SBD/Issue 100/Franchises

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  • Jeffrey Vinik Agrees To Purchase Lightning From OK Hockey

    Jeffrey Vinik Finalizes Agreement To Buy
    Lightning From OK Hockey
    The Lightning announced Friday morning that Red Sox investor Jeffrey Vinik's Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment has executed an agreement to purchase the NHL club from OK Hockey. The deal also includes the company that operates St. Pete Times Forum and two parcels of land adjacent to the arena. Vinik will be Chair and sole controller of the new ownership group. The transaction still is subject to approval by the NHL BOG (Lightning). In St. Petersburg, Damian Cristodero reports NHL approval is "expected to be done in two to four weeks" because Vinik is financing the purchase in cash. It is "believed the key to the transaction was the willingness of former owner Palace Sports & Entertainment to take less on the dollar to settle its financing of OK Hockey's purchase" (TAMPABAY.com, 2/5). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts cites a source as saying that Vinik will pay $170M (GLOBESPORTS.com, 2/5). However, THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell reported it is believed Vinik "negotiated a discount on the asking price" of $170M because "he realized he would not be able to trade" C Vincent Lecavalier and his 11-year, $85M contract. Most of the money from the purchase price will go to PSE, "which extended $100[M] in financing" to OK Hockey to complete its deal in '08. Galatioto Sports Partners will receive $30M. That is "not expected to leave much" for Koules and Barrie, who purchased the team for $200M two years ago. The "task now is for Vinik to find someone to run the team as president, preferably someone with local roots." Vinik reportedly has "concerns about being perceived as an absentee owner and is eager to get someone in place who can be the public face of the franchise" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 2/4).

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  • Hicks Retains Galatioto Sports Partners To Study Sale Of Stars

    Stars Owner Has Said He Will Consider
    Selling Stake Of Team Or Entire Team
    Hicks Sports Group Thursday announced that it has retained Galatioto Sports Partners to "study the sale of the Stars," according to Mike Heika of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Stars Owner Tom Hicks in a statement noted that he will "consider selling a minority stake, a majority stake or the entire team." Stars President Jeff Cogen said, "While a sale is not a certainty, it is a possibility, and Mr. Hicks has received numerous inquiries about the team." Hicks, who bought the NHL team for $84M in '95, has been "battling financial problems and is addressing more than 40 lenders" to whom HSG defaulted on $525M in loans last March. The ownership's financial problems this season "caused the Stars to lower their payroll" from $56M to $45M, and Hicks recently said that he has been "addressing cash flow issues with the team." Hicks in an e-mail said, "With the separation and pending sale of the Rangers, the Stars have seasonal cash flow needs that are being advanced from time to time by our lenders. We are working closely with the NHL and our lenders to examine all of our alternatives." Cogen Thursday sent a letter to ticket holders saying that the "discussion of a sale would not affect the Stars' performance on the ice." When asked about his interest in acquiring the team, Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban in an e-mail said, "I've talked to some folks about playing a small role in the purchase. Won't look into buying the team" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/5).

    LINE CHANGE: Cogen Thursday said that he "envisions Hicks finding additional investors or selling his stake in the club by the beginning of next season." The Hockey News cited a source as saying that the CIT group, one of HSG's lenders, is "forcing Hicks to sell the club" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 2/4). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts cites an NHL source as saying that there are "four parties seriously interested in buying" the Stars -- one from the Dallas area and three "thought to be Canadian businessmen." One of the interested parties is Calgary-based Avenir Capital Corporation President Bill Gallacher, who "was in contact" with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "months ago and expressed his interest in the Stars." Shoalts notes the Stars will "fetch a much higher price than the Lightning," who reportedly are on the verge of being sold for about $170M to Jeffrey Vinik. The Stars "come with a half interest in an arena that makes a lot of money and they are in one of the largest markets in the United States, one that has shown it will support a decent team." A source indicated that the asking price will be greater than $300M (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/5).

