SBD/Issue 51/Franchises

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  • Maloofs Terminate WNBA Monarchs Operations In Sacramento

    Maloofs Terminate Monarchs Operations To
    Focus More On Struggling NBA Kings
    The WNBA Monarchs "ceased operations in Sacramento" on Friday, though league President Donna Orender is "pressing to keep the club intact," according to a front-page piece by Ailene Voisin of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Orender said that "discussions are ongoing with a potential ownership group in the Bay Area." Monarchs and NBA Kings co-Owner Joe Maloof said that the family's "decision to abandon their decadelong ties to the WNBA was prompted by a renewed emphasis on the struggling Kings." Maloof: "We're really bummed about this. ... But all of our efforts have to be on getting the Kings back to where they once were, and that takes our full commitment." It is unclear how many employees "would lose their jobs" as a result of the team's shuttering. The fate of the Monarchs "likely will be determined within a few weeks," and if "sale talks fail, the players will be dispersed among the league's 12 remaining franchises." Orender would not disclose what Bay Area facilities were under consideration, but sources said that Oracle Arena is "receiving the most attention." HP Pavilion officials indicated that they "were interested in the franchise, but had yet to talk to WNBA officials." Voisin noted in the "larger context, the Monarchs departure furthers ongoing concerns about the stability and long-term viability of the 14-year-old league." The three-time champion Detroit Shock moved to Tulsa earlier this fall (SACRAMENTO BEE, 11/21).

    BAY WINDOW: In Seattle, Jayda Evans noted the WNBA said that "investors from the Bay Area are looking to purchase the team," though a source "could not confirm if it's the same investors the league has been in discussions with for about four years." The Warriors, who play at Oracle Arena, "have expressed passing interest, but have since nixed any idea of owning a WNBA team" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 11/20). FANHOUSE.com's Michelle Smith noted Oakland City Council member Rebecca Kaplan has been "pursuing an ownership group for a WNBA team for months," and said that she has "been in active talks with potential owners in Oakland and has met with Orender." Oakland Coliseum Authority Chair Scott Hagerty, whose organization oversees Oracle Arena, said that a WNBA franchise "would be welcome in the area, but it is important to 'approach things cautiously' because of the arena's existing relationship with the Warriors, its main tenant" (FANHOUSE.com, 11/21). Kaplan Friday said the WNBA is "very serious" about potentially moving the team to Oracle (MERCURYNEWS.com, 11/20).

    SURPRISE, SURPRISE? ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel noted the WNBA's interest in the Bay Area has "been long brewing," and the "idea of the Monarchs being shifted southwest has been floated by WNBA observers in years past." But the Maloofs' "commitment previously seemed firm," and their decision to "abandon the Monarchs was kept hidden until the last second, so that even team members and employees were surprised." However, Voepel wrote "perhaps it's really not that big a shock." The Kings have "faced come financial worries, coupled with the Maloofs' disenchantment with 21-year-old Arco Arena." The Maloof's divestment in the WNBA "continues a trend of NBA owners leaving the women's league." Among the other 12 active WNBA franchises, there are "seven independent owners and five NBA owners" (ESPN.com, 11/20). Monarchs coach & GM John Whisenant said, "I am shocked. Joe and Gavin called me (Thursday) night and told me. I was kept in the dark like everyone else. ... This was really a surprise to me" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 11/20). At presstime, 31% of 715 respondents to an online poll said they will miss the Monarchs. Thirty-six percent said they "can take or leave" the Monarchs, while the remaining 32% said "good riddance" (SACBEE.com, 11/23).

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  • Jets, Giants Seek Dismissal Of Class-Action Suit Over PSLs

    Judge Gives Season-Ticket Holder 60 Days 
    To Prove Renewal Rights
    The Jets and Giants have asked the U.S. District Court in New Jersey to "dismiss the class-action suit" filed by season-ticket holder Harold Oshinsky in March over PSLs, according to Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. Judge Peter Sheridan on November 5 "dismissed several of Oshinsky's claims," but he "left a small legal door open." Oshinsky "claimed that he had an implied right to renew his season tickets because the teams kept selling him the tickets to sit in the same seats year after year." Sheridan "gave him 60 days to show more precisely what, if any, his season-ticket renewal rights were, so it could then be determined whether the rights were breached by the teams." Though the case "still faces an uphill battle, the judge provided a minor victory for Oshinsky and other angry season-ticket holders in New York and, potentially, in other cities where teams have sold or hope to sell PSLs." Oshinsky's lawyer Andrew Friedman said that he "asked the teams for all their communications and supposed disclaimers that they said they sent to season-ticket holders over the years." Friedman "may ask to depose team officials, including ticket managers and financial officers." The Jets said that Oshinsky "never had any formal rights to renew his season tickets, only an expectation that he could renew his seats." The Jets renewed his ticket plan because he was a "loyal customer who did nothing to deserve having them revoked." Legal experts said that while Oshinsky's case is "still alive," he is "likely to lose in the end." Tulane Univ. Sports Law Program Dir Gabriel Feldman: "There is a faint glimmer of hope because the plaintiff can do discovery. But there's no express right that gives the ticket owner a right to renew the ticket price in perpetuity." Willamette Univ. law professor Jeffrey Standen: "All the Jets and Giants had to do over the years was add another sentence or two to their agreements and that they can revise any rights they want" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/21).

