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With questions "lingering over whether Sacramento or Anaheim is the best fit" for the Kings, NBA Commissioner David Stern on Friday said that the league is "extending until May 2 the deadline for the Kings to request a move to Southern California," according to a front-page piece by Bizjak, Kasler & Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. The move gives Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and a "team of developers studying an arena project two weeks to convince the league that Sacramento is a viable home for the Kings." At the same time, Anaheim officials "now have two weeks to convince the NBA that their proposal to lure the team is sound." Stern said that in the next two weeks, a league committee led by Thunder Chair Clay Bennett "will look at whether Johnson has hard facts to back up his Thursday pitch to the NBA owners." Johnson told them that "arena efforts are progressing well," and that he has $7M in "committed sponsorships and ticket sales for the Kings" should they stay in Sacramento. Stern said, "The mayor's vision is for a downtown arena. ... We don't know if that's real or a pie in the sky. We don't know whether we can find that out in a couple of weeks, but we are going to knock ourselves out to do it." He added Power Balance Pavilion is "not the arena of the future" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/16). Stern said there is "incomplete documentation" in the Anaheim proposal. Stern: "The committee wanted more time to understand certain financing issues, certain television issues, certain issues regarding enhancement to fan experience and raised revenue expectations at the building (Honda Center). And if the entire issue of relocation were approved, what would be an appropriate relocation fee? ... It just seemed to be a good idea to put it off for a couple weeks" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/16). ESPN's J.A. Adande said, “I hear that they're not sure the Kings have done their due diligence; there's concerns about this is being forced down their throat, three teams in one market" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 4/15).
TURN OF MOMENTUM? In L.A., Lance Pugmire wrote the two-week delay is an "alarming turn for Anaheim's attempt to land a third NBA team in Southern California." While Stern's decision is "viewed by some involved in the process as a nod to the 25-year loyalty of Sacramento's fervent fan base, it complicates the Kings' plans for arrival in Anaheim by next season." An NBA team official said that the league "is intrigued by the 11th-hour entry" of Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle and "impressed by how quickly Johnson mobilized what Stern said was $9 million in team sponsorship and season-ticket buyers." League officials added that the "model of allowing Burkle and Johnson to work toward a new downtown arena on a 230-acre plot is considered no less impressive than the financially struggling Maloofs' attempt to move into the nearly 20-year-old arena in Anaheim" (L.A. TIMES, 4/16). However, the Maloof brothers have said that they "will not sell the team and Stern said the issue of new ownership was not discussed." Stern: "Right now that’s not a high priority on our agenda" (NYTIMES.com, 4/15). More Stern: "I know Mr. Burkle. He's an owner in the NHL. His name has been involved in discussions for other franchises, and we know his good reputation in our industry. (But) the sale of the team, or, indeed, the relocation of another team to Sacramento, those are not high agenda items" (NBA.com, 4/15). Kings co-Owner George Maloof said on Friday, "They never approached us. We told (the Burkle group) a month ago we weren't interested and all of a sudden, they just show up. Not very cool" (SACBEE.com, 4/15).
START THE COUNTDOWN: In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin wrote under the header, "It May Not Be Too Late To Keep Kings." The situation and the "dynamics are changing by the day, possibly by the hour," and Stern's announcement on Friday is a "major development for a league that routinely rubber-stamps relocations" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/17). SPORTING NEWS' David Steele wrote, "For now, Sacramento is still major-league. It might only be that for two more weeks. It’ll be the longest two weeks in the history of the city" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 4/17). But in Orange County, Randy Youngman wrote, "Is the two-week extension of the NBA relocation deadline a setback in Anaheim's efforts to bring the Sacramento Kings to Orange County? Very unlikely. If you read between the lines in Commissioner David Stern's answers to questions during Friday's news conference at the conclusion of the NBA Board of Governors meetings, it's easy to infer his skepticism about another new arena proposal in Sacramento" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/17). In Boston, Gary Washburn profiled Mayor Johnson's ongoing efforts to keep the Kings in Sacramento (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/17).
RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB? SI.com's Sam Amick noted the Stern-appointed relocation committee studying the Maloofs' efforts to move the Kings to Sacramento is led by Bennett, the "man behind the SuperSonics franchise's move to Oklahoma City and a most-curious selection for the post." But Stern "dismissed an assertion that Bennett would have a conflict of interest in the matter." Stern said, "I don't think there's any conflict at all. ... He favors what's best for the league and the Kings" (SI.com, 4/16). But in Seattle, Danny O'Neil wrote under the header, "Clay Bennett In Charge Of NBA Relocation? You Make Up The Punchline." O'Neil: "It is galling if you're a Kings fan, problematic if you're an NBA fan and it's laughably predictable for Sonics fans. After all, gallows humor is about all we're left with when it comes to the NBA" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/16). CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger responded to Stern's appointment of Bennett, writing, "In other news, a fox has been hired to guard the henhouse, Kobe Bryant has been named chairman of the league's newly created diversity committee, Rasheed Wallace will begin filming an NBA TV documentary on sportsmanship and civility, and the Marlboro man has been appointed U.S. Surgeon General to determine whether any ill effects may result from smoking" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/15).
Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt "took a $30-million loan from Fox to meet the Dodgers' payroll obligations last week," according to sources cited by Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. It is "unclear what McCourt pledged as collateral" for the loan, which is "expected to cover the Dodgers' expenses into next month." MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "has yet to say whether he will approve a proposed television contract between Fox and the Dodgers, which McCourt has presented as a long-term solution to the team's financial troubles." The loan marks the "second time since the end of last season that Fox has provided money to the Dodgers owner so he could cover expenses." Sources said that the loan was "furnished to McCourt personally rather than to the debt-strapped Dodgers, so the arrangement did not require Selig's approval." It is "uncertain how long the Dodgers can operate with short-term financial assistance from Fox, or whether McCourt can obtain financing from another source." It also is "uncertain whether Selig plans to accept or reject the proposed long-term television deal before payroll comes due in May" (L.A. TIMES, 4/17). ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote the Dodgers' financial problems "could soon reach a tipping point." A high-ranking exec noted that the "times of stress for any club in debt are the second and fourth week of the season, when payroll obligations must be met" (ESPN.com, 4/16).
SECURITY CHECK: The L.A. TIMES' Shaikin reported Selig last week "dispatched a task force to Dodger Stadium to review security procedures there ... with the Dodgers playing their first homestand since the attack" on a Giants fan on Opening Day. MLB Exec VP/Administration John McHale was the "leader of a six-man delegation" that was scheduled to remain on site "through the weekend and report back to Selig." The delegation included MLB experts "in security and stadium operations." McHale said that he met Thursday with former L.A. Police Chief William Bratton and McCourt and "spoke several times with Selig." McHale said that Selig is "not interested in usurping the role of Bratton or the LAPD." McHale added that he and other MLB officials "had met with Selig 'on a daily basis' since the attack." McHale also said that it is "important that the Dodgers promptly hire a full-time head of security, a position that has been vacant for four months" (L.A. TIMES, 4/16). In N.Y., Gerard Wright noted the "slowly advancing tide of Dodger Blue" outside Dodger Stadium before Thursday's Cardinals-Dodgers game was "laced with currents of a darker shade, officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, ubiquitous on foot, horseback, mountain bicycles and motorcycle, with at least as many inside." This was L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck's "promised 'sea of blue' response to the assault and crowd aggravation, paid for by the Dodgers and possibly overkill for a stadium with an announced attendance of 34,288" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/16).
Four months since assuming ownership of the Hornets, the NBA "continues to work toward resolving issues it hopes will make the franchise more attractive to a local buyer," according to John Reid of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Although the league "has not had discussions with any potential local owner or groups," NBA Commissioner David Stern on Friday said that league officials "continue to receive inquires from people expressing interest." Stern: "When people call and express an interest, we say 'terrific, we’ll take you to a game, take you to a meal, and put you in the queue, so we can be ready to talk to you when we are ready for this asset to be sold.' We’re not pursuing local ownership at this time." He added, "The direction that Jac Sperling and Hugh Weber are taking is to make this team desirable for local ownership, or ownership that intends on keeping it in New Orleans." Reid noted the league also is "pushing a new marketing plan to help season-ticket sales reach 10,000 by next season." The Hornets had "fewer than 6,500 season-ticket holders this season" and ranked 26th in total attendance, but Stern said that they operated "within the budget proposed when they purchased the team, and actually improved a little bit." He added, "We need to increase attendance. But we are seeing some very good signs with respect to season-ticket sales." He noted that the team's new "I'm In" marketing campaign "has been successful, along with the push to attract sponsorships" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 4/17).
Wild Owner Craig Leipold is "focused on raising revenue, with the goal of regaining a recent decrease in ticket sales and making up for losing money this year without a postseason appearance," according to Dave Campbell of the AP. Leipold during an extensive interview last week said that the Wild "had to make five layoffs." He said, "Just like all the other businesses, we've had to adjust our workload. We didn't make the playoffs. That's why we're losing money. It's not a critical situation. It's not crisis by any means, but we have to run it like a business. If it means that we have to use fewer people to work harder to run the business then that's what we have to do during this period of time." Leipold said that he "believes the Wild's 'brand' and support remains strong, but he acknowledged the crowded market for other entertainment, sports and hockey spending and the importance of continuing to work at keeping their customers happy." After his team ended the season on a 2-10-1 slide, Leipold said that he is "borderline 'embarrassed' for the fans and he's pushing the entire organization to work harder this summer at communicating progress and a plan for building a legitimate Stanley Cup contender." He added, "We let our fans down, and we have to now reach back out and find a way to re-engage them" (AP, 4/15). Asked if he still plans to own the Wild long-term, Leipold said, "Absolutely, nothing's changed" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 4/14).
