SBD/Issue 56/Franchises

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  • Chargers Deny Report That Anschutz Is Buying 35% Stake In Team

    Chargers Maintain They Will Sell Minority Share
    Of Team, But There Is No Timetable

    The Chargers yesterday "denied a radio report" from Toronto's The Fan 590-AM that they have sold or soon will sell 35% of the franchise to AEG Chair Philip Anschutz, according to Scott Bair of the NORTH COUNTY TIMES. The Chargers denied that "any part of the team has been sold to Anschutz." Chargers Special Counsel Mark Fabiani in an e-mail said, "There is no truth to the rumor out of Toronto that the Chargers have agreed to sell a portion of the team to Mr. Anschutz." The Chargers have acknowledged that they "will sell a minority share of the team, but there is no timetable to complete the transaction" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 12/1). In San Diego, Matthew Hall notes AEG "recently proposed building an NFL stadium" in downtown L.A. The company's proposal is "one of two serious plans to bring football back to the No. 2 television market in the country," along with Majestic Realty Chair & CEO Ed Roski's effort to build an NFL-ready stadium in nearby City of Industry (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 12/1).

    ADDING SOME MAGIC: Basketball HOFer Magic Johnson last night announced during an appearance on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" that he is partnering with AEG to help "bring the NFL back" to L.A. Johnson: "I definitely want to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles. ... I think the owners want a team here. I think the commissioner, who is doing an incredible job with the NFL, I think he wants it here. I think we want it here as fans." He noted the team would "probably have to be an existing team because I don't think the NFL wants to expand." Johnson: "I'm sure some teams out there would be willing to move here." Kimmel asked, "If there's an owner that has a team how would you be involved?" Johnson: "We would love to partner with that owner and then be involved in the stadium as well" ("Jimmy Kimmel Live," ABC, 11/30).

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  • Pegula Expected To Sign Letter Of Intent To Purchase Sabres

    Pegula Expected To Meet With NHL Officials
    Regarding Sabres Either Yesterday Or Today

    East Resources President & CEO Terry Pegula traveled to N.Y. last night, "presumably to sign a letter of intent to purchase" the Sabres from Owner Tom Golisano and "possibly meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman," according to Bucky Gleason of the BUFFALO NEWS. Pegula "was expected to meet with league officials" last night or early today at NHL HQs. He "was believed to have signed, or will sign Wednesday, a deal that would give him the franchise for an undisclosed amount," but all signs are "pointed toward him taking over the franchise within the next two months." The Hockey News yesterday reported that Pegula "signed a letter of intent to buy the Sabres for $150 million, which the organization denied." But a source said that the "only error in the report was the purchase price," as it is "believed to be considerably higher." Meanwhile, another report indicated that Pegula "would be introduced at the NHL Board of Governors meetings next week" in Palm Beach; that has yet to be confirmed. Any new ownership agreement "would need approval from 23 owners, which doesn't figure to be a problem for Pegula given his reputation and wealth" (BUFFALO NEWS, 12/1). Sabres Managing Partner Larry Quinn yesterday said The Hockey News report "is not true." Quinn: "We have not signed a letter of intent with anybody. That's all I'm going to say at this time." ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun noted Quinn "would not comment about Pegula's possible interest," but a source said that Pegula "has expressed interest in possibly buying the team" (ESPN.com, 11/30). A source said of Golisano selling the team, “I don't know how serious Tom is. He's giving it serious consideration but hasn't made up his mind." Though the Sabres “aren't for sale or actively seeking a buyer, they have been open to entertaining offers from prospective buyers” (AP, 12/1).

    INSIDE THE DEAL: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell noted Pegula in signing a letter of intent "still has an out, but the team cannot be sold to anyone else." A source said that an announcement of the sale of the Sabres is "expected sometime in late December or early January." Both the Sabres and the NHL "will scream up and down that $150 million is too little for the team," but industry sources said that the price tag "is about right." Campbell noted Golisano has sold a "small part of his interest in the team" to Quinn and COO Dan DiPofi. The source said that Pegula "will likely pick up their portions of the team as well," though there is a "good chance both Quinn and DiPofi will remain in their current positions with the organization." Campbell wrote Pegula buying the team "can be nothing but good news for the Sabres" since he is a "hockey guy through and through and with a net worth of about $3 billion -- he's the 110th richest man" in the U.S. Pegula and his wife, Kim, "recently donated $88 million to Penn State University to help build an arena on campus and create Division I hockey programs for both men and women" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 11/30). YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote there "should be no worries about Pegula moving the Sabres at all, if he's in fact the new owner." Pegula is a "lifelong hockey fan and a Sabres fan whose son, Michael, played youth hockey in the rinks around Buffalo" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/30).

