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SBD/February 4, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
Sabres Owner Tom Golisano Thursday officially announced the sale of the team to East Resources President & CEO Terry Pegula, and the agreement includes the NLL Buffalo Bandits and the "right to manage" HSBC Arena, as well as a provision that the Sabres "cannot be moved out of Buffalo," according to Mike Harrington of the BUFFALO NEWS. Golisano said that he "turned down an offer that was $70 million higher than Pegula's because it required that the team be moved." Golisano "would not confirm or deny that bid was made by" RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie, although most NHL observers "assume that to be the case." Golisano purchased the Sabres from the NHL in '03 for $92M, "minus $30 million of forgiven debt." Along with Managing Partner Larry Quinn and COO Dan DiPofi, Golisano "cashed out Thursday" for $189M. The sale is "expected to be rubber-stamped" by the NHL BOG as well as the Department of Justice, which "charges a $100,000 fee to approve large-scale transactions to assure there are no monopolies." Quinn said that he "expects Pegula to be in charge before Feb. 28, the last day NHL teams are allowed to trade players." Golisano said that "in the next 15 days, he will announce he's becoming a major part of a new venture of a national scope that is 'not political but governmental.'" Quinn also is "moving on to other pursuits while the sale is completed while DiPofi is staying in an unspecified role through the 2011-12 season." Meanwhile, Golisano Thursday "spoke publicly for the first time about possibly owning the Buffalo Bills in the post-Ralph Wilson era." The "message was clear: Golisano bought the Sabres in 2003 to prevent them from skipping town -- and he would certainly be interested in doing the same for the Bills if it looked like they were packing up." Golisano: "I think the key issue would be the level of concern I would have about them leaving the community. And the higher the concern, the more interest I probably would have" (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/4).
TURNING THE TEAM AROUND: Golisano said that the Sabres "lost a total of $20 million in his first two years of ownership," but by "rejuvenating a hockey market with back-to-back runs to the Stanley Cup Eastern Conference finals, and from revenue generated from broadcasting, sponsorships and a busy arena, the operation became a money maker." In Rochester, Kevin Oklobzija wrote Golisano was "clearly a corporate type who grew to like hockey in his seven years as owner," but he "just liked money more." Oklobzija: "Considering the Sabres very likely wouldn't be in Buffalo now had he not ventured down the Thruway to save them, that's OK" (DEMOCRATANDCHRONICLE.com, 2/3). Oklobzija notes fans and Buffalo media "criticized Golisano for being an absentee owner who looked at the bottom line before the winning percentage." But while he "admitted his orders to Quinn, DiPofi and general manager Darcy Regier were simple -- 'We have to at least break even,' he said -- he bristled at characterizations that he didn't care." Golisano: "I don't think anything could be farther from the truth" (Rochester DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 2/4). In Buffalo, John Vogl writes the Sabres organization "leaves Golisano's hands in better shape than it entered them, at least as far as off-ice matters are concerned." The Sabres were a "bankrupt mess when Golisano took control in March 2003." The season-ticket base was "virtually non-existent, HSBC Arena seats were empty and the team had been battered by a 10-month barrage of questions about bankruptcy and relocation" (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/4).
TIME TO HIT THE GROUND RUNNING: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Adam Proteau wrote, "Golisano owned the team, but wasn't driven enough by the love of the sport or a natural competitiveness to keep up with the NHL's elite franchises. And while it's within any owner's right not to lose his or her shirt on a sports team, I'm tired of seeing the poor people of Buffalo have to hear about having their team 'run like a business.'" If Pegula is "serious about succeeding in the NHL," he "cannot be bound by the Sabres' small-market status." He "has to work with the league, its revenue-sharing program and, ultimately, his own ego to bankroll the organization the way the best of them do, not just on the ice, but off of it as well" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 2/3). The Boston Globe's Kevin Paul Dupont said Pegula is buying the Sabres "as really a civic piece." Dupont: "I think they're going to spend to the cap. They're going to be very aggressive. They want their thumbprint on this early, they want it on there often, and I think they're looking for a whole new day here." Dupont added if you "look for a prototype right now, what's going on down in Tampa with new Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik announcing $35M going into the stadium and $10M going to charity" ("NHL Overtime," Versus, 2/2). In Buffalo, Bucky Gleason writes Pegula is "certain to energize the fan base and restore hope as an owner who cares about winning" (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/4).
