SBD/January 7, 2011/Franchises

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  • Gores Remains Leading Pistons Bidder, Could Close Deal Next Week

    No new bidders for Pistons have emerged since Ilitch's deal fell through in November

    Platinum Equity Chair & CEO Tom Gores "remains the leading bidder" for the Pistons and Palace Sports & Entertainment, and he is "now presumed to be the bidder who will emerge as the owner," according to sources cited by Krupa & Goodwill of the DETROIT NEWS. One source said that his position is "so pre-eminent that Gores could close a deal as soon as next week." Others said that "while that may overstate how quickly a deal can be done, the Pistons nonetheless would like to have an agreement in place to present" to the NBA BOG Feb. 18-21 in L.A. It has been "seven weeks since the Ilitch family's exclusive bargaining agreement to purchase the Pistons expired without a deal -- and with the Ilitches lowering their bid." In the interim, "no new potential bidders have emerged and the position of front-runner Tom Gores has solidified." But while some view a deal between Gores and Pistons Owner Karen Davidson as "imminent, it also is true many expected the Ilitches to buy the team two months ago, adding to their ownership of the Red Wings, Tigers and entertainment properties in Metro Detroit, and leading to their pursuit of financing for a new downtown arena for the Wings and Pistons." Reps for both Gores and the Ilitches declined comment. Experts "have said that given the bleak economy -- especially in southeastern Michigan -- the purchasing price is likely to be less than $400 million." Some NBA observers said that they "believe the Ilitches' original bid was more than" $400M, and Gores' bid is "thought to be" in the $300M range (DETROIT NEWS, 1/7).

    Print | Tags: Detroit Pistons, Basketball, Franchises
  • Dolphins Opt To Retain Coach Sparano After Harbaugh Flirtation

    Dolphins keeping Sparano,
    likely to make staff changes
    Dolphins coach Tony Sparano "has been retained for another season as the team's head coach," according to sources cited by Jeff Darlington of the MIAMI HERALD. The Dolphins "did not officially announce the decision" to retain Sparano, and the reported move came after team Owner Stephen Ross interviewed Stanford Univ. coach Jim Harbaugh for the position. Darlington writes, "Whatever sparked the decision -- whether money, lack of interest on Harbaugh's part or a simple gut feeling from Ross -- the team now will have to do some damage control as it regains its footing after a bizarre few days." The Dolphins "now will move forward with efforts to implement the strategy discussed" during a meeting Monday between Sparano and Ross, and that strategy "will include plenty of staff changes" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/7). In West Palm Beach, Ben Volin reports Ross "reached out to Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden and flew across the country in the middle of the night to lobby" Harbaugh to take the job. The Dolphins "reportedly were offering to make Harbaugh one of the highest-paid coaches in the NFL, giving him a salary comparable to" Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who makes $7.5M annually. Sparano "met with Ross and Dolphins CEO Mike Dee for three hours Monday essentially to re-interview for his job, and was left in limbo until Thursday night" (PALM BEACH POST, 1/7). ESPN.com's Tim Graham wrote under the header, "Dolphins Humiliate Sparano, Then Keep Him." Sparano's relationships with Ross and GM Jeff Ireland "have been damaged and must be repaired" after they "embarrassed Sparano." Graham: "What has transpired over the past 72 hours has made the Dolphins a laughingstock" (ESPN.com, 1/6). ESPN's Adam Schefter: "Lots of questions about the way the Dolphins handled this situation, and they're drawing criticism around the league" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/7).

    NOT A SEXY HIRE: The Cowboys Thursday hired interim coach Jason Garrett, and in Dallas, Tim Cowlishaw writes though Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones made "the right decision," he "was left to face the biggest sales job of his 22 years as Cowboys owner." Garrett "seems the right man for the job," but it is "not the sexiest hire to Cowboys fans who have been drooling over the image of a Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden walking the Dallas sideline." Cowlishaw: "The fact that the Garrett hire is the most logical way to go doesn't sell tickets. Thus, we get back to Jerry's biggest sales job." Cowboys Stadium has been open for two seasons now, and "for thousands of curious fans, that novelty aspect has faded" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/7). Jones Thursday said Garrett "will have the final say on any person that leaves the coaching staff or comes to the coaching staff," and there "won't be a player on this team that Jason doesn't want on this team." Jones: "I wanted to make sure our fans knew the extent of his power, the extent of his ability to do the kinds of things that traditionally we would frankly like for the coach to be able to do" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/7).

    Print | Tags: Miami Dolphins, Football, Franchises
  • NBA Not Ready To Begin Hornets Talks With New Orleans Groups

    Gary Chouest still interested in
    buying Hornets from the NBA
    New Orleans attorney Morris Bart said that Hornets Chair Jac Sperling told him Wednesday night that the NBA is "not ready to begin negotiations with any local ownership group" regarding a sale of the league-owned franchise, according to John Reid of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Bart said, "He repeated to me that he’s working on trying to improve attendance and make the team more attractive overall for a local buyer. It really seems truthful, I tend to believe him. They are trying to improve the finances of the team to sell it to a local buyer." Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's Press Secretary Kyle Plotkin said that the state and the Hornets "continue to have discussions" about the team's lease. Bart, who has expressed interest in purchasing a minority share of the Hornets and has formed a group of minority investors, indicated that former Minority Owner Gary Chouest "remains interested in buying a majority share." He stressed, however, that it "has to be at the right price" for Chouest, who late last year withdrew his bid to acquire complete control of the franchise. Bart: "I think we have a group now that has the financial firepower to negotiate with the NBA to buy the team at whatever is the right price. Of course, we have competition out of state, Larry Ellison is actively trying to get the team. I know he was actively trying to buy it earlier" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 1/7).