    PLAYERS REACT: Sabres LW Patrick Kaleta said of the potential sale, "Our job is to come in here, play the game, worry about the game and what goes on on the ice. Stuff off the ice, sometimes you can't control and you've just got to roll with the punches and focus on your job. That's what we're trying to do." Sabres G Ryan Miller: "I don't have an every-day relationship with Tom Golisano but he's been tremendous to me as a player. He did a great job at coming at the right time and helping the Buffalo franchise so I have a lot of respect for what he's done for hockey." But Miller added, "As far as the ownership, we don't see him every day so we have to do our business. ... We're under contract with the organization. If the organization changes hands, it's something to consider just from an environment standpoint" (BUFFALO NEWS, 12/1).

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  • Rogers Reportedly In Talks To Buy MLSE Sports Properties

     

    Rogers Communications is "in talks to buy" the Maple Leafs, Raptors, Toronto FC and AHL Marlies for more than $1B (all figures Canadian) in "what would be the biggest transaction in Canadian sport history," according to sources cited in a front-page piece by Cribb & VanAlphen of the TORONTO STAR. Sources indicated that the asking price for the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan's 66% share of MLSE "is in the neighbourhood of $1.3 billion." The sources noted that a deal would include "all of MLSE’s sports properties, including Leafs and Raptors TV stations, but not the company’s real estate holdings." Cribb & VanAlphen note buying a stake in MLSE "would transform Rogers, which already owns the Toronto Blue Jays, into one of the most powerful sports enterprises in North America." The "programming enticements of a deal are irresistible" to Rogers. The media conglomerate, which "already has epublishing, cable, radio and wireless interests and owns the Blue Jays baseball club, could merge Leafs and Raptors TV, add the Toronto FC games and effectively start the most powerful regional sports network in the country." Analysts contend that Rogers might be "attempting a pre-emptive move," because MLSE at the moment "is a threat to start its own powerful regional TV network" (TORONTO STAR, 12/1). The FINANCIAL POST's Tedesco & Sturgeon cite sources as saying that OTPP is "actively shopping" MLSE, but there is "absolutely no deal" to sell a majority stake to Rogers. Sources added that the OTPP also has been "in talks with BCE Inc., which recently bought CTV," MLSE Chair Larry Tanenbaum, and "at least two potential U.S. buyers" (FINANCIALPOST.com, 12/1).     

    MOVING INTO SPORTS: The GLOBE & MAIL's Perkins, Grange, Krashinsky & Marlow note Rogers has been "pushing further into sports deals." It has "already struck content deals with the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, and recently dropped an undisclosed amount of money to purchase the naming rights to what is now known as the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, which included valuable content deals with the Vancouver Canucks." If Rogers does gain a majority stake in MLSE, the "regulatory implications are huge." Although broadcasting companies are "mandated by the CRTC to share their signals with other networks, the rules on sharing are much less clear for the actual owners and creators of the content." If Rogers owned the Maple Leafs, they "could technically deny their telecom rivals the content -- or demand an enormous premium" (GLOBEANDMAIL.com, 12/1).

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  • McCourts' Divorce Case Drags On After Jamie Rejects Settlement

    Judge In McCourts' Divorce Case Has Until
    Jan. 18 To Rule On Dodgers Ownership

    Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt and his estranged wife, Jamie, faced a noon PT deadline yesterday "to consider a proposal to settle their divorce case," and while Frank accepted the proposal, Jamie "turned it down," according to Shaikin & Hall of the L.A. TIMES. That "could leave the issue of who owns the Dodgers in limbo into the new year, and perhaps beyond." The McCourts "now await a ruling" from L.A. Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon "on the validity of a marital agreement that would provide Frank with sole ownership of the Dodgers." Gordon "has until Jan. 18 to rule." It was "originally thought Gordon had until Dec. 28 to rule," but a court spokesperson said that the 90-day clock "did not start until the sides submitted post-trial briefs in October." L.A. Superior Court Judge Peter Lichtman, "who worked for two months as the mediator in the case, declared the two sides at impasse," and he "ordered both sides not to discuss the particulars of his settlement proposal, or the mediation process." Marc Seltzer, an attorney for Frank, in a statement said his client had accepted the proposal because he considered it the "responsible thing to do for his family, the Dodgers organization and the entire community." Seltzer's statement "stunned Jamie's lawyers, who said they believed that Lichtman's order prevented them even from confirming that Jamie had rejected the proposal." Shaikin & Hall note in any settlement, Frank "would be expected to retain control of the Dodgers and Jamie would be expected to receive a payout." L.A.-based family law attorney Lisa Helfend Meyer said that the statement issued by Seltzer "enabled Frank to portray himself as a sensible team owner and portray Jamie as 'the greedy person'" (L.A. TIMES, 12/1). FANHOUSE.com's Jon Weinbach noted there will "still be uncertainty about the Dodgers' future ownership ... no matter how Gordon rules." Frank is "expected to appeal if Gordon rules in Jamie's favor, and evidence submitted in the case raised serious questions about Frank's financial resources and the team's massive debts" (FANHOUSE.com, 11/30).

