Club Will Take The Floor With New Nickname

    Bill Cameron, Donna Orender, David Box On
    Hand To Introduce WNBA To Tulsa
    WNBA Tulsa co-Owners Bill Cameron and David Box yesterday formally announced that the Detroit Shock will relocate to Tulsa prior to next season, and the club will have a "new name and could have a new color scheme," according to Lynn Jacobsen of TULSA WORLD. The owners did not say when the team would announce a name or colors, but Box noted that fans "could have input in those decisions." Box: "This is Tulsa's team, we want Tulsa's impact." WNBA President Donna Orender, Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry and Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor also attended yesterday's press conference introducing the state's second major-league sports franchise, which will play in the WNBA's "second-smallest market, behind the Connecticut Sun." Cameron and Box "didn't reveal the cost of the team," but acknowledged that they spent months "working to secure investors, ticket sales and corporate sponsors." The club has sold $1M "through combined season ticket, sponsorship and suites sales." The WNBA last season averaged 8,040 fans per game, but Box said the team can "draw closer to 10,000" at BOK Center. Capacity for home games will be set at about 8,600 and "most of the arena's upper level will be curtained off." But Cameron/Box Sports VP Eric Newendorp said that "if the demand for tickets warrants, the capacity will be expanded into the upper level" (TULSA WORLD, 10/21).

    CUT DAY: Palace Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Tom Wilson yesterday acknowledged that the "tough economy played a major role in selling" the Shock. Wilson said the team lost "somewhere near" $2M for the '09 season. He added, "In tough times you have to make tough decisions. The attendance this year was the toughest ever, and we had to make the call. ... We had owners stick by year after year through millions of dollars in losses, but they felt obligated and believed in the product. It was just time." Late Pistons and Shock Owner Bill Davidson passed away in March, and Wilson said, "I don't know if it would have made a difference if Mr. Davidson was still alive. We're in uncharted water with the economy the way it is right now. We had a board of owners meeting and it was unanimous" (DETROIT NEWS, 10/21). Wilson in a letter posted on the Shock Web site said, "The current state of the economy has presented us with incredible challenges. We, like many of you, have had to make some very difficult decisions -- ones we hoped we never had to make -- and sadly, this move to Tulsa is one of those decisions" (THE DAILY).

    SECOND TIME'S THE CHARM? In Detroit, Terry Foster writes the Shock have a "better chance of surviving in the smaller market where there's less competition and more people receptive to women's athletics." When you "try to place women's athletics in major cities up against the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL, it eventually dies" (DETROIT NEWS, 10/21). In Tulsa, Jimmie Tramel writes the WNBA "will thrive in Tulsa." Team GM & coach Nolan Richardson "has street cred here," and people who "might have zero interest in the WNBA will go to games because of the Nolan factor." Also, has "any pro sports franchise in Tulsa ever emphasized this demographic -- young girls -- for ticket sales?" No matter "what the event is, people will go to the BOK Center just because the arena is that cool." Tramel: "Give Tulsans a major league team to call their own and history says they'll get on the bandwagon. ... If Tulsans want the WNBA to be a hit, then it will be a hit" (TULSA WORLD, 10/21). ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel noted as the WNBA "transitions away from the disappointment of Detroit to a new hope in Tulsa, it's in the same boat it has been: It's not going to sink, but it's also not close to smooth sailing." The league "isn't going to deliver huge TV ratings, but it strives to be a viable programming option." But this move to Tulsa is "about more than just that city or even the state of Oklahoma." It will be the "first WNBA franchise in the middle of Big 12 territory, and that league has led the nation in college women's hoops attendance for the past 10 seasons in a row" (ESPN.com, 10/20).

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  • Dodgers Reach Long-Term Contract Extension With GM Colletti

    Colletti Says He Will Be With
    Dodgers "For A Long Time"
    Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt yesterday announced that the team has reached a long-term contract extension with GM Ned Colletti. The Dodgers have reached the postseason three times in Colletti's four seasons with the team, making him one of three active MLB GMs to have achieved the feat (Dodgers). Colletti: "I'll be here for a long time and I might be here for longer than a long time." Terms of the extension were not disclosed, and Dodgers President & COO Dennis Mannion said, "Once you start naming terms, you're creating an organizational distraction that starts two years outside of the end of the guy's deal and continues on. We agreed to agree to keep it secret" (L.A. TIMES, 10/21). SI.com's Jon Heyman cited a Dodgers source as speculating that the McCourts "were originally thinking they could keep Colletti's pay down if the team failed to make the playoffs," but with the Dodgers reaching the NLCS for the second consecutive year, that plan went "out the window" (SI.com, 10/19).

    DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH: In Boston, Peter Abraham writes the extension adds "stability to an organization facing upheaval in the wake" of Frank McCourt separating from his wife, Dodgers CEO Jamie McCourt, and "facing a battle for control of the club" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/21). Baseball writer Murray Chass wrote the McCourts' divorce "will be bigger and more dramatic" than the divorce of Padres Majority Owner John Moores and his wife, Becky, which led to the sale of the Padres. A source said he has known "for a long time" that the McCourts' separation was coming, and added this is "going to be a messy divorce." The source said the situation is "nasty." The source added it is a "fair statement that [Frank McCourt] is the sole owner" of the Dodgers, but that "has nothing to do with what happens in court"  (MURRAYCHASS.com, 10/18).

