SBD/April 13, 2011/Franchises

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  • Chris Webber Involved In Effort To Keep Kings In Sacramento

    Webber reportedly has been rebuffed by Maloofs in efforts to buy into Kings

    Former NBAer Chris Webber last night said he is trying to organize an effort to keep the Kings in Sacramento, though he acknowledged the team's relocation to Anaheim is "probably a gone ship anyway." Webber, who played for the Kings from '99-'05, during last night's episode of TNT's "Inside The NBA" said, "I'm doing all I can to keep the team there. I may sound like a fool on national TV, but I believe we can keep the team there. I'm working to do that." Webber: "Even if that ship is leaving the shore, I've got an anchor and some people -- we're throwing it trying to hitch it to the back of the boat and keep pulling the team back. What else am I supposed to do? I love being here with you guys everyday, but I still want to have a home in Sacramento, where my team is. ... Hopefully it's not a lost cause." TNT's Charles Barkley said he supports Webber's efforts and pledged to give Webber's group a "few million dollars." Webber said to Kings fans, "Go to the game tomorrow. Don't let them leave!" Barkley said, "I really like the Maloof brothers, I want to make that perfectly clear. But I'm very disappointed in them because they should have found a way to keep that team in Sacramento." As the show was going to commercial break, Barkley said, "We can get some people together and buy that team" ("Inside the NBA," TNT, 4/13). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin reported Webber "has made overtures about buying into the Maloofs' majority ownership, but has been rebuffed." Former Kings Exec VP Greg Van Dusen said that Webber is "willing to facilitate a deal" headed by Idaho-based businessman Roger Stewart to restructure the city's $77M loan to the team. Van Dusen, who is working with Power Balance Pavilion architect Rann Haight, said, "We've been working on this for about three months. The idea is to relieve some of the financial pressure on the Maloofs and the ownership group" (SACBEE.com, 4/12).

    LAST HURRAH? In Sacramento, Jason Jones notes Kings players "have no idea" if tonight's season-ending game against the Lakers at Power Balance Pavilion "will be their last game as the Sacramento Kings." The Maloofs have "until Monday to apply for relocation to Anaheim," and the family "will discuss its options" at the NBA BOG meetings this week in N.Y. Tonight's game is "expected to be packed with nostalgic Kings fans seeking a win over the rival Lakers," and "because the Kings have been selling standing-room-only tickets, the game potentially could exceed the 17,317 sellout total" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/13). The BEE's Voisin writes, "Tonight is about a special place, special fans, and, yes, a special opponent" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/13).

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  • Two Groups Reportedly Out Of Running For Mets Stake; Cohen May Be Preferred Bidder

    Mets reportedly have narrowed list of potential minority partners to three

    Mets co-Owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, "after soliciting a range of bids, have narrowed their list of potential partners to three," and SAC Capital Advisors Founder Steve Cohen is "again in the mix, perhaps even the preferred bidder," according to sources cited by Sandomir & Lattman of the N.Y. TIMES. It "surprises no one that Cohen, with a net worth valued at $8 billion, might be interested in the Mets," though it is "of some surprise to people who know him that he might be seriously interested in a minority stake, one that would not give him control over the team's operations and finances and performance." A source said that Cohen's competitors include a group formed by Skybridge Capital Managing Partner Anthony Scaramucci and 1-800-Flowers.com Founder & Chair James McCann. Several groups are "out of the bidding," including one formed by Goldman Sachs Global Securities Division co-Head David Heller and Apollo Global Management President Marc Spilker, and another comprised of former YES Network Chair & CEO Leo Hindery and Clarion Capital Partners Managing Partner Marc Utay. The status of a third group, led by BTIG co-Founder Steve Starker, "could not be confirmed" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/13).

    TOUGH SELL: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Smith & Futterman note the Mets "played their home opener Friday in front of a near-sellout crowd" of 41,075 at Citi Field, but since then the team "has averaged 30,600 fans, below last year's average of 31,600 when the Mets led Major League Baseball in attendance declines." That makes it "tougher for the team to regain profitability and command an attractive price for the minority stake" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/13).