CHECK THIS OUT: The firm leading Dave Checketts' effort to sell the Blues "believes that an improving economy and the continued increase in NHL revenue could lead to the franchise changing hands by the start" of the '11-12 season. Game Plan LLC Founder Robert Caporale said his firm is "just in the beginning stages of the process." He added, "At this point in time, I personally think we will be able to accomplish that." Checketts publicly put the Blues on the market last month, and Caporale said, "The most important thing is that there has been improvement in the economy. Over the last couple of years, there seems to have been fewer people who were willing to make the capital commitment that's required to purchase a major-league franchise. Not necessarily because they didn't have the capital, but because of the economic conditions, they were not willing to invest the capital, or part with it, during difficult economic times" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/17).
Two of the three groups “considered leading contenders” to buy a minority stake in the Mets “appear to have bowed out of the competition,” according to Kosman & Robbins of the N.Y. POST. Sources said that a group led by BTIG co-Founder Steve Starker and Marquis Jet co-Founder Ken Dichter, and a second bidding group including SkyBridge Capital Managing Partner Anthony Scaramucci and 1-800-Flowers.com Founder James McCann, “have both walked off the field.” The third and “only other bidder” is SAC Capital Advisors Founder Steve Cohen. Mets co-Owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz this week are “expected to ask all three groups -- along with any late entrants into the field -- to make binding proposals.” The team, which “needs a cash infusion to fund operations, is believed to be looking for” $200M for up to 49% of the team. Sources said that Mets owners “have recently made clear they will not give veto rights or any other power to minority owners.” Sources added that Cohen “expressed interest in buying the Mets minority stake and sought permission to buy some of the team's bank debt from a JPMorgan-led lending group.” Owning debt “would allow him to repossess the team if it fell into extreme financial distress.” But a source said that the Mets, like “all other baseball teams, need to approve trading in its loans, and the Mets have told Cohen they will not allow him to buy the loans” (N.Y. POST, 4/16). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir provides a look at the supposed bidders (N.Y. TIMES, 4/17).
WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS: In N.Y., Andy Martino noted inclimate weather in Atlanta Friday night forced the Mets and Braves to play a doubleheader on Saturday, the Mets' second in three days, and as a result team officials called MLB to "register their displeasure about the twin bill" at Turner Field. MLB rules “allow the home team to decide how to reschedule a rainout.” The Mets “make two more trips to Atlanta this year, and would have preferred to have made up” Friday night's game at a later date (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/16).
NBCSPORTS.com reported Red Sox 1B Adrian Gonzalez, under his new seven-year, $154M contract announced on Friday, "can block a trade to two teams and he cannot be subsequently traded to the Yankees if dealt prior to someone else." This apparently is a "new requirement the Red Sox are putting into all of their big deals, as it's the same stipulation Carl Crawford has in his contract" (NBCSPORTS.com, 4/15). Gonzalez's new contract is the "richest awarded" under the current ownership group led by John Henry and Tom Werner (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/16).
WHAT ABOUT BOB? Warriors co-Owner Joe Lacob on Friday "went out of his way to say" that new Assistant GM Bob Myers "is expected to eventually be the GM." Myers joins the Warriors after serving as an NBA agent for Wasserman Media Group, and Lacob said, "We're very strong in talent evaluation and you could argue that what we probably don’t have strength in is experience in negotiating contracts. ... We wanted to strengthen that part of the business" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 4/15). In Boston, Gary Washburn wrote Myers' hiring "is a coup" for the Warriors, because Myers was "considered one of the bright young minds in the sports agent game" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/17). In San Jose, Tim Kawakami wrote the positive response to Myers' hiring "reflects the relief power-agents feel that they finally have somebody to talk to in the Warriors front office" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 4/15).
SPORTING A NEW LOOK: SI.com's Steve Davis wrote there "may not be a stronger embodiment of local, committed, innovative ownership" in MLS than Sporting KC's OnGoal LLC. There is a "lot to like about a completely organic ownership outfit" like Sporting KC's, "created and run by five wealthy, local businessmen with the singular aim of building a Major League Soccer power." OnGoal, led by Robb Heineman, Cliff Illig and Neal Patterson, has been "steadily sprucing up the organization" since buying it in '06, and the club's rebranding from the K.C. Wizards before this season "was the lead element in efforts to be more than a soccer team" (SI.com, 4/15).
ONLY A MATTER OF TIME: Nets Chair Christophe Charlier, in an interview for the Russian edition of GQ magazine, said that team Owner Mikhail Prokhorov "expects the Nets to be the NBA's most profitable once the team moves into Barclays Center," expected to be before the '12-13 season. Charlier said, "Brooklyn is going to change everything for the team. Fantastic real estate. Incredible location. Seven minutes by subway from the Wall Street. The very fact of moving (to Brooklyn) would make the Nets the most profitable team in the league" (NETSDAILY.com, 4/16).