    CHANGE WILL DO YOU GOOD? In Dallas, Tim Cowlishaw writes Hicks selling the Stars can be "only good for Stars fans." With new ownership, the team "will be able to spend to the cap again and make off-ice decisions that aren't governed by Hicks' defaulting on loans for the Liverpool club." Hicks' financial woes have made him "powerless to help a struggling team today" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/5). However, ESPNDALLAS' Richard Durrett wrote, "Say what you want about Hicks, but he's been a good owner overall for the Stars. He spent big bucks to get key players and the Stars won a Stanley Cup on his watch. Missing the playoffs last year and not spending money this season can cloud the big picture. Overall, I think he's been good for this franchise" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 2/4).

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  • Pacers Using Discounted Ticket Prices To Boost Attendance

    Pacers Now Have "Fan-
    Friendly" Ticket Prices
    The Pacers' marketing and ticketing departments have "taken a different approach in their sales tactics" this season, offering "numerous opportunities to buy tickets at a steeper discount," according to Mike Wells of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. The team now has "'fan-friendly' prices, though that means the franchise continues to lose money." Pacers Sports & Entertainment COO Rick Fuson said, "We're trying to look at any possible thing we can, short of giving tickets away for free, to make sure people have a chance to come to games. We're responding to the economy, to the needs and desires of the people that want to come to the game." Wells noted "good teams and bad are offering discounts to survive the tough economy." Pacers deals include a "special military offer where active duty members can get balcony tickets for $5 and club level tickets for $10." Team officials also have been "encouraged to give free tickets to kids in the community wearing Pacers merchandise." Despite being "one of eight teams that sold more than 2,000 new full-season ticket packages," the Pacers are averaging 13,861 per game fans this season, 26th in the league and "down about 300 fans per game from last season." Wells notes just 10 NBA teams have "posted a gain this season" in attendance (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/5).

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  • Franchise Notes

    ESPNCHICAGO.com's Jesse Rogers noted Blackhawks Chair Rocky Wirtz Thursday during an appearance on ESPN Radio 1000 Chicago "held court on a myriad of topics from the trade deadline to his business strategies," and his "honesty as an owner is refreshing." Wirtz said that he "wasn't thrilled with the league scheduling regarding the recently completed eight-game, near coast-to-coast road trip." Wirtz: "You would think with computerized scheduling you could find another way to do that." He also addressed NHL participation in the Olympics and said, "From an ownership standpoint, in the middle of the season, we just as soon skip it. It doesn’t add any more to our sport" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 2/4).

    Paulson Holds First Official
    Staff Meeting For Timbers
    AND AWAY WE GO: MLS Portland Owner Merritt Paulson met with 50 PGE Park employees Thursday in the "first official staff meeting" for the Timbers, set to join MLS in '11. Paulson said, "This is bigger than the Pacific Northwest being the hub of soccer in North America. This is about soccer finally taking hold in the country." He added, "Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot of work to do on and off the field. But we’ve hit that tipping point" (OREGONLIVE.com, 2/4).

    TIME TO MOVE ON? The PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE editorial staff in an open letter to Pirates Owner Bob Nutting wrote, "When you took over the Pirates, you talked about your commitment to win. It hasn't happened and, even with the latest clutch of young prospects, it's unlikely that 2010 will be a winning season." Change for the franchise "could come sooner if you were open to the reported offer" by Penguins co-Owners Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux. The editorial: "That's why you shouldn't dismiss an offer by the Penguins' co-owners out of hand. With their management smarts, superior finances and record of success, they could build this team into not only a sure winner but also one with staying power" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 2/4).

    CAN'T YOU STAY A WHILE? NFL Network's Marshall Faulk, who played for the Rams from '99-'06, said he wishes co-Owners Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez would "keep the team." But Faulk added, "They understand that they’re not St. Louis people. And they want to be in LA where they have their families and lives. And it requires in situations like this, especially in cities like St. Louis, the owner has to live there. You have to be there, You just can’t visit. And they know that" (STLTODAY.com, 2/4).

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