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Shinn, Chouest Cannot Agree On Total
Estimated Value Of Hornets Franchise
The expected sale of George Shinn's majority share of the Hornets to investor Gary Chouest "has reached a stalemate," according to Reid & Smith of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. An NBA source on Friday said that the two sides "cannot agree on the total estimated value of the Hornets' franchise, and Shinn plans to explore other investors to get his desired price." Reid & Smith noted the move "could be perceived as a negotiations ploy to force Chouest to compromise." The source said that Shinn "will entertain offers from potential investors who are not limited to those with Louisiana ties, but they must have a commitment to keep the team in New Orleans." The Hornets' New Orleans Arena lease with the state "expires in 2014." Reid & Smith wrote with a "desire to maintain ownership stability, there is a chance the league could step in to help get talks resumed between Shinn and Chouest." Shinn Friday "declined comment," while Chouest "could not be reached" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 4/24). The AP's Brett Martel noted Chouest has "yet to acknowledge publicly that he wants to buy the team or what his vision for the club would be." But he "did not deny that negotiations were ongoing when approached during halftime of one of the Hornets' final regular season home games" earlier this month (AP, 4/24).
GIVE & TAKE: In New Orleans, John DeShazier wrote, "Let's hope this is nothing more than huffing and puffing, that a sale that appeared merely to lack formality 10 days ago still smoothly will be transacted. All that matters to the casual observer is that the franchise has a secure future in New Orleans, and the belief is that the deeper-pocketed Chouest can make that happen." DeShazier added, "If you're Shinn, you ... are looking to make as much money off the sale as possible. Business is business and discounts aren't given on his end. So while Shinn says he wants the buyer to commit to keeping the team in New Orleans, there's no doubt he also wants the buyer to commit to giving Shinn as much profit as Shinn can squeeze out of him. If you're Chouest, you're looking to keep as much money as possible." The notion that Shinn and Chouest are "beefing over money isn't a deal breaker" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 4/25).
STEADY AS WE GO: The TIMES-PICAYUNE's Reid wrote whether the sale "goes through or not, both owners agree that team president Hugh Weber is the stabilizing force of the franchise and its public face through good times and bad." Weber last week said that all team-related decisions "still would be run through Shinn and Chouest." Weber: "Both owners want the same thing, and that's for this team to be successful and for this team to win, and the best opportunity to do that is to get decisive." Prior to the stalemate, it was believed Weber and Hornets GM Jeff Bower "would pursue only candidates" for the team's vacant coaching position that Chouest "had in mind." Weber said that Chouest "will continue to be consulted on all major decisions involving the franchise, along with Shinn" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 4/25).
Blue Jays Posting Second-Smallest Average
Attendance Through 10 Home Games
The Blue Jays through 10 home games at Rogers Centre have posted the "second-smallest average attendance" in MLB, and Blue Jays President & CEO Paul Beeston said team Owner Rogers Communications "saw this coming," according to Jeff Blair of the GLOBE & MAIL. Beeston: "They realize what's happening and accept it. Our thinking is this: We'd rather under promise and overdeliver than overdeliver and under promise." Beeston added, "Rogers is prepared to give us payrolls of [$130-140M], which we'll need to contend. But we need to generate the revenue to sustain that payroll. We're trying to put some integrity back into our ticket pricing." The Blue Jays "have adopted what appears to be a benign marketing strategy." Brock Univ. sports marketing professor Chris Hyatt "agrees with Beeston's aversion to discounting, but he worries about the relative lack of giveaways -- such as bobbleheads." Hyatt: "If you pooh-pooh marketing, you have no choice but to put a winning team on the field." Blair notes the Blue Jays compared to other MLB teams "have more seats in low-priced areas of a large stadium, which drives the average ticket price lower, but the message is clear: If ownership is to approve a big-market payroll, fans should be prepared to pay big-market prices." Meanwhile, a "small season-ticket base (rumoured to be less than 6,000) and a sense they have lost their footprint has in some circles raised the spectre of another Montreal Expos-style move," but there are "huge differences." While the Expos "were cash-strapped, one Rogers executive referred to the Blue Jays' impact on the company bottom line as 'a rounding loss'" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/26).
IS BASEBALL DEAD IN TORONTO? In Toronto, Sandro Contenta noted "significantly fewer tickets were sold for the first 10 home games this year than last year" -- 162,510 compared with 203,966 -- and attendance at the last two home games against the Royals last week "wasn't announced to fans in the stadium, perhaps out of sheer embarrassment." Univ. of Toronto's Rotman School of Management Associate Dean Richard Powers said that Rogers "will eventually cave to pressure from shareholders if business doesn't improve." Powers: "If attendance does not pick up, if they can't find other revenue streams that can offset the decline in attendance, they're really going to have to look at either selling or bringing in new money somehow." Beeston acknowledged that Rogers "has lost money on the Jays for at least the last two years." But he added, "Why I downplay that, why I don't want to talk about it, is that Rogers never complained about this money." But even Beeston "confesses to unease." Beeston: "Is baseball dead in Toronto? I don't know if baseball's dead in Toronto" (TORONTO STAR, 4/24).
