SBD/Issue 86/Franchises

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  • Karen Davidson "Seriously" Considering Selling Pistons, PS&E

    Davidson Already Discussed
    Selling Pistons With Stern
    Pistons Owner Karen Davidson "seriously is considering selling" the team and Palace Sports & Entertainment, and she has already talked to NBA Commissioner David Stern about the "process and protocol for attracting potential buyers," according to Chris McCosky of the DETROIT NEWS. There has been a "lot of chatter" about Tigers and Red Wings owner the Ilitches making an offer to buy the Pistons and PS&E, but sources said that Mike Ilitch is "not a fan of the NBA." However, McCosky noted it "makes sense for the Pistons and Red Wings to partner" on a new arena. Sources indicated that it is "possible, perhaps even likely, that within this decade the Red Wings and Pistons will partner to build and share a sports arena in downtown Detroit." The Red Wings have "not renewed their lease at Joe Louis Arena beyond this season, and face more" than $10M in "structural repair at the dilapidated arena this summer if the team is to play there next season." The Ilitches have been "looking for a temporary home" for the Red Wings, while the long-term plan at PS&E has been to "build a new arena before 2020." With both teams "needing arenas in this economically-bereft region, it's hard to imagine either being able to raise the money alone any time soon" (DETNEWS.com, 1/17). Davidson was profiled Friday by the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Juliet Chung in the "Home Life" feature. Davidson's 10,000-square-foot house in Snowmass Village, Colorado, is listed at $47M, making it "one of the most expensive listings in the country." Davidson since assuming ownership of the Pistons last March following the passing of her husband Bill "continues to leave the day-to-day management" to team President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars. Karen Davidson: "Thank God it's not baseball" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/15).

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  • Ted Leonsis Facing Wednesday Deadline In Talks To Buy Wizards

    Purchase Of Wizards, Verizon Center Could
    End Decade Of Losses For Leonsis' Capitals
    Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis is "negotiating against a Wednesday deadline to buy" the Wizards and Verizon Center from the estate of the late Abe Pollin, according to a front-page piece by Thomas Heath of the WASHINGTON POST. The outcome could have "far-reaching implications for the Washington sports scene, determining whether Leonsis -- or someone else -- will run Washington Sports & Entertainment." Reps for Leonsis and the Pollin estate have been "in discussions since Jan. 6, hoping to settle on a price" that Leonsis' Lincoln Holdings investor group would pay for 56% of the Wizards and the arena. The consortium already owns the remaining 44%. Heath notes when Leonsis bought the Capitals from Pollin in '99, it was "agreed that he would have 10 business days from the day discussions began to reach a deal." If no agreement is reached by Wednesday on the total value of the team and Verizon Center -- which could range from $400-500M -- both sides could "agree to extend the exclusive talks." If the two sides fail to reach an agreement on the sale price by Wednesday and also "do not agree to extend the talks, each side selects an appraiser to estimate what the building and team are worth." If the two appraisers then "cannot agree on the value for the team, they together pick a third appraiser." Heath notes the purchase could be "crucial for Leonsis because Verizon Center generates revenue that could put an end to a decade of losses for his Capitals." The transaction is "expected to be closely watched in professional sports circles because the price could influence the value of NBA franchises" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/18).

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  • Browns Fire Mike Keenan, Could Part Ways With Dawn Aponte

    The Browns on Friday fired CFO Mike Keenan, who had served as team President "until the arrival of Mike Holmgren" earlier this month, according to Tony Grossi of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Keenan, who was demoted to CFO when Holmgren was named president, oversaw the "development of broadcast contracts and the club's sales and marketing departments." He was Browns Owner Randy Lerner's "top representative at league meetings" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/16). Meanwhile, Grossi cited an NFL source as saying that the Browns and Dolphins are "contemplating swapping salary cap specialists." If the deal works out, Browns VP/Football Administration Dawn Aponte would leave the team for the Dolphins, and would be replaced in Cleveland by Matt Thomas, who holds the same title for the Dolphins. The changes "apparently are being brokered" by new Browns Exec VP Bryan Wiedmeier, who joined the club last week after 29 years with the Dolphins. Aponte previously worked for the Jets when the team was coached by Bill Parcells, who now serves as Exec VP/Football Operations of the Dolphins (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/17). ESPN.com's Adam Schefter cited league sources as saying that when Keenan in '09 "attempted to hire Aponte away from the NFL office, the Browns became the first organization to be charged with tampering with an NFL employee and were fined $50,000" (ESPN.com, 1/17).

