SBD/April 5, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
As lawyers for Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt and his ex-wife, Jamie, "work to craft a settlement," the team has "revived negotiations with Fox on a television rights deal that could get each of the McCourts to shake hands and move on with their lives," according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. The "television deal would be subject to" MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's approval. The settlement negotiations "are delicate, the parties are not talking publicly, and talks could fall apart at any time, so it is impossible to say what all the terms might be." However, "when Fox agreed to lend Frank McCourt about $200 million, with the Dodgers' future television rights used as collateral at a discount rate, Selig rejected the proposal." Under the new deal, McCourt "would abandon -- or at least defer for many years -- his dream of a Dodgers cable channel, in exchange for a fair-market payment from Fox." The payment would be "in the neighborhood of $3 billion over 20 years, which would more than triple the Dodgers' annual television revenue." For Fox, the Dodgers became a "must-keep team the second the Lakers fled to Time Warner." McCourt "would ask Selig for his blessing, arguing that the deal would provide plenty of money to settle the divorce, manage the Dodgers' debt and improve the team and the stadium." If Selig "says no, the expectation in baseball circles is that McCourt would sue." Selig "has made no substantive comment on the McCourts in the year and a half since they filed for divorce, frustrating Dodgers fans but preventing his words from being used against him in a possible lawsuit" (L.A. TIMES, 4/5).
SLOW TO RESPOND: In L.A., Gold, Winton & La Ganga report L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich yesterday called for the Dodgers "to invest in even more security and to curtail alcohol sales" following the assault of a Giants fan on Opening Day. Antonovich: "The Dodgers organization has an obligation to make security a top priority now. Denying that lack of security played a role in this attack is simply sticking their head in the sand." That criticism "appears to be directed at McCourt, who said over the weekend that the attack was 'tragic' but insisted he was satisfied with security levels at the ballpark." Dodgers VP/PR & Broadcasting Josh Rawitch yesterday said that Dodger Stadium's alcohol policies are "already stricter than those of some professional baseball teams." The Dodgers "do not allow alcohol sales after the seventh inning, do not sell beer in the stands and forbid tailgating in the parking lots" (L.A. TIMES, 4/5). In L.A., Steve Dilbeck wrote the Dodgers "have struggled mightily in their response" to Thursday's incident. They have "said little to nothing," and "taken no action." They "probably are misguidedly listening to some lawyer worried about an inevitable lawsuit." But this is a time when McCourt "needs to step forward and not hide in the shadow of words and carefully written statements." Dilbeck: "Needs to be at the forefront. Needs to demonstrate he's concerned, not just talk about it. ... McCourt stands to lose a lot more income down the road by losing nervous fans if he doesn't seriously recognize and address this incident and the overall problem" (LATIMES.com, 4/4).
The Cubs drew an announced attendance of 26,292 for yesterday's game against the D'Backs, the "smallest crowd in nine years," according to Paul Sullivan of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The announced figure was "about double the number of actual fans at Wrigley Field." It is the lowest attendance since 20,032 fans attended a Sept. 26, 2002, game against the Reds when the two teams were "playing out the string." The Cubs' fifth-place finish in the NL Central last season, "combined with the third-highest average ticket price in the majors, apparently has led to a wait-and-see attitude among fans." Attendance has "dropped in each of the last two seasons, and now the lure of Wrigley Field is no longer enough to convince fans to turn up no matter what the weather is like." The Cubs during the offseason debuted a 13-game partial-ticket plan, using "marquee series against the Yankees, Cardinals and White Sox to sell tickets to less popular matchups," including yesterday's game. But fans "didn't respond to the plan, and there were even empty seats Friday on Opening Day" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/5). Cubs P Kerry Wood said, "It's a little strange seeing empty seats, but it's our job to change that." Cubs LF Alfonso Soriano added of yesterday's crowd, "It was very surprising. But it is a Monday and cold weather, and people don't want to get out of the house. When it gets warmer, people will come." The team has exceeded the 3 million mark in attendance every season since '04 (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/5).
NOT WHAT WAS EXPECTED: In Chicago, Ed Sherman writes the attendance issue has to be a "stunning development" for the Cubs, and it "has to be a sobering moment for owner Tom Ricketts and his crew." The "backlash from fans after two terrible years, plus six straight playoff losses in 2007 and 2008, is intense," and rising ticket prices "don't help." Any attendance drop "will be felt" by Ricketts. With a "high payroll and heavy debts to finance the acquisition, he doesn't have much margin for error." The weather in Chicago yesterday at the start of the game was around 40 degrees with a light drizzle, but Sherman notes that "can't be an excuse." The smallest crowd at Wrigley Field last April was 36,660 (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 4/5). The Chicago Tribune’s Brian Hamilton said, “You’ve got to be a little nervous because there just isn't that much juice about the team to begin with. The expectations aren't that high, and a lot of the currency you have early in the season is people trying to fool themselves into believing in a team until proven otherwise. But apparently, no one has decided to even bother with that at this point." The Chicago Tribune's David Haugh said, “I don't think there's any doubt that this is a concern with the Ricketts family. Going into this season, ending last season, attendance was an issue that they knew they would have to address at some point some how." Haugh added of the product at Wrigley Field, "It was recession-proof. I don't know if it is anymore" ("Chicago Tribune Live," Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 4/4).
