SBD/December 16, 2010/FranchisesPrint All
Red Wings and Tigers Owner Mike Ilitch, "after agreeing to a price in excess" of $400M to purchase the Pistons, "discovered the revenues presented in the prospectus were inflated," according to a source cited by Mike Ozanian of FORBES. Ilitch then "lowered his offer price and the deal quickly blew up." Ozanian wrote it "will now be hard for" Pistons Owner Karen Davidson to get $400M for the team "given the Ilitch debacle and dismal state of Detroit's economy" (FORBES.com, 12/15). An Ilitch Holdings spokesperson "declined to comment on the report, citing a confidentiality agreement" with Palace Sports & Entertainment from August. In Detroit, Myers & Gallagher note Forbes "has valued the Pistons at $479 million, fourth-highest in the NBA," but "analysts have expected the selling price to be significantly lower because of Michigan's difficult economy." Ilitch "remains in the ownership mix, as does" Platinum Equity Chair & CEO Tom Gores. A group led by former Rockets President George Postolos also was "among the initial bidders," and the NBA earlier this month "confirmed interest from Middle Eastern groups in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 12/16).
INSIDER'S PERSPECTIVE: CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS' Bill Shea wrote the Forbes report suggests that Ilitch Holdings' hiring of former PS&E President & CEO Tom Wilson "may have paid off." Wilson "spent 30 years working for" late Pistons Owner Bill Davidson, and he "knows just about all that can be known about PS&E and the Pistons' finances." There is "no word on Wilson's specific involvement in the sale/negotiation process, but logic says that his eyes are on the financial information assembled by Davidson's camp" (CRAINSDETROIT.com, 12/15).
The Thrashers "staged a fake police chase" with their mascot yesterday in an "attempt to pique interest in the surging team, which has won 10 of 12 games but still ranks 28th in the NHL" in attendance, according to the AP. "Thrash" was "picked up by officers in suburban Gwinnett County after he supposedly stole a Zamboni from the team's training complex and took off down a busy highway." The team said that Thrash "will be released from custody as soon as 5,000 additional tickets are sold for the remaining five home games in December" (AP, 12/15). ESPNW.com's Amanda Rykoff noted the chase is a "sophisticated, multi-platform promotion, supported by the team's Facebook page, website and the team's Twitter feed." It also "appears to have the cooperation of the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office." The videos on the team's site are the "right mix of 'official' and campy, and the Facebook page and Twitter feeds are updated regularly with Free Thrash updates" (ESPNW.com, 12/15). YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote the Thrashers "pulled off one of the most elaborate and inventive viral marketing stunts in recent pro sports history." It "made the locals take notice of a hockey team playing above and beyond expectations," and it "may have sold a few extra tickets for upcoming games." But reactions to the team's "bold marketing move have been mixed." Thrashers fan blog Bird Watchers Anonymous ran a reader poll on the campaign, and 59% of respondents "felt it was good marketing" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/15).
There are still "clumps of near-empty sections at Scotiabank Place" for Senators games this season, but team officials "believe they have attacked weakened attendance following the 2009 playoff miss, by dropping ticket prices to make their games more affordable for average fans," according to Wayne Scanlan of the OTTAWA CITIZEN. Senators President Cyril Leeder: "From the ticket side, we're in a good spot." Entering Monday's game against the Thrashers, the Senators were averaging 17,673 fans per game at 19,153-seat Scotiabank Place through 17 home games, with four sellouts. Through 17 games last year, the Senators were averaging 18,023 fans per game, with three sellouts. The club averaged 18,270 for the whole season last year. But the team is "giving away fewer tickets than last season, so it is actually ahead in revenue from a season ago even if the attendance numbers don't show it." During the '09-10 season, "for every 44 tickets bought, fans received 50, and the six bonus tickets were recorded as complimentary." That program "has been dropped, although freebies still get circulated and the team is featuring aggressive ticket pricing and merchandise giveaways to pump up sales." Leeder: "When you're trying to rebuild your fan base, the best strategy, we think, is to do it in small increments and build it through more tickets, not by raising prices. Try to keep ticket prices as low as you can and try to sell more seats to more people." Scanlan noted Monday's game against the Thrashers "drew a decent crowd" of 18,184, and Leeder pointed out that the Senators "have four big gates upcoming, including the Pittsburgh Penguins on Boxing Day and the Toronto Maple Leafs on New Year's Day" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 12/14).
