SBD/Jan. 17, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
Fox has advanced Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt "money to help cover the team's current operating expenses" as he "mounts a legal and financial battle to retain ownership," according to a source cited by Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. Documents indicated that Fox owes the Dodgers $35M for TV rights this year, $37M next year and $39M in '13, but the source "declined to say how much money had been advanced." McCourt "has discussed a new television deal with Fox, one that would extend the company's rights to broadcast Dodgers games and provide him with the nine-figure sum most likely necessary to settle his divorce case," but MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "has the right to reject any such deal." Shaikin wrote it is "unclear whether the cash advance indicates the Dodgers are in immediate financial peril," but sports consultant Andy Dolich said that the "timing was curious, given that team expenses are lower out of season than during the season" (L.A. TIMES, 1/15). In L.A., T.J. Simers wrote McCourt's recent trip to N.Y. to "gather support from Major League Baseball has all the appearance of a desperate man." Divorce court papers revealed that McCourt was "more than $400 million in debt, more than $600 million considering long-term liabilities and now he's paying" his estranged wife, former Dodgers CEO Jamie McCourt, "to stay away." McCourt also "had to borrow money from his brother and friends to make good on payments to Jamie." Simers: "Throw in an estimated $400 million that could be borrowed from Fox to start a regional sports network, and McCourt would be near $1 billion in debt" (L.A. TIMES, 1/16).
HITS KEEP ON COMING: BLOOMBERG NEWS' Edvard Pettersson reported Frank McCourt last week "lost a ruling over his objections" to California Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon's determination that the postnuptial agreement that McCourt says makes him sole owner of the Dodgers "isn't valid." Gordon in a minute order last Wednesday "overruled McCourt's objection to his Dec. 7 tentative decision invalidating the agreement," and he "set a Jan. 25 hearing to consider a final judgment in favor" of Jamie (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 1/14).
The Saints "won't raise tickets prices" next season, except for a "block of 4,500 plaza-level seats that are being upgraded to premium seats" at the Superdome, according to Nakia Hogan of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Saints VP/Communications Greg Bensel said, "This means that 94% of the stadium capacity will realize no ticket price increase." Bensel added that the 6% of the ticket holders "who account for 4,500 seats and about 600 accounts will have their ticket prices increased to prices comparable to that of the club level in the loge." A 10-game plaza sideline seat costs $1,900, while seats in the club level range from $2,400-2,980. The Saints "already have notified some ticket holders of the price increase and are working with fans to relocate to other seats if they don't want to sit in the new premium plaza, which will extend between the 35-yard lines." The Saints last year on the heels of the franchise's first Super Bowl title "had their first ticket hike" since '08. The Superdome this offseason is "undergoing a massive overhaul" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 1/16).
NO PRICE HIKES: In Houston, John McClain reported the Texans "are not increasing ticket prices for the first time since" '06. The Texans have "sold out 90 consecutive games -- every game in franchise history." The team's average ticket price last season ranked 16th in the league. Fans "will be able to get refunds for preseason or regular-season games that are cancelled because of a lockout." The refunds "will be paid with interest no later than 30 days after the NFL determines how many games will be played in the 2011 season" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE , 1/15). Meanwhile, in Miami, Barry Jackson wrote after a "disappointing season and 1-7 home record, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is doing the right thing: He is not raising ticket prices." The team will make "an announcement this week." More "flexible payment plans also will be offered." This will be the "second time that Ross has not raised any prices in his three offseasons as majority owner." Jackson noted the Dolphins "sold 51,069 season tickets for 2010, and this offseason will be challenging" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/16).
The Bobcats are "raising some ticket prices and adding perks next season after spending recent years making dramatic cuts to spur attendance," according to Erik Spanberg of the CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL. The team last week "began issuing season-ticket renewal letters outlining the new pricing and other additions." Prices will increase 10-15% "on 2,500 seats in the lower level at Time Warner Cable Arena." But prices for "all tickets in the upper bowl -- nearly 9,000 seats -- will be reduced" 13-20% for the '11-12 season. Prices for the rest of the arena "will stay the same next season." Team officials said that the "overall impact of the increases and decreases in price will make costs flat for next season." To "offset some of the higher costs, the Bobcats will offer fans in the affected areas $10 per game concession credits and upgraded parking if they renew early." The changes come after the team "made price cuts of 15% or more for three straight years." The Bobcats last season averaged 15,824 fans per game, "an increase of 10% over the previous year." Attendance through 21 games this season is "flat compared with 2009-10" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/14).
ENERGY BILL: The Bobcats on Saturday announced a deal with Duke Energy that provides the company with in-arena and courtside rotational signage, a customized concourse window box, scoreboard video vignettes, a digital presence at bobcats.com, and a drive-to-website promotion and contest (Bobcats). The CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL's Spanberg reports it is a three-year deal worth an "estimated $500,000 annually." Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan helped land the company by hosting Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers and President Brett Carter "last summer in his executive office." Carter said that other possibilities for his company's relationship with the Bobcats include "installing solar panels on the roof" of Time Warner Cable Arena (CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/14 issue).
