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SBD/February 3, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
The Mets "would consider selling a portion" of their share in SportsNet N.Y. if they "can't otherwise sell a minority stake in the team," according to a source cited by Costa, Futterman & Rothfeld of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The source said that the team remains "confident it can sell a minority share of the ballclub without including a piece of SNY," but added that Mets owners would consider including a piece of SNY in a deal "if and when it became a necessity." The Mets own 65% of SNY; Comcast and Time Warner Cable are minority investors in the RSN. The network is Mets Owner Fred Wilpon's "most lucrative sports asset," generating more than $150M "per year in subscriber fees alone" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/3). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reports Wilpon's declaration last week that SNY is "off the block" for now "surprised sports bankers and analysts because the five-year-old network is a lucrative business that could lure buyers eager to own part of a media property in New York." A stake in SNY, which "could be worth $1 billion," would give an investor a "slice of its profits and equity in a growing asset at a time when the Mets are struggling." But Sandomir notes for Wilpon to "sell a substantial part" of the Mets' stake in the RSN, he "would first have to offer it to his partners, Time Warner Cable and Comcast." That could "slow the process." Also, the group "more than doubled the debt on SNY to $450 million last year, which would most likely reduce the price an investor would pay for a stake in the network." But SNY's "steady income and growth potential would still attract buyers" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/3).
GUESS WHO? Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban yesterday said that he "might have some interest in buying the Mets, but he won't be the one to make the first move." Cuban: "For any baseball team, I'm not going to be the one to chase after it. If someone sees me as a potential owner, I will take their call and discuss the deal." Cuban was unsuccessful in bids for the Cubs and Rangers, and he said, "I'm not going to get in a bidding situation ever again. I'm not going to be in a situation where I make the proposal. ... I'm not going to go through the same process I did with the Rangers and the Cubs." Cuban added that his interest in the Mets "would depend on how big of a stake he could purchase" (NEWSDAY, 2/3). Cuban: "I've just come to the conclusion that if I'm going to write a huge check, I'd rather have my ass kissed than have to chase" (ESPNNY.com, 2/2). Cuban noted that he "doubts he would be willing to buy in without majority control unless he has future buying rights." He said, "I can tell you from my perspective, it’d be very unlikely that I’d choose to participate if they came to me for a minority stake unless there was a right to buy it in the event of that opportunity" (N.Y. POST, 2/3). In N.Y., Tim Smith writes Cuban "would be the perfect man to own a share of the franchise." Cuban could "make things happen for the Mets." He would "demand the kind of excellence that the Wilpons haven't been able to cajole from the franchise for the last few years." Smith: "Mr. Wilpon, please pick up the phone and call Cuban. ... He would breathe fresh life into what is a stale, staid franchise. And his hands-on approach and accessibility would be a tremendous asset to a team that needs an image boost. It might even be enough to wipe away the stench from the Bernie Madoff mess" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/3).
Attorneys for Wilpons and Katz (c) feel trustee
"manufactured a flawed legal theory" for lawsuit
PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS: In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes Mets GM Sandy Alderson over the next few months can "confirm with actions that he is not shackled by Wilpon-authorized handcuffs," as he has claimed. The Mets own the 13th pick in June's MLB First-Year Player Draft, so will they "take the best player available even if it is, say, a Scott Boras client?" Also, the int'l signing period opens a month later. Alderson said he does not think "any of those decisions will be affected" by the Madoff fallout. He cited a "scouting meeting last week in which there was no discussion of which players to avoid in the draft due to potential costs." Alderson: "There have been no restrictions in those areas" (N.Y. POST, 2/3).
The Trail Blazers last week launched their annual season ticket renewal effort, and with an "injury-riddled lineup and an uncertain roster for next year," the team's Rip City United effort "may be crucial to continuing a string of strong financial results that dates to 2004," according to Allan Brettman of the Portland OREGONIAN. The Rip City United initiative is a "benefits program for season ticket holders launched at the start" of last season. As part of the program, Trail Blazers players last week "were on hand for the second night of bowling and games" at Big Al's bowling alley in Vancouver, Wash. Rip City United also "includes several other benefits, including discounts on ticket prices based on length of seat ownership." An e-mail sent to season-ticket holders last week "included a link to a personalized interactive video, in which popular players" F LaMarcus Aldridge and G Rudy Fernandez "figure prominently." March 15 is the "last deadline for season ticket holders to keep their seats, priority number and maintain all of their benefits," and a Trail Blazers spokesperson said that "in the early going, renewals are running slightly ahead of last year." But Blazers officials "know it is the product on the court, rather than the amenities off it, that puts butts in seats." There have been "empty seats lately around the Rose Garden, even though the Blazers have maintained a sellout streak now at 139 games." Trail Blazers Senior VP & COO Sarah Mensah said, "Under the circumstances, the business is going well. Of course, the business tends to fall on how the team goes." Mensah noted that ticket prices "would not increase next season," and "for some seats near the court, prices will decrease." Brettman notes keeping sponsors "satisfied is also important" to the Trail Blazers. The team last month "opened a lounge for the exclusive use of sponsors" on the "restricted second level of the Rose Garden" (Portland OREGONIAN, 2/3).