The Mets, continuing their push to revive ticket sales after a total 19% attendance dropoff in '10, this week sent a specially created e-mail to season-ticket holders featuring a personalized video from newly hired GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins. The e-mail prompts recipients to enter their name and phone number, with that data then digitally inserted into a video segment that shows Alderson and Collins seeking to close a season-ticket renewal order. The e-mail additionally outlines the Mets' recently announced set of ticket-pricing discounts and fan-rewards program. "We're continuing to look for ways to connect with our fans in different and innovative ways, and the reaction to this so far has been very strong," said Mets Exec VP/Business Operations Dave Howard. The digitally focused marketing effort toward ticket sales follows other similar, recent ventures by other MLB clubs, such as the ticketing microsite launched by the Nationals earlier this month. Howard said it is too soon to predict the Mets' attendance outlook for the '11 season, but added, "We believe we have made a very strong statement to the marketplace." In addition to incumbent season-ticket holders that have not yet renewed, the e-mail was also sent to members of the club's various e-mail distribution lists.
In Phoenix, Rebekah Sanders reports conservative watchdog group The Goldwater Institute "plans to scrutinize" Glendale's Jobing.com Arena lease deal "for potential violations of Arizona law that restricts government subsidies for private business." Goldwater "could meet with Glendale about the deal Friday," and the city "intends to show Goldwater documentation that backs up the terms of the deal." City Council members said that they "feared that if Goldwater won a lawsuit, the city's deal could be derailed and Glendale could potentially lose tens of millions of dollars." But prospective Coyotes owner Matthew Hulsizer said, "I don't expect Goldwater will sue and win" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 12/16).
ALL QUIET ON THE EASTERN FRONT: In Buffalo, Bucky Gleason reports "every indication Wednesday continued to point toward" East Resources President & CEO Terry Pegula "purchasing his favorite team" from Owner Tom Golisano for $175M. No news "could only be construed as good news, and all has remained quiet for more than a week while the sale takes its natural course." There "don't appear to be any major hurdles." Pegula "has been silent since his name surfaced as a prospective buyer," which is a "sign he has control over his hand and understands saying the wrong thing could jeopardize the sale." Golisano "should be praised for pulling the franchise from bankruptcy and stabilizing its future in Buffalo," but he also has "reached a point after seven years, with his interest waning and $100 million in profits before him, in which he would be condemned for keeping the Sabres with Pegula waiting for an easy feed and a gimme" (BUFFALO NEWS, 12/16).
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: NBA Commissioner David Stern yesterday at a Memphis Chamber of Commerce luncheon declined to call Memphis an NBA "trouble spot," but he conceded "it's a place we'd like to see do better." Stern "didn't say Memphians have to do a better job of supporting the Grizzlies," rather that the franchise "has to do a better job of connecting with the town." Stern: "They've got to do on the sales side what the team does so wonderfully on the social-responsibility and community-relations side." In Memphis, Geoff Calkins writes of "all the reasons to think the Grizzlies might actually make it to a 20th anniversary in Memphis, the presence of Stern in the commissioner's office has to rank near the top," as he "believes in the city" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 12/16).
FUZZY MATH? In St. Petersburg, Damian Cristodero reports the Lightning announced an average attendance of 16,168 through 11 games at St. Pete Times Forum, but Hillsborough County records "show the average crowd based on turnstile count through the first 10 games was 12,291." How many of those tickets were actually sold is "unavailable." The "good news for Tampa Bay is the numbers are up 4.3 percent and 16.2 percent, respectively, from last season" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 12/16).