SBD/Issue 46/FranchisesPrint All
Guber (l) And Lacob Represent Change
In Atmosphere Around Warriors
The NBA BOG on Friday unanimously approved Chris Cohan's sale of the Warriors to an ownership group led by Joe Lacob and Peter Guber. GSW Sports LLC, a group of six board members and multiple investors headed by Lacob and Guber, have officially assumed full control of the NBA organization. Miami-based Game Plan LLC represented GSW Sports LLC on the sale, while Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP served as legal counsel (Warriors). The NBA formally announced the $450M sale "about an hour after Guber broke the news on his Twitter account" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/13). In San Jose, Adam Lauridsen wrote Lacob and Guber "haven’t proved anything to us yet, but they also haven’t failed us yet." The new owners will be "judged on whether they can make this team a winner and run it in a way that respects its fanbase." The Cohan years "should be remembered by the new owners as a laundry list of 'dont's'" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 11/13).
USHERING IN A NEW ERA: The Santa Rosa Press Democrat's Lowell Cohn said Lacob and Guber have the "right attitude" in taking over the team. Cohn said of Cohan, "The ownership that left is worse than the 49ers ownership. It's the worst ownership imaginable in the free world. So at least they got people who fought for the team, who will spend money on the team, and who seem to know about basketball and want to win." Comcast SportsNet's Ann Killion: "These guys have a lot of money and they are all very enthusiastic. ... This is a day of celebration. This is the end officially of the Chris Cohan regime. It was a disaster. It was so terrible. It's over now and it's great." Yahoo Sports' Marc Spears said of Lacob, "He knows what it takes to put a championship team together. I think that Celtics background will certainly help." However, Spears said Lacob "has to live up to the 'Ghost of Ellison' standing over him. Can he live up to what could have been done by one of the richest men in the world?" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 11/12).
WARRIORS 101: CSNBayArea.com's Ray Ratto wrote under the header, "Warriors Ownership Primer For Joe Lacob." A sports team owner's "expertise is not on the production side, because most owners have as their areas of expertise something other than displaying or assembling athletic talent for money." Since reaching an agreement in July to buy the Warriors, Lacob "has been around to see, if not facilitate," a new coach and a "new logo and uniforms." But now that the sale is final and his "name appears on the checks, Lacob has to fight the natural temptation most contemporary owners do -- to vote his stock on things he cannot truly understand." Ratto: "He needs to have the strength to turn the basketball operation over to the basketball department. He needs to find/retain the smart marketing people to market, and the financial people to finance, and the advertising experts to find/create advertising" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 11/12).
Ilitch's Original Pistons Bid
Was In Excess Of $400M
While Red Wings and Tigers Owners Mike and Marian Ilitch "were originally the highest bidder, they reduced the offer" for the Pistons, leading Owner Karen Davidson and Citibank to "reopen the process to allow other bidders to negotiate again," according to a source cited by Gregg Krupa of the DETROIT NEWS. The Ilitches "received an exclusive 30-day period to finalize the sale in early October" with the possibility Davidson and Citibank "might extend it to late November." The Ilitches "originally bid in excess of $400 million, higher than expected, for an NBA franchise in a season before expected labor strife and in a state wracked by a difficult economy." But sources said that the process "has been opened to other bidders." Krupa noted the "sequence of events leads some observers to conclude that the catching point in the process is merely part of extended negotiations that may well play through, rather than a breakdown." Feeding the "speculation the recent developments may be all part of the negotiations between the Ilitches and Davidson is the theory that when confidential information leaks, the leakers usually have a purpose" (DETROIT NEWS, 11/13).
GORES STILL INTERESTED: In Detroit, Vince Ellis reported Platinum Equity Chair & CEO Tom Gores, who submitted a bid for the Pistons, visited the team outside its Staples Center locker room after Friday's game against the Clippers. Gores "talked openly of his interest in purchasing the Pistons if negotiations break down" between Davidson and the Ilitches. Gores: "I think Mike Ilitch has been great to the Detroit community. If he's able to buy the Pistons then I'd love to be talking to Mike. And if he's not, I'd like to be involved in a different way." Ellis wrote "one would think" the Pistons and Palace Sports & Entertainment are "more valuable to Ilitch." But Gores was "pretty visible Friday night, sitting courtside with Clippers owner Donald Sterling." Sterling announced to onlookers that Gores "wants to buy the Pistons" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 11/13).
