SBD/Issue 85/Franchises

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  • Frank McCourt Says Divorce Not Affecting Team, Won't Force Sale

    McCourt Assures Dodgers Fans
    He Will Retain Control Of Franchise
    Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt said that his pending divorce from former team CEO Jamie McCourt "has not prevented management from improving the roster this winter and won't force a full or partial sale of the franchise," according to Ken Gurnick of McCourt "assured fans he will retain control of the franchise, that he remains committed to fielding a sustainable championship team, and that he should be judged by what happens on the field." McCourt: "To repeat what I said in October, my personal situation and divorce has no bearing on the team whatsoever. As I've said, I own the team and we're moving forward as we have in the past six years. ... I own the team, it's not for sale and my hope someday is that my four boys will own the team." Gurnick noted the Dodgers' payroll is projected to drop from $100M last season to around $85-90M this season, and "skeptics such as agents claim the Dodgers' payroll has been frozen because of the divorce." But McCourt said, "We've spent a huge amount of money during my tenure as owner. ... I wish there was a direct correlation between how much you spend and how many games you win. Unfortunately, there is not." Meanwhile, McCourt's "vision of a refurbished Dodger Stadium and development of the surrounding 300 acres into a year-round entertainment destination ... has been slowed by the economic downturn." Gurnick noted there will be "modest improvements this year with the addition of portable concessions stands." McCourt said that nearly $150M has "already been spent on the site since he bought the club and he's hopeful major construction will resume next winter" (, 1/14).

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  • Marlins Sign Johnson To $39M Deal Days After Pledge To Spend

    Johnson Is First Marlins Pitcher To
    Sign Long-Term Contract Since '02
    The Marlins and P Josh Johnson Thursday agreed to a four-year, $39M contract extension, just two days after the team pledged to "raise payroll," according to Clark Spencer of the MIAMI HERALD. The agreement "follows closely on the heels of an unprecedented three-party agreement" by the Marlins, MLB and the MLBPA in which the Marlins "promised to increase payroll as dictated by the Basic Agreement." Johnson is the "first Marlins pitcher to have a long-term contract since Jeffrey Loria took over as owner in 2002" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/15). In Ft. Lauderdale, Juan Rodriguez notes the contract was "not a cause-and-effect situation." Johnson is set to make $3.75M this season and $7.75M in '11, "salaries the Marlins already had budgeted" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/15). Also in Ft. Lauderdale, Ethan Skolnick wrote, "Were they pushed by the recent joint letter from Major League Baseball and the players union, essentially warning them to stop pocketing all that revenue sharing loot? Perhaps. But I don't care." The Marlins needed to "start showing their fan base that they were serious, and they needed to do so before they moved into the new stadium that required significant public funding." Skolnick noted that is why he "took exception to David Samson's assertion ... that the team would start spending money after it saw how fans responded to the new stadium" (, 1/14).’s Buster Olney writes, “Within hours after getting their wrists slapped by the powers within the industry for not spending enough, the Marlins spent to lock up Josh Johnson” (, 1/15).

    SUNNY SKIES AHEAD? In West Palm Beach, Greg Stoda notes perhaps the Johnson extension is a "sign of things to come, with a new stadium set to open in 2012." It would be "fun to see what" Marlins President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest "could build if Florida were to nudge" last season's $36.8M payroll just a little higher. Stoda: "It's a waste to shackle Beinfest's genius with such strict economic constraints" (PALM BEACH POST, 1/15).

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  • Arenas' Felony Charge Likely Not Enough For Wizards To Void Deal

    Arenas Has Four Years, $80M
    Left On Contract After '09-10
    Suspended Wizards G Gilbert Arenas is expected to plead guilty Friday to a "single felony count of carrying a pistol without a license" in DC, which "would not be enough to allow the Wizards" to void the remainder of his contract, according to sources cited by Wise & Lee of the WASHINGTON POST. Arenas has four years and $80M left on his contract with the Wizards after this season, and a source indicated that the "only way a team can terminate a contact, in addition to the league suspension, would be to meet a very high standard." However, Wise & Lee note "neither side may be interested in reviving the relationship if and when the NBA reinstates" him from indefinite suspension. A source close to Arenas said that the Wizards G believes team President Ernie Grunfeld and other club officials "failed to support him following his locker room confrontation on Dec. 21 with teammate Javaris Crittenton." Grunfeld declined to comment on the matter, but sources said that if Arenas "cannot be traded and his contract cannot be voided, brokering a peace between the team and the player would be difficult" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/15).

