SBD/Issue 126/FranchisesPrint All
Stern (l) Believes Jordan Can Make An
Impact In Charlotte As Bobcats Owner
NBA Commissioner David Stern Friday indicated that prospective Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan "will likely be approved as majority owner of the Bobcats by late" this week, according to a front-page piece by Rick Bonnell of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Stern said that the price of the sale will be $275M, $25M less than what Bobcats Owner Bob Johnson "agreed to pay in 2002." Stern said that the "expedited approval process reflects Jordan's urgency to fix the team's problems." Stern: "I think it's fair to say it's struggled in Charlotte. ... It didn't start as well as we would have liked or Bob Johnson would have liked." Bonnell noted the Bobcats "had a series of missteps the past five-plus season that have muted their popularity." The team "overpriced tickets" when they moved into Time Warner Cable Arena, and Johnson "started a regional sports network -- C-SET -- that lasted a single season." Johnson also "publicly berated the local business community for not supporting the Bobcats enough." Stern said that the "various missteps -- he specifically mentioned television rights and naming rights -- were factors in Johnson selling for less than he originally paid." Bonnell noted Jordan "recently met with Stern, asserting he's prepared to spend the time and focus to fix a franchise that is losing tens of millions annually." Stern: "Without question, that is his plan, to do whatever it takes to improve the team as a community asset." Stern added if Jordan's presence makes the Bobcats "into a premier franchise, then players will want to be there." Stern: "His name alone won't do that. But I believe he will have that impact." Stern also confirmed that Johnson "had a written agreement to sell the team" to a group led by The Postolos Group Owner George Postolos had Jordan chosen not to buy the Bobcats (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/13).
LAST-BEST HOPE: The OBSERVER's Bonnell wrote Stern is "relieved Michael Jordan stepped up to buy the team because -- my words, not Stern's -- Jordan is the last-best hope to make Charlotte thrive again as an NBA market." Jordan "hasn't always been around" while serving as Bobcats Managing Member of Basketball Operations, and "things could improve only so much until Bob Johnson made an exit." The Bobcats currently are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings, and "reaching the playoffs will help, but that won't entirely solve the Bobcats' perception problem." Bonnell wrote of the Bobcats, "Sure they need Jordan. More importantly they need an engaged Jordan" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/14).
TO THE HEAD OF THE CLASS: N.Y. Times columnist William Rhoden said with Jordan on the verge of becoming Bobcats Owner, he is "instantly eclipsing Mark Cuban as the NBA's most highly profiled owner." Rhoden said as a player, Jordan's "desire to win was second only to his desire to win championships. I expect that spirit to permeate the Bobcats entire organization" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 3/14).
Predators Will Remain In Nashville
For At Least Two More Years
The Predators will remain in Nashville "for at least two more years" after the team's ownership group Friday said that it has "reached an agreement with the Metro Sports Authority, which serves as the city's landlord at Bridgestone Arena," according to Nate Rau of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. The team largely agreed to Sports Authority board member Lauren Brisky's recommendations, "most notably that the ownership group would waive its early termination clause through June 2012." The team "could have left Nashville as early as May 1." In addition to "agreeing not to enact the early termination clause, the remaining members of the local ownership group also agreed to sign pledges to cover" Majority Owner David Freeman's $31.2M personal guarantee to the city. Rau notes the Predators and the Sports Authority "had been in negotiations in recent months to address a $3.3[M] federal tax lien against" Freeman. Predators Chair Tom Cigarran Friday "pledged that the new ownership group would not be back in front of the Sports Authority for financial concerns any time soon." Cigarran: "We're continuing to fund the team, put more money into the team. We want this team to be here for a long time" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 3/13).
EXTENDING THEIR STAY: In Hamilton, Garry McKay noted the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs Friday "exercised their final three-year option to stay" at Copps Coliseum. The Bulldogs last year "faced the prospect of being kicked out of Copps" if RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie "had been successful in buying the Phoenix Coyotes and moving them" to Hamilton. Bulldogs Owner Michael Andlauer "reaffirmed that the club wouldn't stand in the way of an NHL team coming" to Hamilton, but "pointed out he also had to be fair to the American Hockey League once the Dogs have committed to play, and a schedule has been drawn up" (Hamilton SPECTATOR, 3/13).
(l to r) Giants' Steve Tisch, John Mara And
Jets' Woody Johnson At New Stadium
The Jets Saturday posted a story on their Web site that said the NFL will decide which team hosts the first regular-season game at the new Meadowlands stadium "by a coin toss," but the Giants are "unaware of any such plan," according to Tom Rock of NEWSDAY. The NFL issued a statement "that suggested it too is in the dark on the proposition," and said that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "determines the schedule." NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello: "We have no announcements to make about the schedule at this point." Rock notes when the Jets were "given the final regular-season game in the old Giants Stadium ... many assumed that the Giants would host the first game of the 2010 season." The NFL schedule will be released in early April (NEWSDAY, 3/15). In N.Y., Ralph Vacchiano notes the Giants "weren't pleased with the Jets' surprise announcement." A source indicated that the Jets "have been aggressively pushing the coin-flip idea because they're worried that the NFL has already decided to give the opening game to the Giants" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/15). In the original story, NewYorkJets.com Editor-in-Chief Randy Lange reported the NFL "has said the game will be decided by a coin toss and the Jets have presented a plan for the flip at the new stadium" this week. The details of the coin flip, including its date and time, "have yet to be fully worked out with the league, but the Jets are willing to let the verdict be determined the same way that the league's teams have settled some scores for decades." It is "quite possible there will be media coverage" of the coin flip, and fans "may be invited into the stadium to observe the proceedings and cheer on their side" (NEWYORKJETS.com, 3/13).
