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SBD/March 2, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
Dallas-based EXCO Resources Chair & CEO Douglas Miller reportedly has "made an offer to purchase the Stars, but there is also speculation" that it could be a "stalking horse" bid to set the team's value for a possible bid from Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban, according to Ken Campbell of THE HOCKEY NEWS. Miller's offer is believed to be for about $110M in cash, though it "would likely be publicly announced as somewhere in the $225 million range." That is because in "addition to the purchase price, Miller would assume about $20 million in existing debt, most of which is owed to the NHL for the advancement of television and revenue sharing money to help keep the Stars afloat." Also built into the purchase price would be four years of losses estimated at about $25M per year. A source indicated that the Stars have lost between $26-28M "over the past 12 months." While NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in January insisted that the league is "not funding the Stars," sources said that the Stars have "been using advances on television and revenue sharing money and have required more than one advance to continue to pay the bills as a new owner is sought to replace Tom Hicks." Campbell noted there also is "growing speculation that despite not publicly declaring interest in the Stars, Cuban is waiting in the background to make an offer that will be slightly better than the one received for the team and could ultimately end up owning both the Stars and the Mavericks." The Stars and Mavericks "split the revenues" from American Airlines Arena, so if Cuban were to "buy the Stars, all revenues would be coming to the same entity and costs could be saved in terms of marketing and staff if both teams were owned by the same person" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 3/1).
SALE MOVING FORWARD? In Dallas, Mike Heika cited a source as saying that Miller, the Stars' lenders and the NHL last night "already were discussing counteroffers to the deal." Cuban in an e-mail reiterated his interest in American Airlines Center and added, "Nothing has changed on my end" (DALLASNEWS.com, 3/1). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts reports while there are "four groups interested in buying the Dallas Stars, none of them have submitted a bid" for the team. Aside from Miller and Cuban, Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi and MLB Rangers investor Billy Quinn, "another Dallas oil-and-gas man," are said to be interested in the Stars (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/2).
Mets owners "think they have a handful of 'legitimate' candidates who are seriously interested in buying part of the ballclub," according to Robbins, Kosman & Mangan of the N.Y. POST. Out of 30 or so groups "who expressed an interest in obtaining a minority stake in the Mets," the team has given "more than a dozen names to Major League Baseball for vetting." MLB "must preapprove their qualifications before the club opens the formal bidding process." But sources said that the Mets "believe just a few of the contenders are strong enough to be a potential buyer." One source said that the "heavy hitters include groups comprised of New York financiers." One group includes Goldman Sachs Global Securities Division co-Head David Heller, "as well as other former and current Goldman partners." Sources said that "another group includes Steve Starker, co-founder of the global-trading firm BTIG, Ken Dichter, the co-founder of Marquis Jet, and other New York investment professionals." The sources said that a third group, which includes ESPN analyst and former Mets manager Bobby Valentine, is led by SkyBridge Capital Managing Partner Anthony Scaramucci. In addition, sources said that Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg is "strongly considering taking a crack at buying the Mets -- but not just a small piece." Sternberg said last night, "The Wilpons have been great owners, and I have no interest in buying the Mets." Still, sources said that if the Wilpon family is "forced to sell its majority stake -- against its current wishes -- Sternberg would be interested" (N.Y. POST, 3/2). In N.Y., Coffey, Thompson & O'Keeffe cite a source as saying that Mets officials "have been contacted by approximately three dozen investor groups, and the 14 most intriguing groups have been or will be referred to Major League Baseball for further vetting." The source: "It is the most hotly pursued sports deal I've ever seen" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/2).
ON THEIR OWN: In N.Y., David Waldstein cites sources as saying that the Mets, "in need of cash to pay off loans and meet other financial obligations, can no longer look to Major League Baseball for substantial monetary assistance." The sources said that the league "will not make another major loan to the club." They added that MLB "could conceivably re-evaluate its position in the coming months if it thought it needed to protect its larger interests, like trying to avoid a fire sale of one of its elite clubs." The league also "could make a modest short-term loan to help the Mets avoid defaulting on certain payments, like player salaries," but the sources said that it "would not be enough to rescue the Mets' owners in any long-term sense" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/2).
FOCUSING ON THE FIELD: In New Jersey, Steve Popper writes with an "uncertain product on the field, the Mets still hope it's good enough to somehow distract from the financial troubles principal owner Fred Wilpon is enduring in the wake of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme." Mets Exec VP/Business Operations Dave Howard said, "I don't think that presents a big challenge. People are still looking to be entertained when they make a decision (on tickets). They look at the team. The off-the-field stuff, the lawsuit, other issues, are not fundamentally part of that decision. It certainly affects the overall media environment. But I think fans want to get back to baseball, watching games, rooting. If the team plays well, early indications are the fan base will be there with the distractions." Howard said that the Mets' ticket sales are "running ahead of last year." Popper notes the club "dropped its ticket prices by 14 percent across the board, restructured its ticket operations, implemented incentive-based plans and added a free bonus game to ticket packages." Single-game tickets "don't go on sale until March 14, making it difficult to pinpoint on the secondary market the extent of the ticket-buying resistance" (Bergen RECORD, 3/2).
