SBD/April 29, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt on Thursday said that the team is "heading for a cash crisis," according to Matthew Futterman of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. McCourt revealed that he "has been working since November with News Corp.'s Fox unit to raise money to solve the team's financial challenges and settle his ongoing divorce from his wife, Jamie." He said that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "has stymied the effort by withholding approval of four proposed deals, two of which were large loans." Sources indicated that McCourt's latest effort, presented Wednesday, is a "media-rights deal worth about $3 billion and includes a 35% stake" for McCourt in Prime Ticket, Fox's L.A.-area RSN. The deal with Fox that McCourt proposed "would have given him $285 million immediately -- all of which Mr. McCourt pledged to invest in the Dodgers." In addition to the 35% stake in Prime Ticket, the deal "includes a 150% increase in the annual media-rights fees that Fox pays the Dodgers to broadcast the games," to more than $80M a year by '14. McCourt Thursday suggested that MLB's takeover of day-to-day control of the Dodgers is "part of a plan" by Selig to "force a sale to a preferred owner." McCourt said, "Baseball is trying to make it appear that the Dodgers are under financial duress, and it's not true. What is true is baseball is trying to put the Dodgers into financial duress." But MLB Exec VP/Labor Relations & HR Rob Manfred said, "No one has ever suggested to Mr. McCourt we want a different owner. ... The commissioner wants to complete his financial investigation of the club before he deals with any transactions" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/29).
PUTTING UP THE STOP SIGN: In L.A., Bill Shaikin cites sources as saying that one reason Selig has not approved the Fox contract is that Jamie McCourt "has not approved the deal." A source indicated that Jamie, in correspondence with Selig's office, "asserted her right to a say in the Dodgers' television deals by virtue of her half-ownership of the team." Sources noted that Selig "also has objections to the agreement beyond Jamie McCourt's claim." Shaikin notes if Jamie "believes the transaction could devalue the Dodgers -- perhaps by foreclosing the launch of a cable channel solely owned by the Dodgers -- she could object to the court." Meanwhile, Frank on Thursday "continued to press for a meeting with Selig to discuss what McCourt believes is effectively a hostile takeover of the Dodgers." Also, newly appointed Dodgers monitor Tom Schieffer "made his first appearance at Dodger Stadium," revealing that he "spoke with McCourt by telephone Thursday and expects to meet with him Friday." Schieffer said that he "appreciated that McCourt had instructed the Dodgers' staff to be receptive to him." Schieffer said that his "work overseeing the Dodgers' business operations and Selig's investigation into the team's finances should not preclude McCourt's playing a meaningful role. Schieffer: "He is certainly welcome to express his opinions. He is still the owner of the ballclub. We haven't seized anything. We're here to help" (L.A. TIMES, 4/29). Schieffer on Thursday also stressed that he "would not make decisions on who would play and where," and that GM Ned Colletti "would perform his duties without interference." But Schieffer also acknowledged that if Colletti "wanted to exceed the budget to pursue a player needed for a pennant drive, that move would require his approval." Schieffer said his main duties will be to monitor and investigate the financial situation and "try to figure out what the problem is" (LATIMES.com, 4/28).
WHAT'S ON TV? Former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent said that the proposed agreement with Fox, "far from being McCourt's vehicle back into baseball's good graces, exacerbates a distrust of him because he could take most of the money and leave only a small percentage for working capital." Vincent added, "That is certainly his right to do, but Bud is worried that if he has to sell the team because McCourt goes under, selling the team with the TV rights stripped away is much more difficult. The team won't generate anywhere near the revenue" (USA TODAY, 4/29). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes Fox "appears to be the business entity that has the most to either gain or lose financially from this transaction" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/29). SI.com's Jon Heyman wrote, "Fox must love the deal; it seems anxious to keep McCourt around, so anxious that it gave McCourt a basically unsecured personal loan of $30 million to keep him afloat. A lowball deal with Fox could affect other major-market teams with TV deals upcoming, which must worry MLB" (SI.com, 4/28).
