SBD/June 22, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
Frank McCourt threw a "brushback pitch at Major League Baseball on Tuesday, the day after Commissioner Bud Selig vetoed the television contract that would have provided the Dodgers' owner with a financial lifeline," according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. McCourt vowed to "retain Dodger Stadium and related assets even if he loses the team." Bob Sacks, an attorney for McCourt, said that if Selig were to "strip McCourt of the Dodgers and order the team sold," the deal would "not include those related entities." That contention is "hotly disputed by the commissioner's office." The Dodgers had $286M in revenue in '09, according to court documents, and a source said that a new Dodgers owner "would owe McCourt about $21 million in annual land use payments and an undisclosed share of ticket revenue." Selig's office, however, "does not believe McCourt has the right to retain those assets, citing the owner's signature on agreements consenting those related entities would be 'subject to the terms and conditions of all Major League Baseball governing documents.'" Shaikin notes if McCourt "fails to meet the Dodgers' June 30 payroll, an event that appears likely, Selig could seize the team and put it up for sale." Sacks said that his client is "evaluating his options after Selig's rejection of the proposed television contract with Fox, including a lawsuit against the commissioner and a bankruptcy filing." But he added that McCourt "would much prefer to settle the matter with Selig in person." Sacks: "Frank does not want to fight the commissioner in court. It is not in the best interest of anybody" (L.A. TIMES, 6/22). Sacks added, "There seems to be a predetermined result to drive Frank out of baseball without a good faith basis. This isn't going to go away quietly" (AP, 6/21).
GUESS WHO'S BACK? Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban during an interview with TMZ.com yesterday said that he "isn't sure he would be interested in purchasing the Dodgers" because of what McCourt "might have done to the franchise." Cuban: "I have an interest in Major League Baseball for the right deal. But it's just such a mess, right? I can't imagine that it's not going to be such a mess that it's (not) going to make it hard to turn around." Still, Cuban added, "If the deal is right and they're fixable, then, yeah, I'm very interested" (L.A. TIMES, 6/22).
The Warriors yesterday “effectively fired team President Robert Rowell, a key figure for the franchise during a dark stretch when Chris Cohan owned the team,” according to Rusty Simmons of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The Warriors said Rowell “elected to step down.” He will remain with the team “on an interim basis to assist" co-Owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber in the search for a replacement. Rowell served as team President for eight seasons, and was with the Warriors “in some capacity for 16.” Simmons notes Rowell, once a “powerful voice with Golden State, had been muted, especially since" Lacob and Guber were approved to buy the team in November. Warriors GM Larry Riley is the “last significant executive from Cohan’s regime.” Lacob said in a statement, “We spent a lot of time evaluating this decision and believe that now is the appropriate time for the new ownership to put our complete stamp on the entire organization” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 6/22). CSNBAYAREA.com’s Ray Ratto wrote because Lacob added "what seems to be" two GMs, Jerry West and Bob Myers, to “the one he already had, there was little for Rowell to do outside the selling of tickets and control of the marketing efforts.” With a lockout "looming that many believe could drastically curtail or even cancel the season, Rowell became expendable.” Ratto noted no successor “has been named, but one suspects that either Lacob or one of the other owners will take over the business side of the operation.” That announcement is expected “under separate cover in the next few days or weeks,” but no timetable was indicated (CSNBAYAREA.com, 6/21). Lacob and Guber said that a "search for Rowell's replacement will begin immediately" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 6/21).
CHARTING A NEW COURSE: Lacob said, “This is a top-to-bottom remaking of the franchise. We have tremendous talent with great experience and great energy. They will succeed. I think it’s one of the best basketball operations staffs in the NBA.” In San Jose, Marcus Thompson II writes Riley is “the undisputed triggerman, a decision Lacob acknowledged took him a bit of strategizing.” Riley had the “demeanor and focus Lacob wanted atop the staff,” and because Riley is “winding down his career, Lacob could be sure the 66-year-old wouldn’t operate for selfish reasons or be bothered by rising stars in the industry” (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 6/22).