QUESTION OF CREDIBILITY: In New Jersey, Bob Klapisch writes, "Who can believe anything this ownership group says anymore? They've been lying about their desperate financial state ever since Madoff's arrest in December 2008." The Wilpon family "has destroyed its good name in the baseball community" and "discredited itself with a once-loyal fan base." Klapisch: "This is hell for everyone. If the Wilpons really loved the Mets and their fans, they'd sell -- sell everything -- and just disappear" (Bergen RECORD, 3/2). Mets VP/Media Relations Jay Horwitz said that his "greatest professional misery has come in watching the Wilpons suffer through" coverage of Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Horwitz said of Fred and Jeff Wilpon, "A lot of it has been really unfair. I don't know two more decent, honest people. And I'm not saying that as a media person or employee. I'm saying it as a human being" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/2).
Jamie McCourt's attorneys in a court filing yesterday alleged that Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt "has failed to protect" his ex-wife's financial interests "in part by negotiating a 'secret deal' with Fox that 'would have endangered' the value of the Dodgers' broadcast contracts," according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. Her attorneys asked that Frank "be ordered to provide to Jamie extensive financial information regarding the Dodgers' business operations, including documents related to negotiations with television outlets and efforts to obtain additional financing for the cash-strapped franchise." The court set a hearing for April 11. Ryan Kirkpatrick, an attorney for Frank, said that "both parties are obligated to share financial information and that Frank has 'fully complied' with his duties." Kirkpatrick said that the two sides have "set a meeting to discuss financial disclosure, although Jamie's lawyers say Frank's lawyers have been slow to do so." Shaikin notes L.A. Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon in December "threw out an agreement that would have granted Frank sole ownership of the Dodgers," and Jamie claims that the decision "makes her half-owner of the team" (L.A. TIMES, 3/2). The AP's Christina Hoag reported Jamie filed her request for Frank to "turn over all documents about team finances" after learning about a $200M loan Frank tried to secure from Fox. Jamie's attorney, Michael Kump, said in the filing, "It is outrageous that Jamie and her counsel have to rely upon the news media for information that Frank is affirmatively obligated under California law to provide before the fact." But Frank, who maintains that the Dodgers are "his property alone, said his ex-wife has agreed that he is the designated control person in charge of running the team's business operations" (AP, 3/1). Jamie's attorneys are optimistic that the April 11 hearing "will kickstart the next phase of this 17-month legal battle, in which the couple's assets will be characterized and ultimately divided." It is "not yet known whether this process will result in the sale of the Dodgers" (ESPNLA.com, 3/1).
All Chiefs employees, including President Mark Donovan, GM Scott Pioli and coach Todd Haley, "would see a pay reduction if the NFL experiences a work stoppage," according to Adam Teicher of the K.C. STAR. A team source said that the salary-reduction plan "would be phased in over eight months." Nobody "will be laid off or furloughed," and employees "would retain full benefits." Salary adjustments "would be tiered across the organization and those with the highest salaries would receive the greatest percentage reductions." If NFL owners and the NFLPA "reach a labor agreement in time for a full 2011 season to be played, employees would be reimbursed for the salary lost during the duration of the lockout." Teicher notes several Chiefs employees "were laid off after the end of the season," but the source indicated that those moves "had nothing to do with the impending lockout" (K.C. STAR, 3/2).
BUSINESS AS USUAL: In West Palm Beach, Ben Volin noted while the Jets are "planning to make their employees take a 25 percent paycut in the form of a one-week furlough each month until the lockout is resolved," Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross Monday said his team will be conducting "business as usual." A team source said that Dolphins employees are "understandably nervous that paycuts could come eventually." But Ross said, "Hopefully we're not in the position where we have to do that. We can't really let it stop what we're doing. We wouldn't be ready for when we can go" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 3/1).
CHANGE OF PLANS: In Nashville, Jim Wyatt reports new Titans coach Mike Munchak "had hoped to gather his players today, introduce them to the new coaching staff and discuss plans in the event of a work stoppage." But sources said that the meeting was "abruptly canceled Tuesday ... because of concerns about NFL rules during a league dead period." Sources said players were informed by e-mail that the "timing of the meeting is not good" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 3/2).
