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SBD/May 9, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
Since buying the Dodgers, Dodger Stadium and the surrounding parking lots in '04, Frank McCourt has "divided those assets among separate companies, providing the embattled Dodgers owner with a possible claim to the stadium and the land even if he loses the team," according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. If MLB forces McCourt to sell the Dodgers, he theoretically "could sell the Dodgers, then make more money from renting the stadium to the new owner, taking a cut of parking revenue and reaping the benefits of future development within the parking lots." However, McCourt "would not be able to implement any such plan without overcoming opposition" from MLB and from his ex-wife, Jamie. The MLB constitution authorizes Commissioner Bud Selig to take over a team and its stadium, as well as "any other property," but Shaikin noted it "makes no specific mention of parking areas or undeveloped land." McCourt would not comment on the possibility that he could "keep the land even if the team is sold, with MLB having no say," but he did stress that the league "approved the separation of assets in conjunction with his purchase of the Dodgers." Still, unless the divorce court "agrees with Frank McCourt, Jamie McCourt would have to agree to sell the team but keep the land," and the sale price "would be significantly lower if the land were not included in the purchase." If MLB "seizes the Dodgers from McCourt and puts them up for sale, the league would be obligated to try to get the best price possible." Yet a sports investment banker indicated that "maximum value would be difficult to obtain if McCourt did not include the stadium and/or the land in the sale." The banker said, "It's going to be a problem for baseball" (L.A. TIMES, 5/8).
EVERYONE AGAINST FRANK: Two sources indicated that the Dodgers' situation "is not on the agenda" for this week's MLB owners meeting in N.Y., and "no action is expected with regard to the team." The L.A. TIMES' Shaikin noted if the Dodgers fail to meet payroll at the end of this month, reported to be a possibility, MLB "would pay the salaries, with McCourt almost certainly asked to sell the team." If he "were to refuse, the league constitution specifically provides for 'involuntary termination' of the franchise if the owner fails to repay any debts to the league within 30 days." Any "involuntary termination requires a three-fourths vote of the owners." None of the "other 29 owners has spoken out publicly in support of McCourt, and one said Selig has all the votes should he recommend the Dodgers' franchise be terminated." The owner said, "The vote would be 29-0" (L.A. TIMES, 5/7). In Boston, Nick Cafardo wrote, "Still wondering whether Larry Lucchino emerges as a front-runner to buy the Dodgers" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/8). In N.Y., Bob Raissman named McCourt the "Dweeb Of The Week" for "continually spinning his self-imposed Dodgers debt to the consternation of MLB and Dodgers fans." McCourt's media appearances are "getting very tired very fast." Raissman: "McCourt's best course of action would be to turn this into a comedy tour, then, maybe, more people would pay attention to him. Until that happens, he might be better served by laying low and shutting up" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/8).
STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH YOU: ESPN L.A.'s Ross Newhan wrote under the header, "Bud Selig Due Some Blame For Mess." The MLB commissioner "shares a responsibility in the demise of the Dodgers under the McCourts." Selig's support of the McCourts' "highly leveraged purchase of the Dodgers for $430 million from Rupert Murdoch's media giant News Corp. came as a shock." But given Murdoch's "financial tentacles into baseball at a time when other networks were dropping out of baseball coverage, Selig ignored some red flags and approved the deal." Still, Selig has "taken the right step after taking the wrong one in 2004" (ESPNLA.com, 5/6). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro noted the Mets and Dodgers played a three-game series at Citi Field this weekend, five years removed from being the "class of the National League." Vaccaro: "It is good that Bud Selig has started to try to fix the Dodgers (even if he deserves to take a hit for allowing the McCourts in the henhouse in the first place), and it’s admirable that he’s sticking by old friend Fred Wilpon, but the fact that these two flagship franchises have been allowed to wither to where they are is disgraceful" (N.Y. POST, 5/8). In N.Y., William Rhoden wrote there is "no question that Selig has shown Wilpon, a longtime ally, as much consideration as possible while appearing to aggressively go after McCourt." But Rhoden added, "Their overall situations sure look pretty similar to me. ... Everyone’s legacy is in jeopardy here." What MLB "needs from Selig is wisdom and evenhandedness." In the end, the commissioner "should probably let them both stay or kick them both out" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/7).