TIME FOR A CHANGE: In Oakland, Monte Poole writes nobody “did more over the past decade to influence group morale shape the general direction of the franchise” than Rowell. Poole: “So if new ownership is committed to creating a New Warriors Way, Rowell had to go.” Rowell’s departure is “another indication -- perhaps the strongest yet -- that Lacob intends to make good on his vow that his Warriors will not be the same old Warriors.” Rowell was “a marketing star,” who found ways to “package and sell an often ugly product.” But “suffice it to say he was infinitely better at making money than he was at winning friends” (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 6/22). In San Jose, Tim Kawakami wrote, "Lacob should’ve dumped Rowell long ago -- not 11 months after taking over -- but at least he’s done it now. … This is a good day for the Warriors” (MERCURYNEWS.com, 6/21). CSN Bay Area’s Ratto said, “I think it happened a little earlier than anybody expected because I think the NBA is looking at a lockout and there really is no point in having a guy run the business side of an operation when there isn't going to be any business in all likelihood.” CSN Bay Area’s Barry Thompkins: “I think it’s addition by subtraction. I don't think so much it was a question of if, but a question of when.” CSN's Greg Papa: “There’s been a real public outcry to get rid of Bobby Rowell” (“Chronicle Live,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 6/21).
The NHL's BOG yesterday approved the sale of the Thrashers to True North Sports & Entertainment and allowed for the relocation of the franchise to Winnipeg. The team will continue to play in the Southeast Division next season while a plan for realignment is discussed for the '12-13 campaign (THE DAILY). In Winnipeg, Tim Campbell notes with the announcement, the NHL and the Winnipeg franchise launched the "as-yet-unnamed team's official website, winnipeg.nhl.com." At the conclusion of yesterday's BOG meeting, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league "regretted having to leave a market, in this case Atlanta." Bettman: "We deeply regret that Atlanta's ownership was unable to secure local partners after exhausting every option and alternative." He added, "At the same time, we are delighted that NHL hockey is returning to Winnipeg and to a fan base that already is showing so much support for its team" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 6/22). More Bettman: "People have noticed very clearly what Winnipeg has accomplished in a very short period of time, selling out 13,000 season tickets in record time. Sometimes it's not just the size of the market ... it's a function of the intensity of the market." Meanwhile, Bettman said that BOG members are "not ready to revolt over their continued ownership" of the Coyotes. Bettman: "The board isn't funding the losses. The city of Glendale is. And the board is comfortable with where things are" (WINNIPEG SUN, 6/22). Devils President, CEO & GM Lou Lamoriello said, "In my opinion, the right decision was made with the way it was handled in regard to Winnipeg and also the right decision was made with Phoenix to try to keep it in that market. The city is trying very hard. They are separate situations that have been handled for the best of the league first and also for the individual franchise" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 6/22).
TIME TO HEAD NORTH? In Winnipeg, Gary Lawless notes the NHL "will boast seven Canadian franchises" with the addition of Winnipeg, and "don't be surprised if that number swells to nine within five years." Quebec City "wants a franchise and Southern Ontario could certainly hold a second team." Growing the game is the league's "mandate and while having an attractive TV footprint in the U.S. is a fine idea, it hasn't paid the bills." The "experiment is over and now Canada has to be the NHL's target" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 6/22). However, Maple Leafs President & GM Brian Burke, who "was quick to say he's all for putting a team back in Winnipeg," delivered a "little reality check" yesterday. He said, "There's always a rush of euphoria. There's always a rush of patriotism. You look at NFL expansion teams, the first five years are never the problem. And then you look at some of them with attendance issues. It's far from over. ... It's not a slam dunk. Everyone in Winnipeg has to support this team" (WINNIPEG SUN, 6/22).