    POTENTIAL FALLOUT:'s J.A. Adande said a guilty felony plea or conviction for Arenas "certainly changes the landscape" of whether the Wizards can void his remaining contract. Adande: "There's a clause in the standard player contract that allows for termination based on moral turpitude. That can be a very vague term. However, felony is very specific. No one doubts the meaning of that" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/15). The Washington Post's Michael Lee said if Arenas is charged and convicted of a felony, the Wizards "have all the rights to go after" voiding Arenas' contract. Lee: "If he pleads down to a misdemeanor, then there is no way they can go after his contract." The Post's Mike Wise: "This is business, and if Ernie Grunfeld is going to work for Ted Leonsis in the future -- if Ted Leonsis gets this team -- he needs to be rid of that contract" ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 1/14). An NBPA source "vowed to fight any attempt to terminate the contract," but's J.A. Adande reported there are "indications the rank and file would not feel the need to rally around this cause." Would the Arenas case, in which he was "clearly in the wrong in many eyes, be worth winning at the expense of weakening the players' position down the road?" (, 1/14). Meanwhile, TNT's Charles Barkley said, "I don't want the Washington Wizards -- who are a horrible organization I might add -- to use this as a way of saving money. Gilbert should be suspended, but the notion he should he suspended for the rest of the year or kill his contract, which he has $90(M) left -- this is not a $90(M) incident" ("Inside The NBA," TNT, 1/14).

    A DIVIDED LOCKER ROOM? YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski reports this case has "polarized the Wizards' locker room -- pitting the front office and players against each other -- and an unprecedented fight to terminate Arenas' contract could unravel the franchise." A source said, "If they try to terminate his contract and fail, they're in big trouble." Wojnarowski writes the Wizards "marketed and made money on the clown persona that ultimately got Arenas an indefinite suspension by NBA commissioner David Stern, and they don't deserve the salary-cap relief that voiding his contract would give them." The Wizards' organization "isn't a victim of Arenas' recklessness, but a co-conspirator" (, 1/15). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said to "PTI" co-host Michael Wilbon, "You argued -- and I thought rather persuasively -- that to this point the punishment was much worse than the crime. They're taking down his picture, they're not selling his jersey, so on and so forth." Wilbon: "When you're talking about scrubbing someone's face and name from history, I think that ridicule is a little over the top, even for this" ("PTI," ESPN, 1/14).

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  • NFL Franchise Notes: Jets' Winning Streak Helping PSL Sales

    Jets' Playoff Run Helping Them To Accelerate
    Their Marketing Before New Stadium Opens
    In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes as the Jets "accelerate their marketing" before their new 82,500-seat Meadowlands stadium opens next season, they "seem like a legitimate team with a good future." Two-thirds of the seats at the stadium "require buying personal seat licenses" for $4,000-30,000 each, and the Jets "refuse to say how many remain." But winning "six of the last seven games has helped sales." Jets Exec VP/Business Operations Matthew Higgins said that "all of the seats in the Coaches Club, which contains the most expensive seat licenses in the house, have been sold." Meanwhile, Sandomir notes the Giants are "more forthcoming with numbers" of sales for the new stadium, "perhaps because they are closer to a sellout." Giants officials said that the team has "fewer than 1,500 seat licenses left, all in club areas, including 300 for the most expensive behind their home bench" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/15).