NHL Panthers President & COO Michael Yormark attended Sunday's Knicks-Heat game and "trashed Miami Heat fans and the team's game-day experience" on Twitter, according to Kyle Munzenrieder of the MIAMI NEW TIMES. Yormark tweeted, "At heat game now. Panthers game experience is so much better. More kids. More families. More excitement. More passion. More energy." Munzenrieder wrote, "Basically, he's trashing the fans. Of course, he's taking the opportunity to imply that Panthers games might be a better experience for parents wanting to bring their kids to a pro sports games, but damn, Yormark, there's no reason to insult Heat fans' passion and energy" (MIAMINEWTIMES.com, 2/28). WTVJ-NBC's David Hill wrote, "Accentuating the lack of celebrities at Panthers games seems like an odd way to attract more fans. ... If Yormark really wanted to convince fans to attend Panthers games instead of Heat games, he could have simply mentioned how much less expensive Panthers tickets cost compared to Heat tickets" (NBCMIAMI.com, 2/28).
NEW ADVISORY BOARD: Sunrise Sports & Entertainment today announced plans for a 12-person Florida Panthers Blueprint Advisory Board that will be made up of season-ticket holders, sponsors and media members. The goal of the board is to advise Yormark and Panthers GM Dale Tallon on the direction of the franchise. The members of the board will be announced March 9, with the first meeting scheduled for next month. The board will meet quarterly with Yormark and Tallon to discuss all aspects of the organization (SS&E).
The Nets, owned by Russian businessman Mikhail Prokhorov, "get another chance to raise their international profile when they play the Toronto Raptors on Friday and Saturday in London," games that are part of a "mission to become the face of the league outside the United States," according to Chris Lehourites of the AP. The games, the first regular-season NBA contests in Europe, follow a "preseason trip to China last year and a basketball clinic in Russia before that, and precedes the move to the New York borough of Brooklyn in 2012." Nets CEO Brett Yormark: "We're very excited about what's in store for this team, and I think over the course of the next 18 months, 24 months, you'll see us more active globally." The Nets "see themselves as the link between American sports and fans outside the United States in part because of their Russian owner, European players on the roster, several international sponsors and the upcoming move to Brooklyn." That "works for both the Nets and the NBA, which would like to see more teams emulate New Jersey's international drive." Nets Chair Christophe Charlier: "Whereas the other teams are focusing on their local market or their state market, we're trying to attract fans over here in Russia and London ... in China and elsewhere, to become Nets fans. And be the team that's most accessible to fans around the world." Russia is "likely to be the key to the success of the venture," and the Nets "already have a Russian-language website and a deal with a TV network in the country to broadcast games" (AP, 3/1).
Most of Clippers Owner Donald Sterling's ads “have lauded him for winning unrecognizable humanitarian awards, but a couple of days ago, one would have only qualified him for Dolt of the Year,” according to Bill Plaschke of the L.A. TIMES. The ad appeared in the L.A. Times’ Sunday edition, showing separate head shots of Sterling and F Blake Griffin under the heading, "Clippers Celebrate Black History Month." The ad included the copy, "In honor of Black History Month, the Clippers will admit 1,000 underprivileged children free." Plaschke wonders, “Why are ‘underprivileged children’ directly linked to ‘black history?’" The “other problem is the date” of the Black History Month giveaway: tonight’s game against the Rockets. Plaschke writes, “If you are going to honor that month, get the right month. For the last 35 years, Black History Month has been celebrated in February.” If this were “any other owner of any other team, this would merely raise eyebrows.” But given Sterling's “history on racial issues, it drops jaws.” Sterling once paid $2.73M to “settle housing discrimination allegations.” He also is “being sued by former employee Elgin Baylor” for having a "plantation mentality." USC professor Todd Boyd said, "The ads are so big, they force you to pay attention to them. It's funny, but there seems to be a lot more of them since he paid that discrimination settlement." The Clippers in a statement said, "This event is another successful well-intentioned effort on the owner's part to ensure that we give something meaningful back to our community. It's as simple as that." But Plaschke writes, “Once again, in trying to buffer his image, Sterling has stained it. … As long as Sterling remains the owner, it all seems to come out wrong” (L.A. TIMES, 3/2).
WELL INTENTIONED? ESPN's J.A. Adande said, “Giving poor kids tickets to a game in March? What does that have to do with a month that was designed to celebrate the cultural and scientific achievements of African Americans in February?” Dallas Morning News' Tim Cowlishaw: “I’m going to buy the Clippers trying to make any connection at all. This is a franchise that’s been irrelevant forever, and now that everybody’s talking about them with their highlights and Blake Griffin, they’re saying: ‘Hey, we kind of missed Black History Month. Let’s catch up. Let’s throw it in March if not February’” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 3/1).