RED FLAGS ALREADY? In N.Y., Richard Sandomir profiled SAC Capital Advisors Founder Steve Cohen, a prospective Mets bidder whose profits from his hedge fund "have been consistently lucrative and whose trading records are now being examined as part of a discovery request by federal prosecutors in an insider-trading investigation." Cohen has been "accused of nothing improper, and has asserted publicly and vigorously that he has no cause to worry about ever being charged with wrongdoing." But he "would make for an intriguing and perhaps challenging addition to the ranks of Major League Baseball owners." Bidding for a minority stake in the Mets "appears to be down to three, at most," and two sources indicated that Cohen "could be the front-runner" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/7).
Lions President Tom Lewand said that the "combination of a four-game win streak to close the 2010 season and no raise in ticket prices for 2011 has spurred a 'significant' increase in season-ticket sales for the upcoming season," according to Tim Twentyman of the DETROIT NEWS. Lewand said, "We are significantly ahead of where we were last year and last year we experienced significant growth over 2009. The trend has continued and even accelerated in 2011 vs. 2010. We are up significantly in new ticket sales and we're up also significantly in our overall season-ticket base with renewals on existing season-ticket holders." He added, "We've always tried to work with our existing season-ticket holders on an individual basis to accommodate them. It's not like if the deadline comes and goes, we won't pick up the phone and talk to you. But the deadline is important because there's growing demand out there." Twentyman noted the demand "comes on the heels of a very good business year" for the Lions in '10. The team saw TV ratings increase 37% from the '09 season, sold out seven of their eight home games and led the NFC in "attendance percentage increase -- up 13.9 percent from a year ago." Lewand: "The trend is going in the right direction for us. But we don't take anything for granted. Particularly in this market in these times" (DETROIT NEWS, 5/6).
The Stars "will not be transferred to a new owner until late June at the earliest," according to sources cited by Mike Heika of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. The sources indicated that while Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi is in an "exclusive negotiating window and could have a signed purchase agreement with an offer that exceeds $250 million within two weeks, the process of an organized bankruptcy hearing would force a window of 30-60 days to allow other bidders to try to exceed Gaglardi’s offer." A bankruptcy hearing "will be necessary to clear the team of potential lawsuits from current creditors." Heika noted while "others, such as Dallas businessmen Doug Miller or Billy Quinn or Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, could beat Gaglardi’s bid, the Vancouver businessman appears to be in control right now" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/7). Meanwhile, Stars interim President & CEO Tony Tavares on Friday "provided some additional insight into the facts behind his stance that the Dallas Stars will stay in North Texas." Responding to a report that a new owner could move the team, Tavares in a statement said, "Any opinion or rumor that it is even possible for the Dallas Stars to move from North Texas is unequivocally untrue. The Dallas Stars are not moving. The team's current contractual agreements with both the City of Dallas and the American Airlines Center prohibit the Stars from moving." The franchise also "released some of the details of those contractual obligations, which include the American Airlines Center being able to prevent a move" until '23 (BIZJOURNALS.com, 5/6).
GIVING IT ANOTHER GO? ESPN.com's Scott Burnside noted the City of Glendale will vote tomorrow "whether to ante up another $25 million to ensure the Phoenix Coyotes remain in town for at least another year." The city released its council agenda on Friday, and multiple sources said that Glendale is "looking at replicating an arrangement that cost $25 million this season to help cover operating costs while the NHL finds an owner for the franchise for next season." The proposal is "expected to pass," and could take "some of the pressure off of the municipality to sell more than $100 million in bonds that are crucial to closing a deal with Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer." Brad Goldberg, Vice Chair of the Hulsizer-led Arizona Hockey Holdings, said that Hulsizer is "committed to a deal in Phoenix." Goldberg also "denied reports Hulsizer was interested in purchasing" the Blues (ESPN.com, 5/7).
In Boston, Steve Buckley wrote with the Bruins sweeping the Flyers to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, the "entire regional sports populace should applaud the Bruins ... for turning Boston back into a Hockey Town." The Bruins have not appeared in the Conference Finals since '92, and Buckley wrote, "Considering there was a time, not long ago, when the Bruins were below the Somerville High girls basketball team in the popularity rankings of local sports teams, it’s hard to not get excited over the specter of hockey remaining on the docket all the way into deep May. Or June" (BOSTON HERALD, 5/7).