Lightning Owner Says He Will Not Be
Involved In Day-To-Day Operations Of Team
In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont profiled new Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik, who said his goal is to turn the franchise "into a world-class organization." Vinik stressed that he is the "franchise owner, not the CEO or the day-to-day general manager, and he’s equally clear about the difference between owning and operating a franchise." Vinik: "I’ll hire a super CEO, and then it will be his job to hire a super GM, and it will be the GM’s job to hire a super coach." Vinik would not "reveal his short list" for the CEO job, saying only that he has "had discussions with a number of prime candidates." He believes that hockey in Tampa "can prosper." Vinik: "We led the league in attendance for the first two seasons out of the lockout" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/25).
TAKE IT TO THE BANK: In Chicago, Lewis Lazare reports locally based Harris Bank is launching two Blackhawks-themed TV spots that "hockey fans who know the game will especially enjoy." In one of the ads, via Element 79, Chicago, two Harris Bank tellers "leap over a counter to relieve two other on-duty tellers as befuddled Blackhawk Duncan Keith -- in full uniform -- looks on." In the second spot, a bank employee "wraps a pen in tape so Hawk Brent Seabrook can hold it in his hockey glove." Lazare writes "nothing in either of the new spots is overwrought," though "much of the humor in the spots will probably be lost on viewers less familiar with how hockey is played" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/26).
LET THEM STAY! Hockey HOFer Wayne Gretzky said he would like to see the Coyotes "stay in Phoenix." Gretzky, former coach and Managing Partner of the club, said, "They deserve to keep their team. It's a great city with great hockey fans." He added, "While I don’t want to see Phoenix move, I would like to see southern Ontario or Toronto get another team. Toronto can certainly handle it. If New York can handle three teams, Toronto can handle two teams" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/25).
ROOKIE SENSATION: The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek noted the Oilers are "increasing the number of tickets available to season ticket holders by 500." The Oilers previously capped season tickets at 13,000, "making the rest available in game packs and on a game-by-game basis." The Oilers have the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft, and Duhatschek noted "presumably, the Oilers are counting on the presence of either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin in the lineup to coax the more wary subscribers back" (GLOBESPORTS.com, 4/23).
TIME TO RISE UP?: A Rangers spokesperson said that there is "nothing to" a rumor that former Wild GM Doug Risebrough will join the Rangers "in a similar role." ESPN.com's E.J. Hradek noted Risebrough is consulting for the club and has a "long-standing relationship" with Rangers President & GM Glen Sather, who reportedly would remain in his role as President as part of the new arrangement. Hradek noted it is "hard to know" whether MSG Chair James Dolan "would sign off on it." Dolan has been "loyal when it comes to Sather, who'd probably have to agree to the move" (ESPN.com, 4/25).
Rams Hope Bradford Will Be
Identifiable Player For Franchise
SI.com's Peter King said the Rams selected QB Sam Bradford with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft because the club "had to draft a billboard." King: "This franchise is a rudderless ship. It doesn’t have any player that anybody identifies with, and they were convinced that no matter what the trade offers or trade feelers were that they weren’t going to trade this pick once they determined that Sam Bradford is going to be the guy” ("PTI," ESPN, 4/23). Meanwhile, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said of the offseason moves by the Lions, which included drafting DT Ndamukong Suh and RB Jahvid Best in the first round, "There’s more hope in Detroit right now than we’ve heard in a decade” ("NFL Draft," ESPN, 4/24).
PICKING SIDES: BRAND REPUBLIC's David Barros reports the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) has "ramped up its strategy to oust current owners, the Glazers, by seeking support" from the club's commercial partners. MUST "targeted Manchester United's sponsors during the game against Tottenham on Saturday by displaying a banner with the catchphrase 'Time To Choose Sides: The Fans or The Glazers.'" MUST CEO Duncan Drasdo: "The message we are sending to the sponsors including Nike, Audi, Budweiser, Betfair and new shirt sponsor AON is an appeal for them to speak to the Glazers on behalf of the 154,000 members who've already joined MUST, as well as the millions of United supporters around the world who long for an end to the damaging ownership of the Glazers" (BRANDREPUBLIC.com, 4/26).
STAYING ON COURSE: In Memphis, Ronald Tillery noted despite the Grizzlies missing the playoffs for the fourth straight time, GM Chris Wallace "contends the organization will not dramatically change course." The team is "committed to building a championship squad with its youth movement unless a no-brainer deal for a superstar is possible." Wallace: "We want to make certain we don't do anything that negates that future." The Grizzlies own three first-round picks in June's NBA Draft, and when asked if they "must draft better than the past," Grizzlies Owner Michael Heisley "responded with an emphatic no." Wallace said, "We have gotten dividends and payback from our draft over the years" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 4/25).
DEEP FREEZE: Redskins employees said that non-football personnel were informed Friday that the team "plans to soon discontinue its participation in the NFL pension program." In DC, Jason Reid noted employees were told their pension contributions "would end in July," and team officials said that beginning July 1, "pension benefits will be frozen." Sources noted that the Redskins are the 15th NFL team to "have opted out of the plan." Players and coaches "are not affected by the move" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/24).
SEATING CHART: In St. Paul, Charley Walters reported the Twins have "just one of 54 private suites at Target Field available for the season." The one remaining suite is priced at a "prorated $125,000." Only two of the 419 Champions Club seats priced at $275 and $175 per game "remain unsold," while "88 of the 3,000 Legends Club tickets, which cost $48 a game, are available" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 4/23).