SBD/April 22, 2011/Franchises

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  • Frank McCourt Faces Tough Court Battle If He Challenges MLB, Bud Selig

    McCourt may seek an injunction to stop MLB's takeover of Dodgers

    Legal experts believe that Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt "will face long odds if he challenges" MLB's move to take control of the team -- a fight McCourt "has already indicated that he may wage," according to a front-page piece by Kim, Goffard & Weikel of the L.A. TIMES. Courts historically have upheld the MLB commissioner's "extraordinary powers to act in the 'best interest of baseball,'" an argument Bud Selig is making by assuming day-to-day operations of the Dodgers. One option for McCourt and his attorneys would be to "seek an injunction to stop the takeover, arguing that Selig's move was arbitrary and capricious." Dodgers Vice Chair Steve Soboroff Thursday argued that Selig's decision "seemed designed to push McCourt out." Former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent said that the courts "would probably back Selig's takeover of the Dodgers if there is a lawsuit, but that the courts would be looking over the commissioner's shoulder" (L.A. TIMES, 4/22). New York Univ. professor and labor attorney Robert Boland said, "The ‘best interests’ give him the power to act, and baseball’s immunity from antitrust laws prohibit owners from mounting a successful lawsuit." Boland added by MLB taking over, “I don’t think McCourt has any power; Selig has effectively taken the keys away" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/22). UCLA professor Lee Ohanian said, "Baseball is not governed by the rules that typically govern business in America." Noting Dodgers ownership has been at the center of a legal dispute since '09 as a result of Frank McCourt's divorce from ex-wife Jamie, Ohanian added, "On one level, I'm surprised Selig didn't intervene before this" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/22). In DC, Dave Sheinin writes under the header, "McCourt's Going, Going, But Not Quietly" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/22).

    PICKING UP THE PIECES: ESPN L.A.'s Ramona Shelburne reported Selig's decision to "seize control of the club's operations Wednesday had come as too big of a shock for anyone to process it fully by the next morning." Dodgers officials "were given only a 30-minute 'heads up' on the announcement," and McCourt himself "didn't see it coming at all." Soboroff said, "That letter was not expected. (It) was a shock." Selig's decision also left Dodgers GM Ned Colletti unsure of "his job, his role, his boss." But a Dodgers spokesperson said by Thursday, Colletti had been contacted by MLB officials and told enough to be "conducting business as usual with the payroll he was given at the beginning of the year" (ESPNLA.com, 4/21). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale reports Colletti "sought advice Thursday" from Rangers GM Jon Daniels, who experienced a similar situation last season when MLB ran his club while the team was in bankruptcy. Daniels said, "You don't have to let it be more of a distraction than it already is." Omar Minaya, who was Expos GM when MLB controlled that franchise, said, "At first, there's a lot of uncertainty, but it becomes a lot easier if you can stay in contention" (USA TODAY, 4/22).

    BASEBALL V. MCCOURT
    : Soboroff Thursday said that he "hoped McCourt could meet with Selig to discuss the situation but was not sure whether McCourt planned an imminent lawsuit." In L.A., Bill Shaikin reports Selig "has refused to meet personally with McCourt; Soboroff said he could not say whether McCourt would promise not to sue if granted a meeting." Soboroff Thursday also asked why Selig "has assisted the financially troubled owners of the New York Mets while snubbing McCourt." Soboroff: "How do you single him out when you don't single the Mets out?" (L.A. TIMES, 4/22). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said McCourt "has a point, regardless of where the source of the money -- they didn't take over the Mets, and the Mets have more issues this year" ("PTI," ESPN, 4/21). But in San Diego, Tim Sullivan notes one reason it generally takes Selig "so long to move is that he invests so much time in working the room, taking owners’ temperatures and counting their votes." If McCourt "finds Selig’s decision 'hard to understand,' one plausible explanation is that he may have been the only owner who was out of the loop during the commissioner’s deliberations" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/22). YAHOO SPORTS' Tim Brown wrote under the header, "Selig Vs. Dodgers' McCourt Is 29 Against One" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/21).

    READY TO STEP IN? A's Owner Lew Wolff, who lives in Southern California and has offices there, Thursday "denied having his eye on the Dodgers." Wolff, frequently mentioned as a potential Dodgers owner, said, "I'm only interested in the A's -- and getting above .500" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 4/22). Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino Thursday said, "I love Boston and that’s really all I’ll say about the Dodgers. I love my position and I’m proud of my position with the Red Sox." Red Sox Chair Tom Werner: "Anything you can do to quash that (rumor) would be appreciated. I’m very happy as the co-managing partner of the Boston Red Sox" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/22). Also Thursday, Brewers Owner Mark Attanasio, an L.A. resident, "quickly dismissed" speculation that he would be interested in the Dodgers. Attanasio said that he "had not looked into the Dodgers' situation and did not intend to do so" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 4/22). Conversely, the L.A. TIMES' Shaikin reported former Dodger Steve Garvey "remains interested in assembling an investment group to bid on the club." Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban previously has said that he "would consider exploring a Dodgers purchase but did not respond to an email seeking comment" (LATIMES.com, 4/21). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Daniel Miller suggests 10 "Hollywood Players" who could be interested in buying the Dodgers (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 4/22).

