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SBD/February 9, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke yesterday said that the MLS Galaxy and EPL club Tottenham Hotspur are "forging a strategic alliance" that could lead to "players crossing the Atlantic in both directions," according to Alan Baldwin of REUTERS. AEG has partnered with Tottenham to bid for rights to the London Olympic Stadium after the '12 Games, and Galaxy MF David Beckham "has been training" with the EPL club during the MLS offseason. Leiweke said, "We have an existing relationship now with Tottenham where we are beginning to think outside the box on football and how we do things together on football. Whether that's David Beckham training (with Spurs) or maybe players from Tottenham coming to the Galaxy, playing games against each other. Strategically you'll see more of an alliance between us and Tottenham long term." Leiweke added that AEG "encouraged Beckham to go to Tottenham because of the relationship" with Tottenham Chair Daniel Levy. He added, "There are other examples of conversations we've had with Daniel in how to take that kind of cooperation and now extend it to our team in the United States. You are going to hear more about that in the future but part of what has been created here is a strategic alliance between AEG and Tottenham on thinking about how we can be involved in Tottenham the football club" (REUTERS, 2/9). Leiweke yesterday also revealed that the decision not to allow Beckham to play for Tottenham this season "had been his." Leiweke: "I am the one who made the decision about asking David to come back and play a full season of Major League Soccer because we haven't been able to do that, whether due to loans or injury" (PA, 2/9).
Pistons Owner Karen Davidson and Platinum Equity Chair & CEO Tom Gores, who has been in "negotiations to purchase the franchise," watched last night's Spurs-Pistons game "together from a luxury suite" at The Palace of Auburn Hills, according to Goodwill & Krupa of the DETROIT NEWS. After the game, Gores "initially issued a 'no comment' when asked if there was anything to report on the sale." Asked if anything would become official in the next week, Gores said, "We'll see." When pressed further, he "pointed to Davidson, who was standing next to him." Gores smiled and said, "Well, this is positive." The visit to the Pistons' home arena was the first for Gores, who lives in Beverly Hills." He has attended two Pistons games at Staples Center this season. Gores is "still negotiating with Davidson, more than 30 days after his exclusive period began," and it is "not clear whether the exclusivity has been extended or the negotiations are continuing." Gores "signed a non-disclosure agreement with the Pistons and Citi Private Bank, which is the agent for Davidson." An NBA spokesperson last week said that the sides "continue to meet." Sources aware of the bargaining said that negotiations "remain on track with the possibility of a deal soon" (DETROIT NEWS, 2/9). Davidson said of Gores, "He's family." Sources said that Gores "really wanted to purchase the team, but the sides had been unable to agree on a selling price so far" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 2/9).
Former Mets manager Davey Johnson last night praised the track record of team Owner Fred Wilpon, joining an extensive list of friends, colleagues and former employees coming to the defense of the embattled Wilpon, his son and Mets COO Jeff, and team President Saul Katz as they face a more than $300M clawback lawsuit from victims of the Bernie Madoff financial scandal. Johnson, now a special advisor to the Nationals, was in N.Y., along with former Red Sox 1B Bill Buckner, to help promote MSG's upcoming four-part TV series, "Summer of '86: The Rise and Fall of the World Champion Mets," beginning March 1. "I love the Wilpons. They've been great owners. I hate to see a problem like this happening, because they've given their lives to this franchise," Johnson said. "I'm really disturbed by what I'm reading." Johnson said he has had no contact recently with the Mets, and that he has no interest in participating in the recently announced push for minority investors in the franchise. "I love the Mets, but I'm doing everything I can (with the Nationals) to beat them," he said (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). On Long Island, Dan Janison notes a "question now cropping up" among New York politicians is whether candidates for public office will "continue to seek out or accept political contributions" from the Wilpons, Katz and their Sterling Equities. Nassau County Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs said, "I don't see any problem ethically or otherwise. I think they're both wonderful individuals. I think it's unfortunate the way they've been treated in the press, frankly. And I don't subscribe to it." But a New York state Democratic consultant said, "Politicians will think twice about taking his checks." A fundraiser added, "The truth is, Wilpon has never been on anyone's short list of contributors you have to have. His checks will be missed but at this point they can't be accepted" (NEWSDAY, 2/9).
CAUGHT IN A RUNDOWN: SI.com's Lee Jenkins wrote Fred Wilpon's involvement in the Madoff scheme "proves only what Mets fans already knew: Wilpon often trusts the wrong people." Jenkins: "The specter of a lawsuit will hang over the Mets as it has the Dodgers, and even if it does not affect personnel decisions or payroll, the perception that it does will be impossible to avoid. The Mets hoped to start fresh this season with new general manager Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins, but the same cloud keeps following them, pausing only to change shape" (SI.com, 2/8).
In N.Y., Marc Berman cites a source as saying that NBA Commissioner David Stern “has worked quietly behind the scenes to have Knicks owner James Dolan bring back” President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh to finish out the final year of his contract. An NBA spokesperson yesterday said that Stern “would not comment, that the commissioner would invoke the ‘commissioner-owner’ privilege on inquiries about his conversations with league owners.” Berman writes it is “no surprise Stern has lobbied Dolan to stay the course with Walsh, who executed his plan of getting under the salary cap last summer, has put the Knicks into playoff position in his third season, and has them on track to be under the salary cap this summer and next.” Meanwhile, sources said that Florida Int'l Univ. men's basketball coach Isiah Thomas is “consulting with Dolan unofficially on Knicks matters," including trade negotiations for Nuggets F Carmelo Anthony (N.Y. POST, 2/9).
IT'S MY LIFE: Singer Jon Bon Jovi yesterday confirmed that he has “been in confidential negotiations” with Falcons Owner Arthur Blank about acquiring a 15% stake in the team and “reinforced a clearly stated desire to be a member of NFL ownership.” NFL sources said that Bon Jovi’s “proposed investment of as much as a 15 percentage stake and $150 million is not to be dismissed.” Bon Jovi said the Falcons approached him “some months ago.” He acknowledged, however, that “talks have stalled" or are possibly awaiting a decision (ESPN.com, 2/8).
LIGHTNING FAST: In Buffalo, Bucky Gleason notes in “less than a year new ownership and major changes in upper management helped turn a poor Lightning team headed nowhere into a contender in the Eastern Conference.” Owner Jeff Vinik took over March 3, and the “turnaround began in May, when Vinik hired Steve Yzerman as general manager.” Gleason writes, “What the Bolts landed in Vinik was a man committed to winning. What Vinik landed in Yzerman was a bright and aggressive general manager who took a proactive approach without killing payroll.” Vinik has “endeared himself to the community with $10 million in donations to local charities,” and also is “pumping another $35 million" into St. Pete Times Forum (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/9).
MARCHING ORDERS: In DC, Dan Steinberg noted MLS DC United this week began a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority marketing campaign, “starting with ads in more than a dozen Metro stations, and eventually spreading to bus shelters and Metro buses.” It is the “first major outdoor campaign the club has done in several years.” The campaign is centered around coach Ben Olsen, asking fans to “join Olsen’s Army.” It is “meant to help reconnect the community to a young roster with lots of potential but few household names” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/8).