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  • NHL Panthers' Michael Yormark: Ads On Jerseys The "Next Great Frontier"

    Yormark thinks there is an opportunity for branding on NHL jerseys

    Sunrise Sports & Entertainment President & COO Michael Yormark indicated that he would put ads on Panthers jerseys "if the NHL allowed it," according to Greg Wyshynski of YAHOO SPORTS. Yormark: "Obviously, the jerseys are the next great frontier, but obviously there needs to be a lot of thought that goes into it, in terms of how you want to market the jersey as it relates to sponsorship. I don't think that we want to get close to what NASCAR has done. That's not to say what they do is wrong, because it works within their sport and culture. I don't think that works in the National Hockey League ... but I do think there's an opportunity for some branding on the jerseys.” Wyshynski wrote the Panthers’ “promotions are legendary: Witness the 'Name Your Price' season ticket plan or their reaction to LeBron James taking his talents to South Beach,” when the team launched a “Seat For A King” season-ticket campaign with lower level tickets for $23 and upper level tickets for $6. The team has also been “known to market directly to opposing fan bases, touting Panthers games as part of a vacation experience” for Flyers and Canadiens fans. Yormark: "The most important thing is to fill seats and sell tickets. I'm not going to apologize for marketing to fans in Montreal or Philadelphia or Detroit. To have 16,000 or 17,000 people in the building, it's great theater." The team recently sold naming rights for the rink at BankAtlantic Center to Lexus, the first deal of its kind in the NHL. Yormark said that “finding this new avenue for Lexus was vital in ‘maintaining’ their relationship, which was due to expire at the end of the season.” Yormark added that there is “interest from his peers” in learning more about the deal. Yormark: "We've gotten a lot of calls. From a marketing standpoint, I'd like to think we're out of the box. We like to do things on the cutting edge" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/12).

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  • MLB Franchise Notes: Rangers Suing Hicks Over Parking Agreement

    In Ft. Worth, Sandra Baker reports the Rangers Monday filed a lawsuit in Tarrant County against former Owner Tom Hicks, saying that he "broke an agreement governing parking at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington." The Rangers in the lawsuit ask a state judge to "stop Hicks from 'price gouging' fans when the team returns for its next homestand" beginning Monday against the Angels. The lawsuit was filed against Ballpark Real Estate L.P., a Hicks entity, and that firm yesterday said that it will "provide parking for the games 'with absolutely no disruptions' while the two sides continue to work out a deal" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/13).

    WHERE IT ALL COMES FROM: Reds COO Phil Castellini said that the team gets "about half" of its revenue "from leaguewide revenue sharing, involving things like TV dollars and online sales." In Cincinnati, Steve Watkins reported the Reds generate "the rest locally," and "much of the local revenue is fairly stable, such as TV dollars." But tickets "can fluctuate wildly," and Castellini said, "Our biggest opportunity is to grow ticket revenue." The Reds are projecting an attendance increase of around 10% this season from 2 million last year to "2.2 million to 2.3 million." Castellini added that the team's season-ticket base is "just more than 11,000" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 4/12).

    MONEY DRIES UP: In K.C., Sam Mellinger noted a "closer examination" of Royals Owner David Glass' "financial stewardship reveals just how low the Royals had sunk." The Royals "starting in the winter after the 2006 season" gave out the AL Central's "biggest free-agent contracts two years in a row." In '09, they "played with a franchise-record payroll approaching" $75M. That same year a "minor-league affiliate was added," and 11 front-office positions were "created in the first six months of the year." The Royals hired GM Dayton Moore in '06, and Glass "allowed Moore to create 17 new baseball operations positions in his first three years on the job, and budgeted enough to hire people with championship experience to fill most of those roles." But the Royals opened this season with a $35M payroll, "by far the smallest in baseball and the franchise's lowest since 2001." Glass said that he is "committed to fielding a winner," but Mellinger wrote it is "clear he won't do so at all costs." Mellinger: "Now, after more than a decade, the organization might finally be building toward a promising future. The catch? That future is predicated on the Royals' record crop of minor-league prospects making it to Kansas City and then staying here on long-term contracts" (K.C. STAR, 4/10).