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  • McCourt Says Fans Standing By Dodgers Despite Quiet Offseason

    McCourt Maintains That Dodgers Fans Remain
    Supportive Of Team's Direction
    Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt Friday said that the fans "he has spoken to stand firmly behind the team," despite the fact that the Dodgers have "stayed on the sidelines of the free agent market this winter and their season-ticket sales are down," according to Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. TIMES. McCourt: "They're very excited about the team. They're very supportive of what we're doing." Meanwhile, McCourt said that the team's "lack of activity in the free-agent market should not be interpreted as a sign that his team is facing financial difficulties as a result of his personal situation." McCourt: "My divorce has no bearing on the club whatsoever" (L.A. TIMES, 1/16). ESPNLOSANGELES.com's Tony Jackson noted the "matter of a legal claim to an ownership stake in the club" by McCourt's estranged wife, former Dodgers CEO Jamie McCourt, is "expected to be resolved" at a May 24 court hearing. Frank McCourt, when asked about potentially losing that hearing, said, "I own the team. Major League Baseball confirms that I own the team, and we are moving forward." Jackson wrote the "likelihood is that McCourt does have a plan in place in case things don't go his way in the courtroom, but he isn't about to tell the public what it is -- or even acknowledge that it exists." Meanwhile, McCourt added of the team's ticket and sponsorship sales, "We are very, very sensitive to the economy and to what that means to our fans and to families that support the Dodgers, but (the economic crisis) has been going on for over two years now. Notwithstanding that, we had the highest attendance in all of baseball last year, and we have another great year coming up." He added, "There is no question that companies are looking closely at how they can spend their sponsorship dollars differently right now, and we're adjusting to that and making sure we provide great value to our corporate partners. It's really all fine" (ESPNLOSANGELES.com, 1/15).

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  • Gilbert Arenas' NBA Future In Jeopardy After Felony Guilty Plea

    Prosecutors Have Agreed Not To Ask For
    More Than Six Months In Jail For Arenas
    Suspended Wizards G Gilbert Arenas "pleaded guilty Friday in DC Superior Court to a felony count of carrying a pistol without a license, leaving his NBA career in jeopardy," according to Keith Alexander of the WASHINGTON POST. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed "not to ask for more than six months in jail for Arenas." The sentencing is scheduled for March 26. Arenas has four years and $80M remaining on his contract with the Wizards after this season, and the team in a statement on Friday indicated that it was "disappointed in Arenas." The statement said, "Gilbert used extremely poor judgment and is ultimately responsible for his own actions" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/16). Arenas currently is serving an indefinite suspension from the NBA, and in N.Y., Adam Himmelsbach noted the league is "not expected to issue a final punishment of Arenas until it has completed its own investigation of what occurred" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/16).