Nationals Park was "more packed than it has been at any time this season" for this past weekend's Orioles-Nationals series, which was attended by "more than 107,000" fans, according to Adam Kilgore of the WASHINGTON POST. The crowds "had as much to do with the opponent as the Nationals' recent surge," during which the team won eight in a row. But "judging by crowd noise and the colors in the stands, it seemed like about three-quarters of Sunday's crowd" was Nationals fans. Nationals RF Jayson Werth said, "I thought it was awesome." The Nationals so far are "on pace to draw 1,812,927, about 10,000 less than last season," and if they "could reach or surpass last year's total without the presence of Stephen Strasburg, that would be a decent accomplishment." Kilgore wrote the "real test to see the effect the Nationals' eight-game winning streak has on attendance" began with last night's game against the Mariners (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 6/20). The game drew 21,502 fans at Nationals Park (THE DAILY). In DC, Paulina Berkovich noted the eight-game winning streak ended Sunday, but the Nationals are just one game below .500. Attendance figures "show that fans have started to respond to the team's recent success." The Nationals drew 181,146 fans "for the first six contests of a nine-game homestand, three each against St. Louis and Baltimore." Over the course of those six games, the Nationals' average attendance for the season "increased from 21,403 to 23,104" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 6/21).
GIANT GAINS: In Sacramento, Eric Gilmore noted the Giants "have sold out all 31 of their home games this season," and they "have a chance to sell out the entire home schedule for the first time since 2001, AT&T Park's second season." The Giants are averaging 41,673 fans per game, "third best in the major leagues, behind only the Phillies and Yankees." That is an "increase of more than 4,000 fans per home game from 2010, when the Giants ranked ninth in attendance and sold out 29 of 81 home games." Before the season, the team had "sold more than 30,000 season tickets and established a season-ticket waiting list." By comparison, the A's "ranked 29th of 30 teams last year in home attendance, averaging 17,511 per game." They "rank near the bottom in attendance again, despite already selling out five times, including three games last weekend against the Giants" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 6/21).
In Philadelphia, Kate Fagan notes although the deal to sell the 76ers “is not yet official,” the team’s basketball side “has offered its insight” to the prospective ownership group led by Apollo Global Management Senior Managing Dir Joshua Harris. 76ers President Rod Thorn said that he has “had several conversations with the team's potential new ownership group.” Thorn: "They have questions about how we do things, why we do things, what we think of our personnel, what we think we need, those type of information-type questions." Thorn said that his “exchanges with the potential new owners mostly have involved answering questions rather than asking questions of the investor group” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 6/22).
SAVING FACE: ESPN CHICAGO's Gene Wojciechowski wrote the Cubs “have an identity crisis.” Team Owner Tom Ricketts “is the face of the franchise, but so far he hasn’t been its voice.” If Ricketts “wants to be taken seriously by his constituency, he has to make some difficult, seismic and franchise-defining choices.” Wojciechowski: “Nobody expects him to be George Steinbrenner. Or Hank Steinbrenner, for that matter. But it’s OK to show some emotion and passion. And it’s even more OK to throw in a few details now and then” (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 6/21).
RUBIO RIPPLE: In Minneapolis, Jerry Zgoda reports since G Ricky Rubio last Friday announced he will be joining the T'Wolves, the team has seen “500 season tickets sold." Also, webpage views "have tripled (thanks to an exclusive interview with Rubio on Tuesday) and the full season-ticket base has surpassed 7,000, the most since the 2004-05 season" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 6/22).
NEW TO THE AREA: In Charlotte, David Scott notes the city’s new MLL franchise will be named the "Hounds" after an online fan vote. Hounds President Jim McPhilliamy said, “One reason we like Charlotte is because we really won’t have to compete here with colleges for lacrosse fans.” He added, “Fans are starving for lacrosse. This is going to give fans a chance to see the game and expose their children to the sport on the highest level.” The team will begin play next year at Memorial Stadium (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 6/22).