The Hornets Thursday announced that 12 of the team’s current corporate partners “have agreed to extend their sponsorships a minimum of three years, and in some cases five years,” according to Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Having “reached attendance benchmarks required to void an opt-out clause in its current lease agreement with the state of Louisiana, the club had been working the past two months to convince its corporate partner clients to renew and, perhaps, financially enhance their current agreements.” Hornets VP/Corporate Sponsorship Tom Ward said, "This is really just the starting point for us, not the ending point. We’re just kicking in phase two of our corporate campaign." The Hornets have “nearly 100 corporate sponsors of varying degrees.” About half of those recently attended a "state of the franchise" event that “included a practice viewing followed by an update on what has happened with the NBA assuming ownership of the club in the past six weeks.” Ward said that partners “were asked to extend for a minimum of three years, to increase their partnership investment to make the team’s bottom line more robust, to purchase more season tickets, to put the team in contact with any vendors with which partners are doing business to explain the importance of their partnership with the team and finally to include the team in any of their current advertising streams to help the Hornets reach even more potential fans.” Meanwhile, Smith notes the team’s “10-year agreement with Cox Sports Television, a deal that brings just under $10 million annually to the Hornets, expires after next season.” Ward said that team President Hugh Weber and Chair Jac Sperling are “in preliminary discussions with Cox about the status of that deal” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 2/4). Listed below are the sponsors that extended their deals.
CORPORATE PARTNERS EXTENDING SPONSORSHIPS WITH HORNETS
Audubon Nature Institute New Orleans Marriott Capital One Bank Morris Bart Chevron Ochsner Health System Entergy People's Health Hub Int'l Take 5 Oil Change The Louisiana Seafood Promotion
and Marketing Board
NFL Cardinals President Michael Bidwill "has written the team's season ticket holders about the disappointing 2010 season and labor negotiations with the players union." The Cardinals went 5-11 this year, and Bidwill in the letter "didn't apologize for the team's poor season but thanked fans for their support, promised to make changes to get the team back to the playoffs and voiced confidence in the team's movement on that front." Bidwill also "backs the league's position of adding two games to the 16-game schedule." Bidwill "did not say whether he expects a lockout to occur and what impact it might have" on the '11 NFL season in the letter, nor did he "outline prices for 2011 or ... contingency plans for fans or the team if a lockout happens and cancels any games" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 2/3).
MEET YOUR REDS: In Cincinnati, John Fay reports "Reds Un-Cut" will take place April 3 at the Aronoff Center in downtown Cincinnati. The team said that the program "will feature interviews and game-show elements," and all 25 players on the team's Opening Day roster "are scheduled to attend." Tickets "range in price from" $25-200. A ticket to the April 2 Brewers-Reds Opening Day game "is included with an event ticket" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 2/4). Fay also noted the Reds "sold three times as many season-tickets at Select-A-Seat Saturday" than they did at the same event last year (CINCINNATI.com, 2/3).
NEW WAY FORWARD: In Denver, Jeff Legwold notes Broncos Exec VP/Football Operations John Elway recently joined Twitter, and as of Thursday night he "had 57,421 followers and had fired off 73 tweets, including the one that announced John Fox's hiring as the team's head coach last month." The activity is "all part of the Broncos' initiative to not only rebuild their roster on the field but their reputation off it." Legwold notes the Broncos "also announced Josh McDaniels' firing as the team's head coach in December on Twitter" (DENVER POST, 2/4).
GM'S CABINET: The S.F. Chronicle's Henry Schulman said newly appointed MLB Giants consultant Lou Piniella is "just going to be another voice" in Senior VP & GM Brian Sabean's ear. Schulman: "Sabean has always brought in a lot of old-time baseball men into his kitchen cabinet. Piniella will live in Florida, where he's tending to his sick mother, and be another guy that just gives Sabean his opinions. It's pretty much like a presidential cabinet" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 2/2).