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  • Mets Gained $48M From Their Investments With Bernie Madoff

    The Mets Limited Partnership -- which had "widely been rumored to have lost money investing with Bernard Madoff -- actually gained a net $48[M] from its dealings with the convicted swindler," according to a bankruptcy-court filing cited by Futterman & Efrati of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The filing is the "first documentation of how deeply invested" Mets Owner Fred Wilpon was with Madoff, a "longtime friend." The filing showed that the Mets Limited Partnership, "which is connected with Sterling Equities Inc., owner of the Mets, deposited about $523[M] into two accounts with Mr. Madoff -- and withdrew about" $571M. This makes the partnership a "'net winner' from the fraud and thus ineligible to receive compensation from the trustee, who is recovering assets for Madoff investors." The team in a statement said, "As has been stated previously, this has no effect on the operations of the New York Mets." The filing "didn't say when" the Mets partnership began investing with Madoff (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/21). In N.Y., Bruce Golding notes the Mets Limited Partnership "appears twice on a new list of 31 investors who took home more money from Madoff than they handed over." The list indicates the partnership had just "$829,230 purportedly on account with Madoff shortly before his colossal con collapsed in December" (N.Y. POST, 10/21).

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  • MLB Franchise Notes: Rangers Bidder Crane Meets With Officials

    Crane Has Met With
    HSG Represetatives
    In Ft. Worth, Jeff Wilson reports Rangers bidder Crane Worldwide Logistics Founder Jim Crane "met Tuesday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington with representatives from Hicks Sports Group [HSG] and the Rangers as the 'process of identifying potential investors' in the club continues." The meetings included a "tour of the ballpark and conferences with the baseball and business operations staffs." Rangers President Nolan Ryan and GM Jon Daniels "were involved in the process" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 10/21). ESPNDALLAS.com's Richard Durrett reported "more meetings with other potential owners are expected in the next week or two" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 10/20).

    NEXT STOP? Former Padres GM Kevin Towers yesterday said that he "has spoken with both" Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Mets GM Omar Minaya and that he is "open to working for either New York team." Towers said that he "wasn't looking to get back into the game until around the time of the winter meetings, which are in December." He added that he also "has spoken with Red Sox GM Theo Epstein." Red Sox Assistant GM Jed Hoyer is "expected to replace Towers" as Padres GM (Davidoff & Boland, NEWSDAY, 10/21). In Boston, Nick Cafardo reported Towers "could easily land a scouting gig or special assistant job" with the Red Sox or Yankees. Towers attended Tuesday's Yankees-Angels ALCS Game Four with White Sox Special Assistant to the Chair Dennis Gilbert, who is bidding on the Rangers (BOSTON.com, 10/20).

    OUT OF THE PARK: In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy writes former Red Sox Senior VP/Planning & Development Janet Marie Smith's departure from the team is a "big bowl of wrong." Smith "polished Fenway into the jewel that it is today" with Red Sox Owner John Henry's money and President & CEO Larry Lucchino's vision, as she "found space where there was no space." There are "always going to be things about" Fenway Park "that do not work." But Smith "did more for the park than anyone since Tom Yawkey rebuilt Fenway in 1934," and her departure "speaks to new tension inside the walls on Yawkey Way" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/21).

    THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES: In St. Louis, Derrick Goold reported Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III on Monday "sent out a thank-you letter" to Cardinals fans. A team official indicated that "about 340,000 email addresses"  received a letter from Dewitt. The post-season letter went to "season-ticket holders and ticket-buyers, but also to fans who logged onto the Web site for updates from the team" (STLTODAY.com, 10/19).

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  • Franchise Notes

    Stan Kroenke Set To Buy Another 
    Several Hundred Shares In Arsenal
    In London, Paul Kelso reports Arsenal investor Stan Kroenke is "poised to increase his holding" in the EPL club this week, taking his total stake near the 29.9% limit "beyond which he would have to launch a full takeover." Kroenke is scheduled to attend Arsenal's annual meeting this week, and will "pick up several hundred shares in the coming days." Kroenke currently sits "just 646 shares below" the 29.9% threshold, but there is "no expectation" that he is "willing, or able, to launch a takeover," which would cost him an additional US$762.5M. Kelso notes Kroenke's "strategy has to have been to sweep up as many shares as possible," blocking any hostile takeover by Alisher Usmanov, Arsenal's second-largest stakeholder (London TELEGRAPH, 10/21).

    HOME AWAY FROM HOME: In Columbus, Tom Reed reports the Cavaliers tonight will host the Celtics in a preseason game "before a sellout crowd" of about 19,400 at Value City Arena in Columbus. The Cavs last season averaged a 1.81 rating on FS Ohio in the Columbus area, higher than "13 NBA teams' ratings in their home markets" including the Knicks and 76ers. The rating also was "only slightly behind" a 1.85 for local coverage of the Blue Jackets last season, during which the team made their first playoff appearance (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 10/21).

    MARKING HIS TERRITORY: SI.com's Michael Farber wrote Mark Messier's title with the NHL Rangers as Special Assistant to the President "translates to 'GM general in waiting.'" But there are "pitfalls to a neat succession," and the "question is whether Messier will be willing to put in the work." If Messier can "forget how much he is revered in the hockey world and embrace the grunt work, he could be a first-class executive." But if the "Being Mark Messier thing seduces him, the Rangers would be making a mistake" (SI.com, 10/20).

    DON'T PLAYER HATE: ESPN's Michelle Beadle said the "problem" with the Nets' new $25,000 "Your Ticket to a Player" courtside ticket plan is the buyer cannot choose the player who make the visit. ESPN's Colin Cowherd: "If you paid $25,000 for a band at your party, shouldn't you be able to choose Paul Simon and not Boxcar Willie?" ("SportsNation," ESPN2, 10/20). Meanwhile, ESPN's Tony Kornheiser asked, "Can they do this? In other words, is it in the standard player's contract that you can be loaned out like an animal at a petting zoo for an hour at a time?" ("PTI," ESPN, 10/20).

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