Luring fans to baseball games, or any sporting event in San Diego, "has always been a challenge," but the Padres "may have an even tougher task this season," according to Mike Allen of the SAN DIEGO BUSINESS JOURNAL. The Padres have a "wounded starting pitching rotation as well as a bunch of new players many fans never heard of." During the offseason, they traded away 1B Adrian Gonzalez, "who accounted for nearly a quarter of the Padres' offense last year." This coupled with the loss of "several other big names such as David Eckstein and Jon Garland will make selling tickets that much more difficult, conventional wisdom states." But Padres President & COO Tom Garfinkel "does not agree." Garfinkel noted, "Last year we had the fourth highest attendance growth in the major leagues, and this season we've had a 90 percent renewal rate by our season ticket holders, which is right with the top five or six other clubs in the majors." He added the Padres "should get to 11,000 by the end of April." Allen notes those season-ticket numbers "aren't close to the top drawing franchises," but they are a "big swing from the depths of 2009, when the Padres sold fewer than 9,000 season tickets." To "entice more fans to come to multiple games, the Padres have reduced some prices and are selling tickets for below $18 for about 15,000 seats." Also, with "discount programs such as two-for-one Tuesdays, expanding the all-you-can-eat section, and cutting beer prices, Padre games should be among the most affordable to attend in all of baseball." However, Allen notes all the revisions "instituted under the aegis" of Padres Vice Chair & CEO Jeff Moorad "didn't quite set Petco's attendance records afire last year, even though the team was anchored in first place nearly the entire season." The Padres drew 2.13 million fans last season, or an average of 26,318 per game, "up from the 1.9 million total attendance and an average of 23,699 in 2009, but far from the record smashing year of 2004, when Petco Park opened and drew about 3 million fans" (SAN DIEGO BUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/4 issue).
MISLEADING NUMBERS: In San Diego, Tim Sullivan noted Forbes as part of its annual MLB valuations estimated the Padres' '10 operating income "at a baseball-best" $37.2M, but he wrote their "estimates are open to interpretation and, in turn, to misinterpretation." The estimates "revived speculation that Moorad might be diverting some of the ballclub's revenues to complete the purchase of John Moores' ownership stake," but Moorad insisted that that "has not been the case and won't become the case." He said, "Our goal is not to make money. Our goal is to break even. Even if we sell the ballpark out and have a new broadcast contract and are able to sell more expensive seats at some point, every dollar that we are able to generate over and above expenses will go right back into the facility or the major league payroll. ... There are no distributions. If we made a distribution today, 50 cents on the dollar would go to John (Moores). John's not receiving them. Neither are we" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/2).
The Bruins’ efforts to help feed hungry people in the greater Boston region were profiled on NBC’s “Nightly News” last night as part of the “Making a Difference” segment. NBC's Peter Alexander reported the Bruins “used to throw away any cooked food that didn't get eaten,” which would add up to 25 tons of food that “each year simply went to waste.” However, following each game, the TD Garden staff “wraps up those leftovers” and donates the food “to the Boston Rescue Mission, where they serve hundreds of people each day." Bruins Exec VP Charlie Jacobs: "This is great that people are going to have an opportunity to have a meal that would otherwise not have a chance to eat." Alexander noted the NHL "is now on-board" and MLB is "considering signing up, too." Alexander: "All this the idea of Syd Mandelbaum, who founded what's called Rock and Wrap It Up in 1994 to help feed the hungry. Mandelbaum's crusade is a tribute to his parents who nearly starved to death in a Nazi concentration camp." Mandelbaum: "I want to change this country so that what my parents went through no one in this country has to go through: Hunger." Alexander noted in its 17 years, Rock and Wrap It Up has "fed more than a half-billion people.” William Oranzak, who works at the Boston Rescue Mission that distributes the food, said a "little bit of everything that comes from the Boston Garden will go into various meals throughout the day" ("Nightly News," NBC, 4/4).
In Sacramento, Tony Bizjak reports the Kings "have rejected the city of Sacramento's demand for written assurance the team will immediately pay its $77 million city loan if it leaves town." Sacramento officials "asked the Kings last week to state on paper their intention to pay the money they owe before leaving," and they also "sent Anaheim a letter telling it to stop negotiating with the Kings." In a response dated Friday, Kings attorney Scott Zolke "brushed aside the city's request." Zolke wrote the team would contact the city "at the appropriate time ... to establish a process for addressing the proposed timing and details of repayment" of the loan (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/5).
UNCERTAIN FUTURE: In N.Y., Brian Lewis notes with the option on the final year of Knicks President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh's contract "coming up April 30 for owner James Dolan to exercise, it remains to be seen if Walsh returns." Two NBA sources said that it is "up to Walsh, 70, on whether he comes back next season." One source said that money is a "non-issue, but Walsh had a difficult decision to make as to whether he wanted to return or felt his work at the Garden was complete." Walsh: "My dream from Day 1 is to put this team on the path to a championship level. I don't think it's there now, but we're getting close. That's what I said I'd do in three years. That's what I've done." Lewis notes Walsh's contract "doesn't expire until June 30, so this month's option deadline could pass without resolution" (N.Y. POST, 4/5).
BUSINESS AS USUAL: Jaguars QB David Garrard yesterday said that he "plans to gather receivers and tight ends to a field at Glen Kernan, where the Arena Football League's Jacksonville Sharks practice, for workouts in the next few weeks." He said that "eventually they'll get together at least their 'skelly' group -- receivers, running backs and tight ends -- and might even try to work out against the defense." Garrard: "This is well organized" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 4/5).