Cubs Owner the Ricketts family at the Cubs Convention over the weekend continued to pledge to "pump all profits back into the team and to seek an All-Star Game -- possibly 2016," according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. The Ricketts also expressed "growing confidence" in GM Jim Hendry. Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts said that one regret from his tenure as owner was the "ill-advised, poorly timed plea for public funding for Wrigley renovations." Ricketts: "I think we lost control of the dialogue a bit. From our standpoint, it was just a discussion with a handful of people about what we could do for next year, and I think once the media got a hold of it, it wasn't a fully baked solution." Meanwhile, the Cubs said that they have "struck a deal with AT&T to make $5 million in upgrades to the Wi-Fi capacity at Wrigley Field, turning the ballpark into a hot spot" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/16). The Cubs also said that fan surveys "revealed more than 60 percent would like a video board to complement the traditional hand-operated scoreboard" at Wrigley Field (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/16). MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reported Tom Ricketts, Cubs BOD members Todd Ricketts and Pete Ricketts and Cubs VP/Player Personnel Oneri Fleita today will head to the Dominican Republic "to finalize details for a new academy in Boca Chica." The Cubs "are hoping to complete the facility by 2013." Also, the Cubs' new Spring Training facility in Mesa, Ariz., "most likely will not be ready for Cactus League play until 2014" (MLB.com, 1/16).
HONORING A LEGEND: The Cubs Saturday announced that the organization will honor late 3B and radio analyst Ron Santo with a statue of his likeness, only the fourth of its kind at Wrigley Field, and will remember him with a patch to be worn by players and coaches throughout the '11 season. The statue will be unveiled at a to-be-determined Wrigley Field location on Ron Santo Day, which will take place Aug. 10 in conjunction with the Nationals-Cubs game. The patch will debut during Spring Training (Cubs). In Illinois, Bruce Miles noted Tom Ricketts' announcement of both tributes was "met with great applause" at the convention (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 1/16).
The NLL Boston Blazers' halftime show Saturday at TD Garden "left spectators covering their kids' eyes," according to Nina Mandell of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The bit "featured scantily clad dancers competing to see who could give the Blazers' mascot, Scorch, the best lap dance, while the not-so-family-friendly rap song 'Low' blasted" through the arena. The "racy stunt was caught on YouTube and outraged many fans." Blazers President & GM Doug Reffue posted a statement "apologizing for the sexy show on the team's Facebook page." Reffue wrote, "The Boston Blazers halftime act for Saturday's game was clearly not executed according to plan. We are extremely disappointed with elements of the halftime show. We had intended to provide an entertaining and fun halftime environment for our fans and that is not what transpired. The Boston Blazers organization values our fans and have taken their feedback very seriously" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 1/16). The EXAMINER's Katherine Hasenauer Cornetta reported the performance was supposed to be the "first of a season-long lap dance contest at halftime." But the activity "angered fans who were at the game because of the Blazers' own 'family fun activity' advertising" (EXAMINER.com, 1/16).
NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver Friday said that no matter how the Hornets "fare with the benchmark requirement in their current lease agreement with the state, the league's primary emphasis is the long-term viability of the franchise" in New Orleans. Silver: "I think the particular benchmark this season is less relevant to that. ... The numbers are what they are and we'll see. I know there is a concerted effort to put people in the seats in New Orleans. Whatever the math is that's what we'll be in terms of the benchmark." In New Orleans, John Reid noted the league "will be monitoring closely the progress of season-ticket renewals and overall season-ticket sales for next season, which will be launched soon" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 1/15).
HOME UNDER CONSTRUCTION: Nets CEO Brett Yormark noted the "first-level concourse is being erected" at Barclays Center, which is scheduled to open next year. Yormark: "Steel's coming out of the ground. It's very tangible. We're no longer preaching the gospel. Within time, world-class entertainment and sports will be in Brooklyn." Nuggets F Carmelo Anthony's name has been mentioned in trade rumors with the Nets, and Yormark said, "In a market like New York, you need stars to be relevant. The new owners, they understand that." Yormark added Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov "has given everybody in my office and our organization, a bit of swagger" (ESPN.com, 1/15).
UNHAPPY WITH THE COMMISH: In L.A, Mark Heisler cited sources as quoting Clippers Owner Donald Sterling as saying he "would fire" NBA Commissioner David Stern during an "exchange in an owners meeting in Las Vegas a year or so ago." Sterling was quoted as saying to Stern, "You're great at marketing, but you're not tough enough with the union." Heisler: "Sterling "doesn't head a cabal -- and no one would follow in any case -- but many owners are as mad, with better reason." Sterling "has made at least $75 million in 10 seasons in Staples Center," and the amount is "probably closer to twice that" (L.A. TIMES, 1/16).
INVESTOR SEARCH: In Louisville, Dan Klepal reported attorney Bruce Miller, "who has been hired by the Louisville Metro Council to try to find an ownership group that would buy" an NBA team and move it to the city, said that the "primary investor he has been dealing with has requested more information about Louisville's ability to support a pro team." Miller "had hoped that the investor group would sign a letter of intent by the end of December, stating that they were in the hunt for a franchise to play in Freedom Hall." However, Miller said that has not happened because the group asked him for "concepts of what it would take to operate an NBA team in this city." Miller is being "paid with $89,000 appropriated by the metro council for his effort to find a group willing to invest between" $400-700M. Miller said that the information requested "has been sent to the unnamed investor group" last week, along with "information about franchises that might be available for purchase" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 1/15).