    BRAVO, MR. SELIG: An L.A. TIMES editorial states Selig "has made the right decision now by taking over the team." Running an MLB franchise is "not a popularity contest, but it is a challenging business, and there are serious and urgent questions to be answered about the organization's financial stability and Frank McCourt's ability to steward it." While a baseball team is a "private business, it is also a public trust of sorts." The editorial continues, "Rarely does the commissioner take over a team, but now that he has, we would like to see him handle this in a manner that is transparent, timely and fair. ... What's most important is that the trustee be independent and fair, and that he or she be more focused on the Dodgers than on the politics of major league baseball" (L.A. TIMES, 4/22). USA TODAY's Mike Lopresti writes, "An owner can lose games, lose money, lose players, lose popularity among the patrons in the cheap seats. All that is survivable. What an owner can't do is lose the trust of the commissioner. So Selig, quite rightly, has executed a bloodless coup" (USA TODAY, 4/22). In N.Y., Tyler Kepner wrote Selig "has never looked better than he does right now." The decision to seize control of the Dodgers is the "kind of decisive, assertive action that should define the office of the commissioner of baseball." MLB Network's Bob Costas said, "Even if he got religion late, he got it wholeheartedly. ... He’s done a lot of things in the second half, or later two-thirds, of his tenure that really should, in fairness, improve his legacy" (NYTIMES.com, 4/21).

    SOMETHING NEEDED TO HAPPEN: The L.A. Times' Shaikin noted the Dodgers' attendance "had dropped to levels we hadn't seen in seven, eight, nine years," as the season-ticket base "has fallen 10,000 in just four years." Shaikin: "Fans want to see this McCourt situation resolved one way or the other, and clearly Bud Selig has decided he wants to resolve it in a way that leads to new ownership" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 4/21). L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke: "People are so thrilled to have a chance to get rid of Frank McCourt that they'll take baseball running it for awhile, and then probably within a year or so they'll find new ownership" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 4/21). ESPN.com's Molly Knight said, "I knew this day was coming, I really did. I'm still stunned that it actually has happened" ("Mason & Ireland," ESPN Radio 710 L.A., 4/21).

    SHARE THE BLAME
    : ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski wrote under the header, "Blame MLB, Too, For The Dodgers Mess." Wojciechowski: "The McCourts were baseball dilettantes. They were frauds. But Selig and the other owners still gave them keys to the fraternity house. ... Selig and the owners need to learn from this seven-year melodrama, too. The McCourts were the lead characters in this cautionary tale, but MLB was in the supporting cast" (ESPN.com, 4/21). In a special to ESPN L.A., former L.A. Times Dodgers reporter Ross Newhan wrote, "We know as well that the commissioner is not without a measure of blame for this embarrassing situation.  He supported Frank and Jamie McCourt's purchase of the team despite its highly leveraged structure" (ESPNLA.com, 4/21). In S.F., Gwen Knapp writes, "The commissioner applied a tourniquet to the franchise, which McCourt never should have acquired in the first place" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/22). ESPN's Bomani Jones said, "The problem that Major League Baseball has is its affection for broke owners. … If you read Frank McCourt's statement, what he basically said was, 'I've been broke a long time. Why is me being broke now an issue?'" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 4/21).

    Print | Tags: MLB, Franchises, Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Selig Says There Are Lots Of Differences Between Mets, Dodgers Situations

    MLB commissioner says Katz (l) and Wilpon (r) have worked hard at pursuing investors

    MLB Commissioner Bud Selig Thursday said that the Mets are "not in the same sinking boat" with the Dodgers, according to Thompson & O'Keeffe of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Selig: "There's a lot of differences between the Mets' and the Dodgers' situation. I keep reading they're similar but they're clearly not similar. Anyone who portrays that as similar is wrong." Selig said that unlike Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt, "who is mired in a protracted divorce proceeding with his wife, Jamie, and has burdened the club with $400 million debt, the Mets' owners are in the process of selling a portion of the club to raise capital" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/22). Selig said Mets co-Owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz have been "really hard at work" in pursuing new investors. Selig: "They've really spent an enormous amount of time on this. And I think they're coming to something pretty quickly" (NEWSDAY, 4/22). Selig said, "The only thing I'm going to say is that there are a lot of differences. The situations are clearly not similar, and that's in a myriad of ways" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/22). Baseball writer Murray Chass wrote, "Whether you agree or disagree with Selig's unusual but understandable action against the Dodgers, you have to wonder how the commissioner can exclude the Mets from his oversight. ... Now that he has taken the first step toward forcing McCourt to sell the Dodgers, Selig has created the need to deal with Wilpon. Selig certainly considered the Wilpon issue before he initiated serious action against McCourt so you know he is prepared to defend doing nothing with Wilpon. But he also knows that he will face pressure to exhibit fair and equal treatment" (MURRAYCHASS.com, 4/21).