Cuban Says His Interest In Stars
Would Be As A Minority Partner
Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban Saturday in an e-mail refuted reports he was looking at buying the Stars, saying that his interest in the team "would only be as a minority partner and only to help him with control of the American Airlines Center," according to Mike Heika of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Cuban wrote in the e-mail, "I've had conversations w/ several folks for the same reason: As always, the arena. And I will talk to anyone who is interested in the Stars, because I would like to get control of the arena" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 11/14). Cuban added that he "has been contacted and has had discussions with a half-dozen prospective ownership partners over about year's time." But he added, "None of whom are close to doing a deal because of the price tag" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 11/14). However, Rogers Sportsnet's John Shannon reported Cuban has "waited for everyone else to kick the tires. Now he's going to come in and look at the books." Shannon: "We're talking basically a price between $50-100 million in cash and another $150 million in debt. Don't be surprised if you hear another name, a local Dallas businessman named Bill Quinn as part of Cuban's partnership." Shannon reported Vancouver developer Tom Gaglardi is out of the running for the Stars for "two reasons." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "would like local ownership and then, people forget this -- Tom Gaglardi took the Aquilini brothers to court last year and the year before about how they acquired the Canucks." Shannon: "Something tells me that people inside the club don't like guys outside the club stirring up the pot" ("Hockey Central," Rogers Sportsnet, 11/13).
FC Gold Pride Was Not Able To Find The New
Investors Needed To Save The Franchise
After two years in WPS, "having a championship team with the best player in the world wasn't enough for FC Gold Pride," who this week will announce that it is folding, according to Tim FitzGerald of the S.F. CHRONICLE. WPS teams are facing a deadline today to "post reserve fund payments." League and Gold Pride officials said that it is "highly unlikely that an investor would step in at the 11th hour and save the team, especially since the Pride has been looking unsuccessfully for a savior since June." Gold Pride Owner Nancy NeSmith said that she "couldn't comment on the status of the club because she was under a gag order by the league while it tried to sort out which teams had the money to survive." FitzGerald noted this is a "bitter pill to those who follow women's soccer in the Bay Area." The San Jose CyberRays also "went under in 2003" when the WUSA folded after three years. Pride GM Ilisa Kessler on Friday said, "I don't know if there's an appetite for women's professional sports, much less for women's soccer, in the Bay Area." Kessler indicated that Nancy NeSmith and her husband, Brian, "lost $2 million on the team this year and $3 million last year" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/13). WPS Boston Breakers D Stephanie Cox said, "It makes me sad to see that more teams are struggling with their revenue because I think that women's soccer is a great form of entertainment for fans. Less teams means less women who get to play this great game." Cox added, "The league is finding ways each year to curb expenses, but for the long run we need to find more ways to get fans in the seats and bring in more revenue. I think once fans come and see us play, they will be hooked" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 11/12).
Devils Have Marketed Themselves
As New Jersey's Team
Teams "across the country are grappling with how to sell tickets in a difficult economy and increasingly crowded market," and the nine pro teams in the N.Y. area "face a unique challenge," according to Sophia Hollander of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. In addition to "playing in one of the country's most competitive markets," nearly every team in the N.Y. area "has -- or will have -- a new stadium by 2012, putting increased pressure on ticket revenues." Of all the area teams, the Nets and Devils "have perhaps the trickiest task of all," as they "each vie for fans against higher-profile teams in their leagues that play in Manhattan." As a result, the Nets and Devils "have become incubators of innovation, willing to experiment with new strategies to see what sticks." The Nets and Devils, who are sharing Prudential Center this season, "have shared some approaches, while sharply diverging on others." The two teams "each offer fans a chance to offer direct input in a more formalized way than focus groups." The Nets created a Fan Advisory Board that fans must apply to join, and there they can "offer opinions about everything from the look of the tickets to the food at the arena." The Devils initiated this summer's Jersey Tour "to do the same thing -- and will be continuing the series this fall." But their "starkest difference relates to their home state," as the Devils "have embraced New Jersey, while the Nets are increasingly shifting their focus to a future in Brooklyn." The Nets "may be pitching wealthy potential suite-holders from Manhattan in Manhattan, but the marketing pitch is all Brooklyn."