LOOKING FOR ATTENTION: In L.A., T.J. Simers writes under the header, "Frank McCourt Is Suddenly The Great Communicator. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, who hasn't said much to L.A. fans (or a certain columnist) in the last year, goes on CNBC's 'Squawk Box' and says baseball Commissioner Bud Selig won't take his call." Simers: "For the last year I have probably averaged one call a week to the Dodgers asking to chat with Frank" (L.A. TIMES, 4/29). ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote, "Does anyone think that the ultracautious Selig -- who is responsible for initially picking McCourt to be the owner of the Dodgers -- has now recklessly targeted McCourt? No, McCourt earned this attention" (ESPN.com, 4/28).
In a late move to bring the NBA Kings to Anaheim, Ducks Owner Henry Samueli "has offered to increase his personal loan to the team from $50 million to as much as $75 million, and has offered to buy a minority stake in the organization," according to Bizjak, Kasler & Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Samueli also "has agreed to make far more costly improvements to Anaheim's Honda Center, which he manages, to bring that facility up to NBA standards." Originally, Honda Center officials had planned to spend $25M on upgrades, but arena officials said that the figure "has jumped in the last few days" to $70M. Samueli's enhanced offer "includes one critical change that could save that city from running into a potential deal-killing roadblock." Honda Center officials Thursday said that Samueli "has agreed to float private loans to cover the deal, if need be, instead of relying on a public bond sale." Still, a source warned that "key questions remain unresolved about a critical media deal in Anaheim." The Maloofs have until Monday to decide "whether to request permission" from the NBA to move the Kings, and they "reportedly were on the fence about that move as late as midweek" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/29). In Orange County, Randy Youngman notes "thanks to Samueli's deep pockets, Anaheim has put together a sweetheart deal that could immediately rescue the Kings from unprofitability." While Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has been "trumpeting corporate pledges" of more than $10M, Anaheim Arena Management officials "quietly have lined up corporate commitments that they say more than triple Sacramento's pledges." Additionally, AAM will have $13M "more in premium ticket revenue guaranteed as soon as the Kings say they are coming" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/29).
The Panthers Thursday night held the first NFL Draft party in franchise history at Bank of America Stadium, and organizers indicated they were pleased with the turnout. About 8,000-10,000 fans came to the free event and watched as the team announced QB Cam Newton as the first overall pick in the Draft. Panthers President Danny Morrison said the event was a few months in the making and a big motivation was having the top pick. Morrison: “I think the number one pick was the impetus for the event this year.” The event had several different components to it, including a tailgate party outside, fan access to the team’s locker room, and several on-field activities. The tailgate party featured a band, concessions and a showcase of fans’ spirited vehicles. Panthers Dir of Sponsor Sales & Services John Berger said that about 8-10 sponsors were on hand for the event, thinking it may be a way to reach a different group of people. “We might have some folks that are here tonight that have never come to the game,” Berger said, “and it gives them the opportunity to come to the building, see what we have to offer.” The sponsors included Bojangles, Bank of America, CPI Security, National Guard, Krispy Kreme, Pepsi Max and Anheuser-Busch, whose Bud Light brand title sponsored the event. The team also had merchandise and ticket sales booths, with about 40% of the ticket sales staff on hand.
WITH THE FIRST PICK, THE PANTHERS SELECT... The in-stadium scoreboards, as well as two video screens set up outside the stadium, were airing a live feed of NFL Network’s Draft broadcast. As the time drew near for the Panthers’ pick to be announced, the crowd gathered around the screens. When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appeared on the screen, the Charlotte fans, much like those sitting in Radio City Music Hall, booed him. Following Newton being announced as the No. 1 pick, several cheers erupted outside the stadium and streamers filled the air. But shortly after, the crowd dispersed, and within 15 minutes could be described as sparse. Both Morrison and Berger noted that they would consider hosting the event in the future, but hope that it would not coincide with the team holding the first pick again any time soon.