    TRANSITION OFFENSE: In DC, Michael Wilbon wrote the Wizards "want to distance themselves from Arenas as quickly as possible, and this is surely going to get worse considering management will very quickly seek to void" the remainder of his contract. The difference between the felony and a misdemeanor "could be nearly $100[M], which is a reasonable guess at how much Arenas could lose from his contract with the Wizards and his deal with adidas, which was terminated after Arenas's plea bargain Friday." While it is not a certainty the Wizards will void the contract, "copping to a felony makes it more difficult" for the team to keep ties with Arenas (WASHINGTON POST, 1/16). ESPN's Jalen Rose said, "For the most part, the Washington Wizards have already taken their stance. They're not selling his jerseys anymore, you won't see Gilbert Arenas on any promotions. And a player that you owe $80(M) to, it's hard to have him in uniform out on the floor when you've already shown that you're not going to back him at this point" ("Kia NBA Shootaround," ESPN, 1/15). Arenas stands to lose $9.9M in salary if the NBA maintains his unpaid suspension for the duration of this season, and in L.A., Mark Heisler wrote, "For a dumb joke with four unloaded guns, I'd say justice has been served, or over-served" (L.A. TIMES, 1/17).

    REDEMPTION SONG? FANHOUSE.com's Jay Mariotti wrote Arenas' guilty plea will "lead to his divorce from the Wizards and will make him a public-relations nightmare for any team that dares to give him another chance" (FANHOUSE.com, 1/15). But ESPN.com's Marc Stein cited sources as saying that Magic GM Otis Smith, who was "part of Golden State's brain trust when the Warriors drafted Arenas as a second-rounder in 2001, continues to be one of Arenas’ closest confidantes in the league." Sources indicated that it is a "virtual certainty, given the depth of their friendship, that Arenas will lobby Smith to be the GM who looks past the damage this incident has done to Gil's reputation and grants his comeback chance" (ESPN.com, 1/16).

    With CBA Negotiations Ongoing,
    How Hard Will Hunter Fight For Arenas?
    FALLOUT ON A LEAGUE LEVEL: In Boston, Gary Washburn noted this case will have "massive repercussions around the NBA" for several reasons, "most important is its potential effect on collective bargaining negotiations, which are set to resume at the All-Star break in Dallas." The question for NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter is "how hard he will fight for Arenas." Sources indicated that the union has "set a maximum of a 30-game suspension it will accept for Arenas," and anything longer will "prompt it to appeal for a reduction." But does Hunter "want acrimonious dealings with Stern on the cusp of negotiations?" Arenas might have to "take the fall not only for his behavior but for his timing." He picked a "bad time to act a fool, when owners are crying broke and want a bigger slice of television revenues" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/17). NBA player agent David Falk said, "Teams are losing tens of millions of dollars and the expectation is that the owners are going to really try to cut back. So, to me, it's a no-win situation for the players as a group. If Gilbert somehow avoids having his contract voided during arbitration, the owners will turn right around and tighten up the rules so this will never happen again" ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 1/15).

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  • Orioles To Charge More For Gameday Tickets, Prime Games

    Orioles Introducing A $1-5 Additional Charge
    On Tickets Purchased The Day Of The Game
    The Orioles are "holding the line on season-ticket prices and single-game tickets for the 2010 season" but will introduce a $1-5 "additional charge on tickets purchased the day of the game," according to Ryan Sharrow of the BALTIMORE BUSINESS JOURNAL. In addition, tickets for Yankees and Red Sox games, as well as Opening Day -- dubbed "prime games" -- will cost 10% more than last season, and the additional charge for tickets purchased on gameday "will also be applied." Orioles Dir of Communications Greg Bader said that the team's decision to "hold the cost on season-long plans and most ticket prices is not directly tied to the team's string of 12 straight losing seasons, but is more reflective of the weak economy." Bader "declined to disclose the renewal rate of season tickets heading into 2010, but he expects that figure to be flat with the past six seasons" (BALTIMORE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/15 issue). In Baltimore, Dan Connolly noted the ticketing fee of $1-5 will depend on the "original price of the seat" and if that ticket is "purchased after 12:01 a.m. on game day." Bader said that the new policy, "which will average an additional $2 per game-day-purchased ticket, is becoming more common" in MLB. He said that last season, "10 teams did it; the Orioles have become the 11th team and several more could implement it in 2010." Bader said the policy "rewards fans who buy in advance and make a commitment ahead of time to come" see a game (Baltimore SUN, 1/16).