JERSEY'S TEAM: The Devils "have taken the opposite approach," as this month the team "unveiled a specialty license plate" proclaiming themselves "Jersey's team." Devils Owner Jeff Vanderbeek: "I think that New Jersey has a lot to offer and needs to be very proud of that fact, and the New Jersey Devils are one of those things." The Devils have "one of the more sophisticated ticket outreach strategies in professional sports, engineered by long-time GOP strategist Mike DuHaime." After "studying people who had bought Devils tickets over the past 10 years," DuHaime and his team "created 11 profiles of typical team fans, ranging from 'active families' to 'upper income dads' to young professionals still living at home." About 10,000 names "were contacted to attend" the team's Jersey Tour meetings, and a spokesperson said that "despite the occasional response from an outraged Rangers fan, the events sold out within the hour" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/15).
Panthers' 1-8 Start To Season Has Some
Fans Upset With Franchise's Direction
Fall Sundays "just don't feel the same" in Charlotte with the NFL Panthers being a "bad dream of a team," according to the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER's Scott Fowler, who wrote a front-page piece under the header, "The Losing Season Of Our Discontent." The 1-8 Panthers this season are "making some of their most dedicated fans angst-ridden or down-right angry." But people are "still watching," as Panthers games "easily remain the No. 1 show in Charlotte each week" despite ratings dropping 7-10% compared to the same period last year. And the Panthers' "actual turnstile counts" at Bank of America Stadium are around 60,000-62,000 per game, "quite respectable by NFL standards, although Panthers fans seem to be leaving quicker than they ever have before." After Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson decided to "go cheap for the 2010 season," some fans questioned his "deep involvement on the management side of the NFL's ongoing labor-management dispute, wondering if he is putting the NFL's fortunes ahead of his own team's." Richardson "has not granted a real interview all season; in fact, he has barely taken any questions from members of the news media for years." But Richardson and Panthers President Danny Morrison -- along with several other team employees -- have been "calling on individual fans who have complained about the team by sending a 'feedback' e-mail to the Panthers website." Several of those fans have said that they are "impressed with the personal touch." Still, Fowler wrote the Panthers' '10 season will be known as a "throwaway year that made a lot of people cringe" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 11/14).
Twins' Successful Debut Season At Target Field
Resulting In 94% Season Ticket Renewals
In Minneapolis, Sid Hartman reported Twins season tickets for the '11 season are "at 94 percent renewal, and it's a cinch they will reach 25,000 for a second consecutive season." Also, "more than 2,000 people have made deposits to join the 'On Deck Circle,' the Twins season ticket waiting list" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 11/14).
SWIMMING ALONG: In Ft. Lauderdale, Sarah Talalay reported the Dolphins Thursday became the latest NFL team to "approve decertifying the union." Dolphins players voted unanimously in support of decertification. An NFLPA spokesperson said that the Dolphins also re-elected RB Ricky Williams "as their players union representative" and voted QB Chad Pennington, WR Brandon Marshall and LS John Denney as alternates (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 11/13).
TRIPLE THREAT: Conference Board of Canada Centre for Municipal Studies Dir Mario Lefebvre said that "three Canadian cities meet the criteria to support an NHL franchise and would likely succeed in the era of salary caps and a stronger loonie." Lefebvre said that Quebec City, Hamilton and Winnipeg "have 'the four pillars' needed for a community to bolster a professional hockey team: a sizable fan base; a wealthy fan base; a sound corporate presence to offer support; and a level playing field, especially economically." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly in an e-mail said that "'one or more Canadian cities' are a 'viable alternative' for an NHL franchise on the heels of a stronger loonie" (NATIONAL POST, 11/13).