An uncompleted trade with the Bears "caused the clock to run out on the Ravens with the 26th overall pick" Thursday in the first round of the NFL Draft, according to Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore SUN. A league source said that Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome "contacted the NFL with three minutes remaining to inform the league that the Ravens were trading their first-round pick (No. 26) for the Bears' picks in the first (29th) and fourth rounds." But the Bears "failed to talk to the NFL during that time (the league needs both teams to confirm a trade), causing the Chiefs to jump ahead of the Ravens." Bears GM Jerry Angelo: "It was our fault. They did everything according to the rules." A source said that because of the Bears' mistake, Newsome "told the league that the Ravens deserved the fourth-round pick," but the NFL "denied the request" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 4/29). SI.com's Peter King reports he has been told that Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti on Friday "will push to get the fourth-round pick, or to make the situation right in some way." But the NFL is "under no obligation to do so, because the trade was never official." King writes, "Maybe all's fair in love and draft-night trades, but as far as Baltimore's concerned, I don't think this one's over. I think the Ravens will ask the league to award them some compensation from Chicago before the draft resumes at 6 p.m. Eastern" Friday (SI.com, 4/29). Angelo: "We thought we were following everything and we just ran out of time. No more than that. It was a glitch on our part and that glitch obviously was under my reign. ... Whatever you hear, Baltimore did everything the right way" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 4/29). ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert writes, "I give Angelo credit for owning up to a mistake that, fortunately, doesn't appear to have harmed either team. But it only adds to the perception of the Bears as a disorganized front office. Last year, they called running back James Starks to tell him they had drafted him before Angelo changed his mind at the last moment" (ESPN.com, 4/29).
The Ravens drafted former Colorado CB Jimmy Smith with the 27th pick Thursday night, and Smith would "have been a top-10 or 15 pick guaranteed" if it were not for questions about his character, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported some teams "were monitoring his Facebook page and were concerned about some of the images that they'd seen on there dating back to the Combine." Schefter: "You're still talking about a supreme cornerback talent ... and teams felt that he to be in the right environment to succeed" ("2011 NFL Draft," ESPN, 4/28). NFL Network's Michael Irvin said, "We talk about guys that have had issues with character, what do you do? You put them in a strong locker room. There is no stronger locker room in the National Football League than the one Ray Lewis and Ed Reed leads for the Baltimore Ravens. Jimmy Smith comes there, he'll fall in line" ("2011 NFL Draft," NFL Network, 4/28). In Baltimore, Mike Preston writes the Ravens "took a gamble Thursday night" in selecting Smith. There is "little doubt that Smith was one of the most talented players in the draft, but he has more baggage than an airline carrier." His name "has been linked with published reports of failed drug tests and other revelations about alcohol-related arrests and a third-degree assault in a restaurant." But "when a team is close to making the Super Bowl, it has a tendency to look the other way," and the Ravens "turned their heads Thursday night" (Baltimore SUN, 4/29).
Fairley drafted by Lions with 13th pick
despite reported character issues
DODGING THE RED FLAGS: The role that character issues play in the Draft was discussed on Thursday’s episode of “Outside The Lines.” ESPN’s Adam Schefter said it is “so critical to these teams these days” to examine a player's character. Schefter: “We're coming off an offseason where there was no free agency and ordinarily, teams would be putting so much time and energy starting March 1 into potential free agents. They really didn't do that this year because of the lockout, so all the attention that they ordinarily would put on the free agents they were able to put in top college prospects. ... These players always are under intense scrutiny, but that scrutiny was ratcheted up even more this year." Former North Carolina DT Marvin Austin, who was suspended his entire senior season due to dealings with an agent, was not drafted Thursday despite having "first round talent," and Schefter noted one team "told me flat-out they've taken him off their board due to concerns about his character.” Former Redskins Exec VP/Football Operations Vinny Cerrato said player character “is huge because you win with character.” Cerrato: “If you have a good character team, you can make it through losing streaks, you can make it through travesties in your organization. … You can bring in a guy like Marvin Austin, a questionable character guy, if you have a strong locker" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 4/28).
