SBD/Issue 51/Franchises

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  • McLane, Ready To Move Forward, Officially Puts Astros Up For Sale

    McLane Cites Need To Focus On Estate Planning
    As Reason For Putting Astros On Market

    Astros Owner Drayton McLane "began what will be a prolonged goodbye to Houston on Friday with the announcement that his team is for sale," citing a "need to take more seriously the responsibilities of estate planning and expressing a simple desire to 'move forward,'" according to Zachary Levine of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. McLane and his wife, Elizabeth, "have been fixtures around Minute Maid Park, but their two sons, Drayton III and Denton, are not interesting in taking over the team." McLane has hired N.Y.-based investment firm Allen & Company to assist him in the sale of the club, which a source "tabbed as potentially a $700 million to a $800 million transaction." Allen & Co. Managing Dir Steve Greenberg said that the sale "would likely be a six- to 12-month process," and McLane "expects a long road to a deal as well." McLane: "We're just going to see where the market is. If it's not something we're pleased with, we'll withdraw it. There's no rush to do this." Greenberg said that he "has already received calls from interested parties." McLane "has acknowledged conversations with Miles Prentice, a New York attorney and minor league owner who fell short in his bid to buy the Royals in 1999." But McLane said that "little of substance has been discussed." Prentice Friday said that "while he has considered getting into baseball, he didn't want to participate in the 'auction process' that he feels dealing with Allen & Company will entail." Levine noted Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban is "another potential candidate," but he said in an e-mail that he is "not interested in full or partial ownership of the Astros just three months after losing the chance to purchase the Texas Rangers in a bankruptcy auction." McLane purchased the Astros and their lease on the Astrodome in '92 for $117M (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/20).

    LOOKING FOR THE RIGHT BUYER: Denton McLane said that the "decision to sell was not an easy one." He said, "You have peoples' lives and livelihoods at stake, and we are ultra-sensitive to that. This is a small business when compared to the world at large. We're not Exxon or Conoco. We can't rival them in terms of revenue. But this is a business that everyone cares about." Drayton McLane said that "while price obviously will play a role in the decision on the new owner, he hopes to sell to a buyer who brings the same commitment to the franchise that he believes he delivered for 18 years." McLane: "They don't have to be Texans or live here, but they must be engaged and be involved" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/22). Greenberg said that "whether it takes six months, a year or longer for Drayton McLane to sell the Astros, the combination of a state-of-the-art ballpark, a new television network and a strong business operation should ensure a successful -- and profitable -- outcome for McLane and his family." Greenberg said the Astros' recent agreement with the Rockets and Comcast to launch a new RSN in '12 "puts them in a class with the Yankees and Red Sox and a handful of others, which enhances the overall asset." Greenberg added, "We'll let the market determine the price. We're not going to put prices out there. We'll let people come to us and tell us what they think." In Houston, David Barron noted "one inevitable benchmark ... will be the recent sale in federal bankruptcy court" of the Rangers for $593M to a group led by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan. That sale, "plus the value of the new cable network, led to speculation that the sales price on the Astros could approach" $700M (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/20).

    SUCCESSFUL TENURE: In Houston, Richard Justice wrote, "I miss Drayton McLane already, and you might be wrong if you're certain the Astros are going to be better off without him." Justice: "Drayton ran the Astros when they were one of the winningest teams in baseball. He led the push that resulted in the construction of a beautiful ballpark. And there will never be another one like him" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/20). In N.Y., Bill Madden wrote of McLane, "By and large he's been a good owner for the Astros, who reached the postseason in six of his 14 seasons, including their only World Series (in 2005), under his stewardship" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/21). The HOUSTON CHRONICLE's Levine wrote for McLane the "public figure," Friday's announcement was the "beginning of the end." It was "clear that McLane was enjoying his moment in front of the cameras and that he knew there wouldn't be many more of these" (CHRON.com, 11/20).