    CLEANING HOUSE: In Cleveland, Tony Grossi reports "at least six" Browns staffers have been fired as new President Mike Holmgren "fulfilled his promise to make changes." The "entire pro personnel department" of Steve Sabo, Keith O'Quinn, Jim Jauch and James Kirkland was "wiped out" by new GM Tom Heckert. The "sweep of the pro department might set up the arrival" of Seahawks Dir of Pro Personnel Will Lewis, who has a "long relationship with Holmgren." Assistant trainers Danny Long and James Williams also "were let go," and "more changes are expected -- some in high places -- as Holmgren streamlines the organization" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/15).

    SEARCH PARTY: In Pittsburgh, Ed Bouchette reports the Seahawks "have narrowed their search for a general manager to two men," Steelers Business & Football Administration Coordinator Omar Khan and Patriots Senior Football Advisor Floyd Reese. Reese served as Titans GM from '94-06 (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 1/15).'s Jason La Canfora reported sources as saying that Reese "already has had contact with Seahawks owner Paul Allen." Reese has "worked with new coach Pete Carroll in the past and has deep roots with him," and the other candidates for the position "believe Reese will get the job" (, 1/14).

    WAITING IN THE WINGS:'s Don Banks wrote when Ravens Dir of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta "declined to interview for the Seahawks general manager job last week, it was a clear indication that he has emerged as the obvious heir apparent" to longtime Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome. There is "no timetable for Newsome's departure from the organization," but "in the coming weeks, look for Baltimore owner Steve Bisciotti to make the line of succession official in terms of the Ravens' general manager position" (, 1/12).

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  • Franchise Notes

    Mets Seeking Legal Advice
    Regarding Beltran's Surgery
    In N.Y., Waldstein & Schmidt cite a source as saying that the Mets contacted MLB "seeking legal advice" regarding CF Carlos Beltran's recent surgery, which the team claims was "done without their permission." The league informed the Mets that they could either "attempt to withhold pay" from Beltran for the time he spends recuperating or the team can "take a more difficult path and try to void" the remaining two years and $37M on his contract. The "most likely course is that the Mets will attempt to do neither and hope Beltran comes back healthy" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/15). Also in N.Y., Botte & Mccarron write, "Welcome to the Mets' latest injury fiasco and PR disaster" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/15).'s Jay Mariotti: "This is a reflection of the disarray of Mets management" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 1/14).

    READY FOR SOME FUTBOL: In Philadelphia, Jeff Gammage notes the crowd at Thursday's MLS SuperDraft at the city's Convention Center was "standing-room-only, with dozens more fans watching on monitors set up on the concourse." The expansion Philadelphia Union had "at least 200 Union supporters who rocked the ballroom," and team CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz said, "Another landmark day to building the team. Philly has gone from zero to a hundred miles per hour in the soccer world." Sakiewicz earlier this week noted that team has "sold about 9,000 season tickets" at their 18,500-seat Chester stadium, and the "highest-priced sideline seats are sold out" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/15).

    WHERE'S THE LOVE? In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen notes the Bobcats are 14-4 at Time Warner Cable Arena this season, but there were only about 7,500 fans in attendance Tuesday night for the team's "thrilling comeback victory" over the Rockets. The Bobcats are "tough to ignore," putting out an "entertaining, sound and solid" product. They have a "tremendous opportunity to upgrade their profile this weekend" with home games against the Spurs and Suns. The Bobcats through Thursday have won five consecutive home games, and it will be "interesting to see what we talk about if they somehow make it seven" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/15).

    MATCH FIT? In London, Wallace & Fleming report Serie A club Cagliari Owner Massimo Cellino has been "identified as one of the frontrunners" to buy EPL club West Ham United, but he will "have to pass the league's 'fit and proper person test' if he is to be allowed" to buy the franchise. Cellino and his sister Lucina from '96-'00 "fought a high-profile case against charges that they defrauded the European Union over a contract to ship grain to developing countries." The case effectively ended in a plea bargain, but the "complex nature of the trial's conclusion would mean that the Premier League would have to seek legal advice to decide whether Cellino" should be allowed to acquire West Ham (London INDEPENDENT, 1/15).

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