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  • NFL Franchise Notes: Asking Price For Rams Drops Below $800M

     
    SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Daniel Kaplan cites sources as saying that the price Rams co-owners Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez "would accept for the team has dropped" into the mid- to high-$700M range, "underscoring the challenges even NFL teams have in finding buyers in this economy." Rosenbloom and Rodriguez in June hired Goldman Sachs to look into a potential sale, and sources indicated that the investment bank "quickly dropped" its sale estimate from $900M to about $850M. Kaplan notes "several factors are contributing to the falling price." Beyond the economy and the team's "poor play (3-29 over the past two seasons), Stan Kroenke's" 40% stake and his "right of first refusal for majority control is an issue" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/18 issue).

    GO WITH THE FLOW: Steelers President Art Rooney II said the possibility of an uncapped '10 season "creates some uncertainty about planning for the future." Rooney: "There are changes we've got to deal with and be prepared to adjust to. It's just one of those factors that's out there that the next couple of years are going to be something you wouldn't describe as business as usual." Rooney said he expects the NFL to have a salary cap after next season, and added the uncapped season will "kind of be a one-year situation that we'll get through." He added, "We've got to find the right system and the right adjustments going forward to continue being successful" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 1/16).

    SPREADING THE FIELD: Chargers Exec VP & COO Jim Steeg noted that 26% of the team's season-ticket holders come "from outside San Diego County," and outlined a "number of ways the Chargers have promoted themselves" in Southwest Riverside County. The team continues to air games on the area's KATY-FM, and Station Manager Kevin Watson "estimates his station's ratings for Chargers games 'quadruples' the average Sunday rating and delivers substantial revenue for the classic-rock station." In addition, of the "eight or so retail outlets that sell NFL apparel in Southwest County, only two offer jerseys other than those of the Chargers" (Landon Negri, NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 1/17).

    REACHING THE GOAL LINE? Vikings Owner Zygi Wilf said that he "expects the club to break even financially this year" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/17).

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  • Franchise Notes

    Hurricanes Owner Peter Karmanos expects the NHL salary cap next season to be less than the $56.8M this year, but said that the "cap won't be an issue for the Canes." Karmanos: "We can run a team well under the cap and have it be a team we think can contend." He revealed that the Hurricanes will "take a 'huge financial hit' this season, a result of a drop in overall revenue and now the likelihood of missing the playoffs." He added that the "emphasis will be putting a competitive team on the ice" next season (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 1/16).

    KARMA POLICE: In L.A., Bill Plaschke wrote Clippers Owner Donald Sterling's "negative presence runs as deep through his organization as red, white and blue." From the "sleazy tales of his apartment ownership to the discrimination suit filed against him by Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor, Sterling's swaying, pitching leadership seemingly will never steady this place." Lakers coach Phil Jackson Friday implied that the Clippers' bad "karma comes directly" from Sterling. Jackson: "I do think there is karma in effect. ... If you do a good mitzvah, maybe you can eliminate some of those things. You don't think Sterling's done enough mitzvahs to eliminate some of those?" (L.A. TIMES, 1/17).

    SOL PATROL: WPS Dir of Communications Robert Penner said that AEG has been "in discussions 'for months' with an unidentified party" to sell its 50% stake in the L.A. Sol. Penner said that the sale of the WPS club, "which is currently operating under the custody of the league, will likely be finalized within the next week or two." The Sol reportedly lost $2M in their inaugural season (INSIDESOCAL.com, 1/15). In DC, Steve Goff reported AEG and Blue Star LLC, which owns the other 50%, are selling to a "group that plans to keep the club in the Los Angeles area." Sources indicated that while the new owners would "like to continue playing at Home Depot Center, Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium is under consideration" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/15).

    PITCH PERFECT? In Atlanta, David O'Brien reported former MLBer Tom Glavine has been "in discussions with the Braves about a possible position with the organization that could include duties ranging from front-office work to instructing players in the minor leagues and perhaps even some broadcasting" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/16).

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