    DON'T BLAME THE GM: In Houston, Richard Justice noted the Astros "drew the second-smallest crowd in the history of Minute Maid Park" for their game Monday against the Cubs and are an NL-worst 3-8 to start the season. But "regardless of what you think about the job" GM Ed Wade "has done, he was dealt cards as difficult as any GM in baseball." Justice: "He has done what he did in Philly. That is, he has begun rebuilding the Astros from the ground up and putting an organizational structure in place that will last." Owner Drayton McLane is looking to sell the franchise, and Justice wrote, "I'm guessing the new owner will come in, see that Ed's not popular with fans and fire him without regard for the good work Ed has done or for the situation he inherited." Justice: "The Astros didn't get bad overnight. ... They got bad because dozens of mistakes were made in the draft, because Drayton refused to spend money in critical areas. Drayton was unwilling to admit the club needed rebuilding and so he kept looking for temporary [fixes]" (CHRON.com, 4/12).

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  • Franchise Notes

    Usmanov won't sell his stake in Arsenal despite Kroenke's impending takeover

    BLOOMBERG NEWS' Fedorinova & Panja report Arsenal investor Alisher Usmanov "won't sell his stake" in the EPL club after Stan Kroenke "triggered a mandatory buyout offer by boosting his holding to about" 63%. Usmanov, who owns 27% of the club, said, "I’m not going to sell. I love Arsenal, that’s why I’m a shareholder." Though Kroenke "can pay himself a dividend, he won't be allowed to withdraw management fees from Arsenal." He has said that the takeover "won't be debt-financed" (BLOOMBERG.com, 4/13). The GUARDIAN's Matt Scott reports Red & White Holdings, the investment group owned by Usmanov, "will seek greater clarity" about Kroenke's intended takeover. Similarly, the Arsenal Supporters' Trust, a minority shareholders group, "will this week send a letter to Kroenke outlining its position ahead of the distribution of his formal offer document" (GUARDIAN, 4/13).

    NO SHARING : City of San Antonio Dir of Convention, Sports & Entertainment Facilities Michael Sawaya yesterday said that the Cowboys are "planning to hold their training camp entirely in San Antonio this summer." Sawaya: "If there is a season and there is a camp, they are going to be here for the whole camp." In San Antonio, Tom Orsborn notes the Cowboys "trained for two weeks in San Antonio last summer before practicing for another two weeks in Oxnard, Calif." Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones "has said repeatedly that he wanted to split camp again this year," but Sawaya said that Cowboys Dir of Marketing John Hickman "told him last week Oxnard is out of the picture at least for this summer." Sawaya said that the Alamodome is "holding dates open for a camp that would begin in late July and run through mid-August." The Cowboys "trained for a month last season because they played five preseason games rather than the usual four" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 4/13).

    GIVE THE DEVILS THEIR DUE: In New Jersey, John Brennan reported a Devils official said that the team already has "added more than 1,000 new full-season ticketholders for next season," despite recording its first sub-.500 season and only second non-playoff season since '88-89. In addition, the Devils official indicated that early season-ticket renewals are "up more than 20 percent compared to this time last year." Devils fans said that the "intensity level" for games at Prudential Center later in the season "was remarkable -- even unprecedented -- for regular-season contests." Brennan: "What that did was demonstrate to casual fans who haven’t experienced NHL playoff hockey, due to prices or a misperception that all the games are long sold out, how dramatic an NHL building can get when the pressure is on" (NORTHJERSEY.com, 4/11).

    FIT FOR THE KINGS: In L.A., Hoornstra & Berka reported Kings President of Business Operations Luc Robitaille "jumped at the chance to return" to Europe to start the '11-12 NHL season when he was approached by the league. The AEG-owned Kings will play regular-season games in Sweden and Germany, and Robitaille said, "The buildings that we're playing in are part of the AEG family." He noted that the Kings "will play three road games against East Coast-based teams after returning from Europe" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/12).

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