    WATCHING FROM THE SIDELINES: ESPN MLB analyst and former Mets manager Bobby Valentine said he has "no active role" with any of the groups bidding for a minority stake in the Mets. Valentine: "I am kind of sitting on the sidelines and rooting for my friends the Wilpons, and if they need some partnerships, then they pick the right people. And the people I know can all fit that bill." When asked if he has spoken to any of the groups about the Mets, Valentine said, "If any of them have called in the past and asked about the little information I might have, I have willingly talked about baseball and the Mets" (N.Y. POST, 4/22).

    Print | Tags: MLB, New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, Franchises
  • NBA Reps Will Continue Research Into Keeping Kings In Sacramento

    Stern has said Kings need a new arena in order to stay in Sacramento

    In an indication the NBA is "seriously looking at keeping the Kings in Sacramento, NBA staffers will be in town Monday to conduct in-depth research on the region's ability to financially support the team next season," according to sources cited by Ryan Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. The visit "would come on the heels of a hectic day Thursday," when Thunder Owner and NBA relocation committee Chair Clay Bennett and NBA Exec Counsel Harvey Benjamin "came to town to conduct meetings with Mayor Kevin Johnson and area business leaders, including listening to Sacramento's last-second pitch to remain a major league basketball city." A "keynote of Johnson's presentation" to Bennett and Benjamin was a "list of businesses he said are willing to invest $9.2 million next year in new corporate sponsorships, season-ticket purchases and luxury suite leases." The sources said that NBA staffers are "expected to vet that list in detail next week with both calls and visits to local businesses." Bennett and Benjamin "are expected to remain in Sacramento for more meetings" Friday, and "one is expected to be with Kings representatives." NBA Commissioner David Stern last week indicated that the league "not only wants to know more about the level of corporate support in Sacramento but also will be scrutinizing the deal the Kings have fashioned in Anaheim." That includes the "TV deal, considered a key financing stream for NBA teams." Adding to the drama Thursday was Comcast Sportsnet California GM Larry Eldridge, who said that his station is "willing to increase the value of its contract with the team if it stays in Sacramento." A source said that "should the league agree to give the Kings one more season in Sacramento, that timeline would come" with the restriction that "plans for a new arena must be finalized by next March in order for the city to keep the team." Stern "has said repeatedly that Sacramento needs a new arena if it wants to stay in the NBA," and reps Thursday heard a presentation from Icon Venue Group President & CEO Tim Romani, whose firm is "leading Sacramento's latest arena study" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/22). Johnson Thursday said, "If you go back a week ago from today, we thought it was virtually over. And not only did we prevent the team from leaving, we got a chance to show them who we are" (AP, 4/21).

    FULL STEAM AHEAD: In California, Randy Youngman reports despite "signs of growing opposition" to a relocation to Anaheim, "all indications are the Maloofs, the Kings' owners, plan to file for relocation before the May 2 deadline imposed by the NBA." AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke Thursday during an interview with ESPN Radio 710 L.A. pointed out Lakers Owner Jerry Buss "has led the charge" against relocation. Leiweke said that AEG, "as a Lakers minority partner, was 'on the same page' as Buss." Honda Center operator Anaheim Arena Management, which "has been negotiating with the Maloofs," is "lining up corporate sponsors and compiling contact information for those interested in purchasing tickets." An AAM spokesperson said that as of Thursday, there were "more than 3,000 names on a list that translates into about 12,000 seats when it is combined with Ducks season-ticket holders who already have expressed an interest in purchasing their seats for NBA games" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/22).

    NO BOON FROM TV
    : SI.com's Sam Amick cited a source as saying that the "television rights riches that had long been seen as a major motivating factor for the Maloofs aren't quite as lucrative as they had hoped." The TV plan presented to the NBA's BOG last week "included a possible partnership" worth $20M annually with KDOC-Ind., which is co-owned by Ducks Owner Henry Samueli. The length of the deal "is not known, and it might merely be a stopgap solution to bridge the gap between now and the Lakers' eventual departure" from FS West in '12. But the fact that preliminary discussions between the Kings and FS West "went nowhere and paved the way for a lesser platform is certainly surprising." The $20M figure "would hardly impress those doing the vetting considering the league-wide average is also believed to be $20 million and the Los Angeles area media market is the second largest in the country." By comparison, sources said that the Clippers' TV contract with FS West is worth $22.5M annually (SI.com, 4/20).