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  • Lakers Owner Jerry Buss Addresses Team's League-High Payroll

    Buss Says Team Will Maintain Big Payroll
    If It Is Necessary To Win
    Lakers Owner Jerry Buss said spending a league-high $112.7M in payroll and luxury taxes this season "doesn't thrill" him, according to Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. TIMES. The Lakers will spend $91.3M in player salary this season and an additional $21.4M in luxury taxes "if their roster is still the same on the final day of the regular season." Buss: "I don't like to be singled out for that particular purpose, but I feel in this situation it was necessary. When it's necessary, we're going to do that." When asked why he would "cut greatly into profit margins that, in Buss' words, came close to $30[M] or $40[M] last season," Buss said, "We want to win as many championships as we possibly can. We're still a few shy of our rival [the Celtics] and our intention is to catch them." Meanwhile, Lakers Exec VP/Player Personnel Jim Buss, Jerry's son, "has picked up more and more of his father's personal day-to-day decision-making duties," while Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss, Jerry's daughter, "oversees the business side of the Lakers." Jerry Buss said, "Jeanie's had the business responsibility for some time now. Jimmy, I would say started at about 10% or 20% many years ago (on the personnel side) and has gained about 10% a year. I think he's up around 90-something now" (L.A. TIMES, 11/23).

    WHATEVER IT TAKES: Jerry Buss said, "If we could find a way to save some money and stay the level of competition we're at, obviously, we'd try to do that. In this [particular] case, we feel the dollars were well spent. Nobody likes this. I'd rather take the $30[M] or $40[M] and put it in my pocket. Just look at my (frayed) jeans. You think I don't have a big payroll. If it's necessary, we're going to do it." Buss: "Like all gamblers, we feel like we're on a run." Jim Buss said that he "would not hesitate to add to the team's payroll before next season if that's what it takes to keep the Lakers ahead of the pack." He added, "If we win again, I'll look to raise the bar that much more. I'm not one who sits pat on a win. You kind of want to improve because that's what all the other teams are doing, which is basically improving to beat you" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 11/23). Lakers C Andrew Bynum said of Jerry Buss' spending, "As long as we keep winning, I think he'll keep doing it." The Mavericks "have the second-largest payroll, about $4[M] below the Lakers" (L.A. TIMES, 11/21).

    LABOR THOUGHTS: Jerry Buss said that he is "hopeful that things will get resolved" in negotiations for a new CBA between the NBA and NBPA. Buss: "Obviously the intent is to avoid any kind of conflict, somehow to get everybody happy. But at the end of every (collective bargaining) contract, it's been kind of difficult to get the next one signed" (L.A. TIMES, 11/23).

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  • MLB Cardinals, Phillies Will Raise Some Season-Ticket Prices In '10

    Season-Ticket Prices For The MLB Cardinals
    Will Increase An Average Of 3% In 2010
    Season-ticket prices for the MLB Cardinals will increase an average of 3% in '10. Nearly a third of season-ticket holders will receive no price increase, while close to half will see a price increase of $1 or less per ticket. The Cardinals drew 3,343,252 fans during the '09 season -- the 13th time in franchise history and the 6th straight season that the team has topped the 3 million mark (Cardinals). In St. Louis, Joe Strauss noted it is the "third consecutive season" in which the Cardinals have raised prices at Busch Stadium. Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III: "We based it on what was the demand seat by seat." DeWitt said that "except for those tickets including food and beverage, no seat classification experiences an increase of more than $2.25 a ticket." The team saw a 94% "renewal rate among season ticket-holders last season." DeWitt said that the Cardinals "will not set prices for single-game tickets until January." He added that a price increase for those tickets "remains under review." Strauss noted the '10 season "will be the final one in which ticket prices remain frozen for those who paid in full for de facto seat licenses" before Busch Stadium's '06 opening (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 11/21).

    ON THE RISE: In Philadelphia, Paul Hagen reported the Phillies have "raised some ticket prices for 2010." Not counting premium seating, season prices "will vary from no increase to $2 per ticket." Most individual-game tickets "will cost $2 to $4 more" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 11/21).

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  • Franchise Notes

    In Portland, Mike Rogoway examined how Paul Allen's cancer diagnosis will affect his sports holdings. Trail Blazers officials predict that whenever Vulcan Sports & Entertainment "changes hands, the Blazers will, too." Blazers and Vulcan officials maintain that the team is the company's "jewel and a cornerstone" of Allen's empire, and "will remain that way indefinitely." Allen may "very well live for many, many years, but all wealthy people eventually leave their heirs a large estate tax." So with the "value of pro sports franchises soaring, Vulcan could have to pay huge taxes just to hold on to the Blazers" and the Seahawks (Portland OREGONIAN, 11/22).

    GONE WITH THE WIND: In Chicago, Paul Sullivan reports the Cubs last week "fired the opening salvo in a dispute against a local casino, erecting two signboards in the back of the left-field bleachers, which would obscure a prominent casino ad in most television shots during game telecasts." The billboards currently feature no ads, but are "expected to be ready for the 2010 season." A "likely sponsor is Bud Light, which bought naming rights to the bleachers during the reconstruction project" before the '06 season. Sullivan notes there was nothing else the Cubs could do to prevent the Horseshoe Casino ad from "dominating the left-center-field vista of Wrigley Field" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/23).

    NEW FISH IN THE LAKE? In Cleveland, Tony Grossi cited NFL sources as saying that Dolphins Exec VP/Football Operations Bill Parcells may be "agreeable to leaving the Dolphins midway through his four-year contract to take on his next rebuilding project" with the Browns. Parcells' contract allows him to "leave the Dolphins at any point and still receive the remaining money" he is owed, and his new team "would not be required to compensate the Dolphins with money or draft picks." The sources noted that Parcells is "always looking for a new challenge," and feels that the "organization he has set up in Miami will carry on fine without him" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 11/22).

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