The ownership structure of Manchester United has become "even more opaque after the Glazer family shifted the ultimate ownership of the club to a new company incorporated" in Delaware, according to Paul Kelso of the London TELEGRAPH. Delaware is rated the "most secretive financial location in the world, and the change means that it will be even harder for supporters and media to establish the implications of the club’s corporate structure." The "most pressing issue concerning Manchester United's highly-mobilised fanbase is how the Glazers managed to clear" $403.6M (all figures US) of payment-in-kind (PIK) loans that "had been incurring interest at more than 16 per cent before it was abruptly paid off in November last year." Delaware's secrecy rules "mean that the directors, officers and shareholders of the new company are unknown, as is the source of the money used to repay the PIKs." The Glazers have "declined to say how they paid off the PIK loans, and whether any debt incurred to do so is still secured against the family’s shareholding in the club or related entities." Financial analyst Andrew Green said that the move "suggested the Glazers were trying to obscure the source." Green: "It is almost as if the Glazers are trying to keep information about the PIK repayment secret" (London TELEGRAPH, 2/3). The FINANCIAL TIMES' Roger Blitz reported the Glazer family in December filed an annual return for Red Football Shareholder Ltd., "one of United's two UK parent companies," showing that the Red Football partnership shares "have been transferred to a company called Red Football LLC." That company was incorporated in Delaware on Nov. 4, "three weeks before the PIK loans were paid off" (FT.com, 2/2).
FRIENDS OF THE DEVILS: In N.Y., Jere Longman examines the global popularity of ManU, which "counts 139 million core fans worldwide and as many as 339 million followers, has a jersey sponsorship with the insurance broker Aon that pays $34 million a year and a long-term deal with Nike worth $470 million in addition to profit sharing." The club "reaches its fans directly, and averages nearly 75,000 in attendance at Old Trafford, with another 300,000 annually taking tours of the stadium and visiting its team museum." With its own TV network that "reaches 192 million homes, 20 million unique monthly visitors to its Web site and 8.5 million followers on Facebook, Manchester United can control its message." A reporter seeking interviews "was told that nothing was possible without three to four weeks’ notice" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/3).
Red Sox Chair Tom Werner on Tuesday insisted that he “won’t be a bidder” for the Dodgers should the franchise be put up for sale as a result of Frank and Jamie McCourt’s divorce. Werner: “I’m not interested in exploring that possibility. I’m having a great time in my role here” (CSNNE.com, 2/1). A’s Owner and L.A. resident Lew Wolff last month said he had “no interest whatsoever” in buying the Dodgers. Brewers Owner Mark Attanasio, who also lives in L.A., has “declined all comment on the Dodgers” (LATIMES.com, 2/2).
SHOULD HE STAY OR SHOULD HE GO? On Long Island, Alan Hahn notes Knicks President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh’s contract “has a team option for a fourth season that must be picked up by April 30,” but neither Walsh nor his agent, Steve Kauffman, has been “given any indication from team owner James Dolan that the fourth year will be picked up.” Walsh “publicly has said he is not concerned about his future, and privately has told confidants the same.” A source said that Dolan “has always been honest with him and Walsh doesn’t expect that to change” (NEWSDAY, 2/3). However, YAHOO SPORTS’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported Florida Int'l Univ. men's basketball coach Isiah Thomas is “pining for his old job” with the Knicks. Sources said that Thomas “still speaks regularly” with Dolan, “sometimes several times a week.” Dolan “confers with Thomas about the job that Donnie Walsh has done as president” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/2).
GOING UP TO GO DOWN: YAHOO SPORTS’ Steve Henson noted the Reds spent more than $150M on contract extensions this offseason. But “despite the spending frenzy, the Reds reduced their payroll.” The club spent 13.4% more on its roster last season than in ’09, but payroll this season will decrease to about $73M, a “nifty sleight of hand accomplished through deferred salary and bonuses spread over several years.” Reds GM Walt Jocketty noted that “winning boosts attendance, attendance boosts revenue, and additional revenue means those deferred salaries and delayed bonuses won’t cripple the franchise a few years from now.” Reds officials believe that attendance at Great American Ball Park “could increase from two million to nearly three million this season” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/2).
OLD SCHOOL FLAVOR: The Mariners on their Twitter page announced that they will “wear throwback green jerseys for Monday and Friday home games this season.” Team officials said that “several players requested that the jerseys be brought back after they were worn in a throwback game last season.” The green jerseys were originally worn in the '90s (SEATTLEPI.com, 2/2).