In Charlotte, Joseph Person notes the Panthers selected Auburn QB Cam Newton with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft Thursday "in the hopes he will be the franchise quarterback they have long lacked." The choice of Newton "drew cheers from about 10,000 fans at a party at Bank of America Stadium, where they gathered to see what the Panthers would do when they exercised the No.1 pick for the first time in franchise history" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/29). ESPN's Chris Berman just prior to the Panthers selected Newton said, "They're going to sell some tickets." ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. added, "They need some juice. ... This has got to be a home run. We've said all along, they cannot misfire here" ("2011 NFL Draft," ESPN, 4/28). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler writes the Panthers "took possibly the biggest risk in franchise history by drafting Newton, hoping that he will lead them to big rewards as he did for Auburn in college" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/29). Also in Charlotte, Tom Sorensen writes, "If Newton flops, the Panthers flop. The pick will become part of their bottom-feeder lore. ... But who goes into a draft cowering and covering up and trying not to get burned? You can't worry about bad public relations" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/29).
FUTURE OF THE FRANCHISE: In Denver, Mark Kiszla notes the Broncos selected Texas A&M LB Von Miller with the No. 2 pick in the Draft, taking a "sledgehammer to the extreme arrogance that characterized the much-lamented Josh McDaniels era." Miller supplants Broncos QB Tim Tebow "as the No. 1 reason to believe in the future of this franchise." It is "another sign" that Broncos Exec VP/Football Operations John Elway is a "football executive who believes more in substance than glitz" (DENVER POST, 4/29).
STAYING OUT OF THE WAY: In Nashville, David Climer writes five years after Titans Owner Bud Adams "uttered the immortal words 'V.Y. is my guy' and the Titans drafted Vince Young with the third pick of the '06 draft, there is no indication that the owner exercised any undue influence" on the decision to select Washington QB Jake Locker with the No. 8 pick in the Draft. Adams "clearly acquiesced to the recommendations of his front office brain trust." Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt: "We spent probably an hour or an hour-and-a-half talking to him, talking about the guys that we thought would be there -- the top three or four people" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 4/29).
PLAYING IT SAFE: In Miami, Greg Cote writes the Dolphins, "desperate for a draft home run, a big spark, had a chance to go bold," but instead they "went bland" in choosing Florida C Mike Pouncey with the No. 15 pick in the Draft. Cote: "This isn't meant as a direct knock on Mike Pouncey. ... He's fine. Nice player. He was seen as the best in the draft at his position, and he fills a need for Miami." But it "did not feel like the first-round pick of a 7-9 team a decade past its last playoff win, a team starving for impact players" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/29). In West Palm Beach, Dave George writes Pouncey is the "epitome of a safe pick." George: "I'm not down on the kid, just disappointed that the Dolphins continue to rebuild brick by sturdy brick, the old-fashioned way, the patient way, when all of South Florida is fed up with being an AFC East also-ran" (PALM BEACH POST, 4/29).
Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird Thursday said that he will remain with the team "if he likes what he hears from" Owner Herb Simon "when they meet in the next week or so." In Indianapolis, Mike Wells notes Bird's contract "expires at the end of July," and one of his "concerns is whether Simon is willing to spend in the free agent/trade market this summer." Bird "knows he would have to take a cut from his $5 million annual salary in keeping with a trend around the NBA of teams paying less to coaches and executives." If Bird and Simon "can't come to an agreement, Bird would prefer to immediately step away so the Pacers' new president could select players he wants" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 4/29).
STARS SEARCH: Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said that finding the team's new coach "will be slowed by the search for a new owner." Nieuwendyk added that "getting a new owner on board and allowing the owner access to the hiring process makes sense." In Dallas, Mike Heika cites sources as saying that Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi is "in the first days of a 30-day exclusive negotiating window in which his people will try to fashion an offer to purchase the Stars from a group of lenders led by Monarch Investments." If the Stars "can clear the offer through competitors and present it in an organized bankruptcy court, the Stars could be sold by July 1." One source said that Gaglardi's offer will be "significantly more than others put forward" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/29).
LOSING THAT BUZZ: In San Diego, Don Norcross writes the Padres "represented one of baseball’s feel-good stories" last season, but "twenty-five games into 2011, the buzz is long gone." Channel 4 San Diego's telecast of Sunday's Padres-Phillies game "had a lower TV rating locally than a Celtics-Knicks first round NBA playoff game." Attendance at Petco Park is "up over last year after 15 games (27,495 per game compared to 22,985)," but the schedule "has played a major factor in the increase" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/29).