    TRYING TO MAKE IT WORK: In L.A., Jim Peltz notes NBA Commissioner David Stern's "stated goal is to stabilize the Hornets and then find new owners" to keep the team in New Orleans, but the "question is whether the NBA needs" the city. Hornets President Hugh Weber said, "Right now we are pedal down to make it work." Since the NBA bought the team last month, "no outside offers to buy the Hornets have surfaced publicly." However, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison on Wednesday claimed that he "offered $350 million to buy the team but was outbid by the NBA." New Orleans Mayor Mitchell Landrieu said, "I feel very comfortable that the NBA is committed to keeping a team in New Orleans. There's always a chance that you can lose the team, so I think people can't take it for granted" (L.A. TIMES, 1/7).

    Print | Tags: Franchises, NBA, New Orleans Pelicans
  • Panthers' Jerry Richardson Apologizes For Press Conference

    Richardson wants fans to be more patient with Panthers coming off a 2-14 season

    NFL Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson Thursday made it a point "to apologize" for his press conference on Tuesday, according to a front-page piece by Tommy Tomlinson of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Richardson wanted to respond to criticism surrounding the "uncomfortable-to-watch news conference." He said, "It was not my intention to be rude, or disrespectful, or not answer questions.” Richardson noted as of Thursday morning, he had received 11 e-mails from fans, and “10 were glowing.” The owner admitted that he "understands fans are frustrated with the Panthers’ 2-14 season,” but said that “fans should take a longer view.” Richardson: “We’ve only been in (the NFL) a short while. We haven’t been in the league 75 years like the Pittsburgh Steelers. Our fan base is young. They don’t know the up-and-down cycles.” Tomlinson notes fans also have “complained about ticket prices.” The Panthers “won’t raise prices next season, but last season prices went up between $1 and $9 per seat.” Richardson said, “They’re ticked off about the ticket price. The ticket price increase was so modest, it surprised me.” Richardson Thursday also addressed turnover in the organization, specifically his decision two years ago to fire his sons, Jon and Mark. Richardson said, “Sometimes it’s difficult for families to operate well in business together. I have other partners. I can’t run the business the way I’d run it if it was a father-and-son business” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/7).

    DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY: Stanford QB Andrew Luck, the favorite to be the Panthers' No. 1 selection in April's NFL Draft, has decided to return to school next season, and in Charlotte, Scott Fowler wrote this "was totally out" of the Panthers' control. Luck's father, West Virginia AD Oliver Luck, said the Panthers owning the top pick in the draft had "absolutely nothing to do with this decision." Fowler: "Richardson's news conference Tuesday, the Panthers' horrible 2010 season -- none of it mattered" (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 1/6). Oliver Luck said, “Even the collective-bargaining agreement issue and the lockout -- I don't think it had any effect. I'm a lawyer (as well as a former NFL quarterback), and I followed all the CBA stuff. I'm well-versed in it. I told Andrew all the basics. He listened. And I don't think it ultimately mattered” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/7).

    Print | Tags: Franchises, Carolina Panthers
  • Franchise Notes

    Baylor (l) alleges frugality from Sterling (r) made signing players a tough prospect

    ESPN.com's J.A. Adande reported the "one consistent theme that emerges from the latest filings" in former Clippers VP/Basketball Operations Elgin Baylor's wrongful termination lawsuit against the team is that "getting owner Donald Sterling to spend money on players is a daunting prospect." The filings, Baylor's "response to the Clippers' motions for summary judgment," also include a declaration from former Clippers GM & coach Mike Dunleavy. Dunleavy said Sterling "always told me to give him a great player and he’d pay for him, but there were several players I wanted to sign and we didn’t because Sterling refused to spend the money." He added, "The Clippers' biggest concern was making a profit." Baylor: "Because of the Clippers unwillingness to fairly compensate African-American players we lost a lot of good talent" (ESPN.com, 1/6).

    STAR SEARCH: In N.Y., Belson & Klein note the Stars lead the NHL's Pacific Division "despite turmoil off the ice." The NHL has been "helping run the team since the beginning of this season" because Owner Tom Hicks "ran into financial trouble." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said a sale of the Stars is not imminent because no one has been "willing to pay fair value for the club." Belson & Klein note one potential bidder is Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban, who owns half of American Airlines Center, where both teams play. Cuban in an e-mail said, "If it gets me control of the arena, I would consider" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/7).

    THE OREGON TRAIL: In Portland, Geoffrey Arnold notes the Timbers are "confident they can reach" their self-imposed cap of 12,000 season tickets sold for the club's inaugural MLS season in '11. The team already has "sold more than 10,000 season tickets," in addition to selling out all PGE Park suites, while renovations to the facility "remain on schedule." Timbers Owner Merritt Paulson "emphasized that the 10,000 number is for full season tickets, not partials." He added, "We haven't even started selling half-season tickets or any partial season tickets. We're going to assess things down the line and make a decision later" (Portland OREGONIAN, 1/7).

    Print | Tags: Franchises
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