    Print | Tags: Sacramento Kings, Basketball, Franchises
  • Glendale, Goldwater Institute Conclude Meeting Without Reaching Resolution

    Bryzgalov says he would rather go back to Russia than play in Winnipeg

    A "lengthy meeting Thursday between Glendale and the Goldwater Institute to resolve differences over a new ownership deal for the Phoenix Coyotes ended without a resolution," according to Cecilia Chan of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Goldwater, which "opposes the city's deal with Chicago investor Matthew Hulsizer to buy the hockey team," put a "number of suggestions on the table that would garner its approval on the deal, including having Hulsizer purchase the team with his own money or finding additional investors." However, Goldwater Litigation Dir Clint Bolick said, "The meeting was disappointing from our perspective. The mayor asked for our concerns and our ideas and we provided a number of concerns and ideas. The city did not seem to be open to the ideas we suggested and the city attorney repeatedly told us he would see us in court" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/22). Goldwater CEO Darcy Olsen said, "It was a cupcake summit and unfortunately the cupcakes were far tastier than the conversation" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 4/22). Goldwater posted audio of the meeting on its website. The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek notes it "soon deteriorated into a back-and-forth discussion between" Olsen and Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs, neither of whom were "budging from previously entrenched positions." Hulsizer "turned up for the meeting, even though Coyotes officials said the previous night that he wasn't invited and wouldn't attend" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/22).

    FACING REALITY: In Phoenix, Bob Young writes, "Barring a last-minute deal, Glendale looks as if it may be stuck with an empty arena and mountain of debt" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/22). An ARIZONA REPUBLIC editorial states, "Between crushing lease deals and uncertain leadership, the business side of the Coyotes has proved its own worst enemy" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/22). Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, whose team was swept out of the playoffs Wednesday, said, "I think we can win more if we have stable ownership, and there's probably not one hockey player in the league or one coach or one general manager in the league that would disagree with that. ... There has to be some kind of a solution, and I think everybody sees that" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/22).

    LEFT IN THE COLD: In Winnipeg, Paul Friesen noted the city "isn't even back in the NHL, yet, but it already has a potential free agent problem." Coyotes G Ilya Bryzgalov, a soon-to-be free agent, said that he would "rather go back to Russia than play in Winnipeg." Bryzgalov: "Not many people live there, not many Russian people there. Plus it's cold. There's no excitement except the hockey. No park, no entertaining for the families, for the kids. It's going to be tough life for your family." If the Coyotes move to Winnipeg, Bryzgalov said that "chances are he wouldn't listen to a contract offer from the new owners." Bryzgalov: "Probably not. I better go to somewhere in Russia, KHL, to be honest. Because KHL is Russian people, it's family, friends. Even as a cold place, I can speak to people in Russian language" (WINNIPEGSUN.com, 4/21). The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle noted this is "likely an unfortunate preview of what having an NHL team back in Winnipeg could be like, with some high profile free agents uninterested in signing there" (THEGLOBEANDMAIL.com, 4/21).

    Print | Tags: Phoenix Coyotes, Franchises
  • Tom Glavine Interested In Helping Keep The Thrashers In Atlanta

    Glavine was drafted by the NHL Kings before choosing a career in baseball

    Former Braves P Tom Glavine Thursday said that he is interested in "keeping the Thrashers in Atlanta," and he is "willing to do whatever he can -- perhaps even becoming a partial investor -- to help ensure the city does not lose an NHL franchise for a second time," according to Chris Vivlamore of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. Glavine said that he has spoken with Atlanta Spirit co-Owner Michael Gearon Jr. He also has "had more in-depth conversations with team president Don Waddell." Glavine said, "I’m trying to do whatever I can do to keep the team here. Whether that is putting together a group locally or finding someone from outside the area. Any way my involvement will help, I am willing to do it." Glavine, who was drafted by the NHL Kings before choosing a career in baseball, attended the Thrashers' season finale on April 10 and "met with team officials." He said, "To be perfectly honest, I don’t have the money to buy the team. I could be an investor. I could go down that road. I’m not saying I will or I will not." Vivlamore notes the process "has not moved to the point of signing a non-disclosure agreement to look at the organization’s financial records." Waddell has stated that there are "talks ongoing with three groups interested in purchasing the Thrashers franchise and keeping it in Atlanta" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 4/22).

    Print | Tags: Atlanta Thrashers, Franchises, Hockey
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