FINANCIAL SUPPORT: In N.Y., Richard Wilner reported the Jets are "in good shape to pocket a $200,000 grant from cash-strapped New York to pay for the expenses associated with" holding training camp in Cortland, New York. The Jets last August "moved their team headquarters from their 40-year home at Hofstra University to New Jersey -- and took with them all the income-tax revenue, home-rental income and associated economic benefit that New York had enjoyed." But U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that the $200,000 is "well worth it," as training camp in Cortland has "produced quite a financial return" (N.Y. POST, 3/14).
Ari Ari Fleischer is advising the Buccaneers on the search for a new Dir of Communications, signaling just how political such jobs have become. The Glazers, who own the Bucs, also own Manchester United, which is frequently embroiled in controversies, the most recent of which involves a group of investors seeking to buy the team without their consent. Meanwhile, the Bucs have been hit with charges they spend too little on players and are really saving money to pay off the ManU debt the Glazers incurred in buying the team. "I am helping spread the word for the Bucs about their opening and am holding preliminary talks with some candidates," Fleischer said in an e-mail. "The rest of the interview process and the decision about who to hire are determined by the Bucs." The former White House Press Secretary under former President George W. Bush, Fleischer has his own sports pr firm, Ari Fleischer Sports Communications. The firm is half owned by IMG. He has advised a handful of football clients in the past, including the Packers. He is also currently advising Tiger Woods and the NCAA.
Rhône Group Seeking To Acquire 40% Majority
Stake In Liverpool For About US$165.45M
N.Y.-based investment firm Rhône Group has made an "official proposal" to acquire part of EPL club Liverpool from co-Owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks, becoming the "first of several interested parties to declare its hand," according to Tony Barrett of the LONDON TIMES. Rhône has "been in talks with Liverpool for several weeks" and made an offer "in the early hours of Saturday morning, with Rhône seeking to acquire" a 40% majority stake in the club for about US$165.45M. Gillett and Hicks are "known to be reluctant to accept the offer from Rhône," but they "could be forced into doing a deal that would significantly dilute their shareholding." Gillett and Hicks owe Royal Bank of Scotland US$365.5M, and the bank is "demanding that this debt is cut" by about US$150.46M by this July (LONDON TIMES, 3/15). In London, Rory Smith notes Rhône is one of at least six "potential investors vying to take a majority stake" in the EPL club. Liverpool officials "remain hopeful of receiving a number of competing offers before the Easter deadline" set by club Managing Dir Christian Purslow (London TELEGRAPH, 3/15).
JOINING THE ATTACK: In London, Lawrie Holmes reports Manchester United is "being eyed up by a second potential acquirer, competing with the Red Knights consortium." The group was "thought to have been preparing a bid" worth about US$1.8B before the Red Knights group "revealed its interest." Sources indicated that the "emergence of a second party, thought to be a single entity rather than a consortium, has raised the Glazers' valuation of the club" to at least US$2.4B (London TELEGRAPH, 3/14).
NEXT IN LINE: In London, Kelso & Smith reported EPL club Portsmouth is "on the brink" of having its fifth owner this season, with U.K. real estate tycoon Rob Lloyd "fronting a consortium" intending to buy the club. Lloyd today hopes to enter into "confidential and exclusive arrangements" with the club's administrator, Andrew Andronikou, ahead of a potential US$45M buyout. If Lloyd's takeover is approved by the EPL, he will become Chair, backed by a consortium that includes a N.Y. hedge fund (London TELEGRAPH, 3/14).
In San Diego, Bill Center reports the Padres "could have the smallest payroll in the major leagues this year." The team is "projecting a final payroll of about" $42M for the '10 season, although the payroll for the 25 players on the Opening Day roster "could be closer" to $38.5M. The club's "final 2010 payroll will be roughly the same as it was in 2009." The Padres "will have only nine players this season making $1[M] or more" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/15). Padres Vice Chair & CEO Jeff Moorad in the past has said that the payroll "would be around $40[M] and should increase over the years as the young players gain major-league time" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 3/15).
FEELING MINNESOTA: Single-game tickets for Twins games at Target Field went on sale Saturday, and team officials said that fans were "snapping up all available seats for about 15 of the Twins' 81-home games by day's end." Twins President Dave St. Peter said that it is "possible that all regular-priced tickets will be gone within a month." He added that "more tickets will become available in the next few weeks when the Twins release unsold seats that had been reserved for season-ticket sales" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/14).
Packers Will Wear Throwback
Uniforms In One Game This Season
VINTAGE LOOK: In Green Bay, Charles Davis noted the Packers officially "unveiled new navy blue-and-gold throwback uniforms to a roar of cheers at the sixth annual Fan Fest on Friday night." The Packers "will be fitted in the special uniforms for only one game this season, but it hasn't been decided which one." The new uniforms are "modeled on the Packers' uniforms from the late 1920s" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 3/13). In Milwaukee, Lori Nickel wrote the players "seemed to like" the uniforms. Packers LB Brad Jones: "Most people (other Packers teammates) were backstage when we modeled them and everybody seemed to like them, everyone seemed to like them a lot. Got a bunch of laughs for the thigh pads, because nobody really wears thigh pads" (JSONLINE.com, 3/13).
EARLY BIRD SPECIAL: T'Wolves President Chris Wright said that the team "has sold 625 new season tickets since" introducing a half-price offer. In the first two weeks of the offer, the T'Wolves "have sold more new lower-level tickets than all last year." The half-price deal is "only for this month" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/14).