    SWINGING AWAY: The Dodgers this offseason already have signed free agent SS Juan Uribe and Ps Jon Garland and Ted Lilly, and ESPN's Buster Olney said, "What a difference a year makes, because you remember last offseason. Because the McCourts were just starting to go through their divorce, the Dodgers' payroll was essentially on lockdown and this offseason with the $21M they gave Uribe, with the $5M they gave Jon Garland, with the $33M they gave Ted Lilly, the Dodgers have been the most aggressive team in baseball this offseason, spending about $60M" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 11/30).

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  • Hornets Have Opt Out Option If Attendance Does Not Improve

    Hornets Averaging 14,214 Through First Eight 
    Games At New Orleans Arena This Season

    SMG Regional VP Doug Thornton, whose company manages New Orleans Arena, said that if the Hornets "do not average crowds of at least 14,213" for the next 13 home games, the franchise "can opt out of its current lease agreement" with the state of Louisiana, according to John Reid of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. The Hornets and the state "amended their lease agreement in 2007 to extend it through 2014, but an attendance benchmark of 14,735 was implemented." The franchise "can opt out of the pact if the benchmark is not made over a period of two consecutive years during the agreement." The Hornets "reached the mark for the two-year period that ended in 2009, and the requirement was thought to have been lifted after the state was not required to pay the franchise inducements." But Thornton Monday said that the benchmark "remains in place." Despite a franchise-record eight-game winning streak to start the season, the Hornets "have experienced a decline in attendance." Crowds have "dipped to an average of 14,214 over the first eight games," ranking 25th in the league. The team last season averaged 15,072 for 42 games. If the Hornets "fail to reach the 14,735 benchmark average, they would be free to relocate but would have to pay the state a $10 million exit penalty." They also would have to "inform the state of their intention no later than March 1, 2011." Hornets President Hugh Weber said that the team has "continued to talk with the state since the amended lease was finalized." He added that the Hornets "will continue to have dialogue with the state, and they are not pushing to leave the city" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 11/30).  

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  • Franchise Notes

    Melnyk's Estranged Wife Asks For Injunction To
    Keep Him From Selling Assets, Including Senators

    In Ottawa, Glen McGregor reports Lori Melnyk, the estranged wife of Senators Owner Eugene Melnyk, "has asked a Barbados court for an injunction to keep him from selling his assets, including the team and its arena, until a dispute over child support is settled," according to court documents in Barbados. There is "no indication in the court documents that Melnyk has any plans to sell any of his assets, including the Senators or their arena, nor has he ever spoken publicly about the sale of the team." It is "unknown what the outcome of Mrs. Melnyk's injunction in the Barbados was, or if it was heard" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 12/1).

    LOOKING FOR A BUYER: New York Times Co. President & CEO Janet Robinson yesterday said that the company is "talking with a variety of potential buyers for its stake in the Boston Red Sox and expects to turn a profit on the baseball team's sale." REUTERS' Ben Klayman noted the company "sold in April a small piece of its stake in New England Sports Ventures (NESV), the parent company of the Red Sox." At the time, it said that it "would explore the sale of its remaining 16.6 percent in whole or in parts." Robinson: "It continues to be for sale. We are continuing to talk to a variety of prospective buyers, large and small" (REUTERS, 11/30).

    PUBLICITY STUNT: FANHOUSE.com's Scott Schroeder reported the Mavericks yesterday announced that they have assigned G Rodrigue Beaubois to their D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends. The move gives the Legends an "unprecedented seven former first round picks on their roster." But Beaubois "will not suit up for the Legends." Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban in e-mail said the move is for "marketing support." Schroeder wrote the move sends a "bad message from a league that already struggles to gain mainstream recognition." Schroeder: "For a league where scrutiny happens all too often, the Mavericks could've handled this without making the D-League look more like a gimmick than the league where players are just one small step away from the NBA" (FANHOUSE.com, 11/30).

    FALLING STARS: In Dallas, Tim Cowlishaw reported Stars attendance is "down more than 2,000 fans per game" at American Airlines Center, and that is "just the paid numbers." The "empty seats all around the lower bowl are staggering." Stars management is "crippled by" Owner Tom Hicks' "financial mess." Also, former players such as C Mike Modano, G Marty Turco and RW Jere Lehtinen "are all gone." The Stars still play "exciting and -- for now -- very good hockey," as they are currently in second place in the Western Conference with a 14-8-1 record. But "when they miss the playoffs two straight years, except for the hockey diehards of which there just aren't enough, the Stars fall off the local interest meter" (DALLASNEWS.com, 11/30).

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