    START WITH A CLEAN SLATE: The CHRONICLE's Levine reports the Astros "should be relatively devoid of future payroll when Drayton McLane completes his sale of the team." The future Astros owners "will be clear of what remains on Roy Oswalt's contract and have only one year left on Carlos Lee's." Levine: "Any December surprise likely would involve little if any prolonged salary commitment" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/22).

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  • Rays Cutting Some Ticket Prices, Moving Up Weeknight Games

    Most Rays Ticket Price
    Changes Were $1-2

    The Rays are "slightly reducing or maintaining prices on more than 60 percent of their tickets for next season, and moving weeknight game times up a half-hour to 6:40 p.m. during April and May," according to Marc Topkin of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. Most of the ticket price changes were "minimal, such as $1 or $2 in either direction, and there also was some consolidation of price of seating and ticket categories, along with the continuation of varied pricing based on opponents and day of the week." While the "lowest priced ticket went up from $8 to $9, the Rays are making that price available at considerably more games." The $8 upper box/upper reserved ticket last season "was only available for five games; in 2011 the $9 upper box/upper reserved ticket will be available for 30 games." The Rays also are "likely going to reduce capacity at Tropicana Field by about 2,500 by extending the tarps that cover the seats at the top of the upper deck." Rays Senior VP Mark Fernandez said that it will be a more "intimate" environment with about 34,500 seats available. Topkin noted the Rays will have four different pricing categories -- Diamond, Platinum, Gold and Silver. The Diamond designation will be used for the nine Friday, Saturday and Sunday games against the Red Sox and Cardinals, with tickets ranging from $19-300. The Rays "will continue to allow fans to bring food and some beverages into the stadium and provide limited free parking for cars with four or more." Saturday game times "haven't been set, but will remain in the evening, and the Rays plan to continue their highly successful concert series." Sunday games will remain at 1:40pm (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 11/20). Rays President Matt Silverman said, "Our ticket pricing, as well as the change in game times, reflects our commitment to keeping Rays baseball at Tropicana Field affordable and accessible to our fans, especially for families" (MLB.com, 11/19).

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  • Franchise Notes

    Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt and his estranged wife, Jamie, Friday received a "settlement proposal from the mediator assigned to their divorce case, probably setting the stage for a ruling in the Dodgers' ownership battle." L.A. Superior Court Judge Peter Lichtman "is thought to have given each side until the end of the month to accept or reject his proposal." If the two sides reject the proposal, "as expected, then Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon would rule on whether to uphold a marital agreement that would give Frank McCourt sole ownership of the Dodgers" (L.A. TIMES, 11/20).

    Wang Coming Under Fire As Islanders Are In
    The Midst Of A 13-Game Winless Streak

    STRANDED ON AN ISLAND: In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote Islanders Owner Charles Wang, who "appears to grow more and more sour by the day, is dragging the great franchise through the mud." There is "no doubt Wang at one time was a savior, buying the club when no one else in his right mind would," but that was a "long time ago." Brooks: "Increasingly bitter because of the demise of the Lighthouse project, Wang now oversees a skeleton operation consumed with wiping out its perceived enemies. ... Wang once saved the village, all right, but that does not give him the right now to burn it down" (N.Y. POST, 11/21).

    REWIND THE TAPE: In Edmonton, Paula Simons wrote under the header, "Oilers' Aggressive Lobbying On Arena Project Sets Wrong Tone." The Oilers last week called 350,000 households in the Edmonton area with a tape recording of team President & CEO Patrick LaForge "asking residents whether they favoured a downtown arena." Simons wrote the effort is a "problem" because it "was a power play, specifically designed to get the city's pulse racing -- even if the team's on-ice play hasn't had that effect, of late" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 11/21).

    ROOT FOR THE HOME TEAM? In Oakland, Dave Newhouse writes new Warriors co-Owners Peter Guber and Joe Lacob holding their "coming-out party" last week in S.F. was a "cruel, premeditated slap in the face" to Oakland fans. Newhouse: "Wow! Such class. That decision shows exactly how they feel about you, Oakland" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 11/22). 

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