SPEAK YOUR MIND: Also in Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont noted Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis "decided to tickle his computer keyboard immediately after his club’s wipeout Wednesday night at the hands of the Lightning." Leonsis wrote on his blog, "The wheels fell off for us. No doubt about that." Leonsis "went on to offer an apology to Capitals fans." Dupont wrote, "Quite refreshing. ... There are times when an apology, or at least a substantive explanation, needs to be heard by the paying customers. Especially so in a town that has been waiting 40 years for a Stanley Cup parade, and especially so in a town that knows good hockey from bad hockey" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/8).
WHO'S ON OUR SIDE? In Columbus, Doug Caruso notes two years after the Blue Jackets "floated the idea of a public purchase of Nationwide Arena, no one has agreed on a way to help the hockey team stem its financial losses." Key city and county officials "haven't met about the issue since October, despite initial suggestions that a solution was urgently needed." The Blue Jackets in May '09 announced that they had lost about $80M over the past seven years, "mostly because of its lease deal with the arena owners." The team last year said that its "deficit runs about $12 million per year" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 5/9).
GREEN WITH ENVY: In Vancouver, Ian Walker noted since the NHL received a complaint about the Green Men, the two Canucks fans "have become media darlings, taking their act on the road" last week for the two Canucks-Predators playoff games at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena. The CBC, ESPN's "E:60," "PTI" and "Jim Rome Is Burning," and "newspapers from coast to coast have all featured the duo's plight." Walker: "While we may never know the reasoning behind the NHL's change of heart, chalk one up for the green guys. For despite the league's best efforts to curtail their fan-friendly antics, it seems Sully and Force are still getting the last laugh" (VANCOUVER SUN, 5/7).
In Houston, Richard Justice noted before Mark Cuban bought the Mavericks in '00, the NBA team was "among the worst sports franchises in this country.” The Mavericks were “bad on the floor, boring off the floor and playing in front of thousand of empty seats.” But "everything began to change when Mark Cuban arrived.” During the last 11-plus years, Cuban has “managed to annoy a lot of people," from NBA Commissioner David Stern to “referees to opposing players and coaches.” Justice: “Yet what he has also done is turn a terrible franchise into a great one” (CHRON.com, 5/8).
HEADING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: In California, Dan Hayes noted the Padres before Saturday’s game against the D-Backs were “one of only 10 MLB teams with improved attendance” this season. The Padres Saturday night "drew 35,936 fans to Petco Park to give them a per-game increase of 1,741 through 20 home dates over last season.” Padres President & COO Tom Garfinkel said, "It's a process and as long as we're trending in the right direction we're pleased." Garfinkel said that “despite the team's early struggles on the field it has improved at the gate because more resources have been allocated to ticket sales and ticket services.” He added that season-ticket sales “are at 10,900, up from 9,100 in 2010, while group sales have increased to 450,000 up from 350,000” (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 5/8).
CITI ON DOWN: In N.Y., Rich Wilner notes as the Mets yesterday “closed out their third home stand of the season, attendance was down 9.3 percent from the same number of dates last year.” Yesterday's Dodgers-Mets game drew an announced crowd of 26,312 at 41,800-seat Citi Field, down 26% from last year's Mother's Day matinee against the Giants. Unless the Mets improve home attendance, "total attendance this year will drop by 240,000, to about 2.3 million.” That would mean $12M “less in ticket sales, even if just 25 percent of the decline comes from the pricey luxury seats” (N.Y. POST, 5/9).
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUNNERS: BLOOMBERG NEWS' Tariq Panja noted Arsenal Owner Stan Kroenke on Friday “submitted the offer document for the mandatory takeover bid triggered” two weeks ago when he boosted his stake in the EPL club to 63%. Kroenke said that he “won’t take out debt against Arsenal soccer club to fund his proposed takeover” of Arsenal. He added that he will “respect the club’s current structure by pursuing its so-called ‘self-sustaining’ model.” He has also said that the club “would remain listed on the PLUS stock exchange even if he acquires sufficient shares to take it off the market” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 5/6).