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SBD/November 21, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
FSN late Friday pressed the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware to have the Dodgers removed from bankruptcy, again escalating the ongoing battle between the team and RSN. As threatened earlier last week, FSN argued in its motion that Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt is blatantly abusing the U.S. bankruptcy code for his own personal gain, particularly with regard to developing plans to sell the club's future cable TV rights well in advance of current contract terms with FSN. "It is time for Mr. McCourt to stand down," FSN said in its filing. "The team can and will be sold for a handsome price with Prime Ticket's telecast agreement intact. As for future telecast rights, there are two legitimate options: 1) McCourt can honor the future telecast agreement reached with Prime Ticket just before the bankruptcy, whose terms Prime Ticket believes MLB has now approved, or 2) Mr. McCourt can step aside and allow the new owner of the Dodgers to negotiate its own future telecast rights deal, unfettered by his interference. Neither option requires these bankruptcy cases to continue." McCourt is seeking to accelerate the marketing of the cable TV rights, currently held by FSN through '13 with right-of-refusal and exclusive negotiation options beyond that. But Fox argued in its 46-page filing such efforts are improper, and the RSN further argued Blackstone Advisory, the Dodgers' choice to market the rights, already "is holding itself out as having authority to market telecast rights" in advance of any court proceeding on the club's motion to do so. Fox additionally claimed the club's signing Friday of star CF Matt Kemp to an eight-year, $160M extension, the largest deal in NL history, further nullifies any need for the Dodgers to still be in bankruptcy. The Dodgers tersely responded, "Simply put, an utter act of desperation by Fox" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
DELAY OF GAME? The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman noted litigation "could delay what the Dodgers and Major League Baseball were hoping will be an expedited process of selling the team." Sources said that potential bidders "are being asked to sign non-disclosure agreements in the coming days." Bid books are "scheduled to be distributed shortly after Thanksgiving, with a first round of bidding planned for early January" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/19).
In a "deliberate attempt to link the current renaissance of the Blue Jay brand with the glory years of the franchise, the team’s new duds are reminiscent of the ones they wore to back-to-back World Series titles in" '92 and '93, according to Ken Fidlin of the TORONTO SUN. The Canadian maple leaf "plays a prominent role in the logo that also brings back a bird virtually identical to the original that adorned Toronto’s uniforms for the first 20 years of the franchise." Fidlin wrote, "Into the garbage goes the fearsome stylized 'J' with the angry bird-head, the most recent of many logo iterations that have been used since last the Jays were a successful entity, both on the field and at the box office. Into the garbage, also, go the black and silver uniform tops that have been prominent the last few years." Team President & CEO Paul Beeston said, "We’re not the Jays. We’re the Toronto Blue Jays. The blue is back throughout the logo. The red is back in it, too as signified by the maple leaf. It’s a very important part of our logo, our history and of what we represent. We represent Canada and we’re proud of it." The new logo also "features the distinctive split lettering that was a part of the Blue Jay look from 1977 through 1997." It is "incorporated in the numerals on the backs of the uniform tops" (TORONTO SUN, 11/19). MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm noted the new look was "more than 18 months in the making." It was "created by the Blue Jays with assistance from the Design Services division of Major League Baseball, in conjunction with members of Toronto's staff, manager John Farrell and several players." The secondary club logo will be the "focus of the cap and helmet." It "features the bird head with a blue crown, navy blue beak and neck accompanied by the red maple leaf." That look will be "used for all home, away and alternate uniforms." The Blue Jays also will "return to a double-knit polyester fabric for all of their uniforms." The switch from the "previous Climate Base material was made at the request of the players during the consultation process." Toronto's home white uniforms will "have 'Blue Jays,' while the traditional grey road uniforms have 'Toronto' across the front in blue and white split-lettering font" (MLB.com, 11/18).
OLD-SCHOOL LOOK: TORONTO STAR fashion reporter Derick Chetty noted, "This redesigned uniform does not break new ground. It’s not a radical new design, more a return to their heritage with the iconic blue colour and bringing back the name ‘Blue Jays.’ I love the sharp graphic blue jay logo with the red maple leaf but find the placement on the front of the jersey on the lower left a bit odd." Roots Canada co-Founder Michael Budman wrote, "The Blue Jays' re-brand has elements that will resonate with Toronto baseball fans of all generations" (TORONTO STAR, 11/19).
PRIVATE EVENT: The NATIONAL POST's John Lott noted the Blue Jays' event held at the Rogers Centre to unveil the new logo, "complete with free food and drink, live jazz music and glitzy production values, was staged for media and invited guests only." Lott asked, "On a day designed to hype fan interest and promote sales of the new clothing line, why not open the gates and let the fans in?" Beeston said that team officials "did not consider it." Beeston: "From the point of view of getting the players back here and doing this, it would have probably been a pretty good idea" (NATIONAL POST, 11/19).
MLB is "trying to accelerate a decision on whether to allow" the A's to move to San Jose, according to sources cited by Ken Rosenthal of FOXSPORTS.com. Sources said that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "met with top A's officials earlier this month and plans to meet with San Francisco Giants executives within two weeks." The meetings are the "biggest step toward a resolution of the Athletics' quest to relocate since Selig appointed a three-member committee to study the franchise's situation in March 2009." The Giants "remain adamantly opposed to relinquishing their territorial rights to San Jose and the South Bay region." A source said that the A's have "agreed to expand the capacity of Cisco Field, its proposed 32,000-seat ballpark, as one of the conditions for the move." The Giants' approval is the "final and biggest stumbling block to the Athletics' relocation," and it "will not be easy to secure." Selig has to figure out how to "balance the Giants' interests with the best interests of the game" (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/19).
There is an "apparent disconnect" between Red Sox GM Ben Cherington and the team's ownership over the search for a new manager, with ownership "preferring a more experienced candidate," according to Scott Lauber of the BOSTON HERALD. Cherington is scheduled to meet with Bobby Valentine today. He reportedly "favored" Dale Sveum for manager, but after the Cubs hired Sveum and the Red Sox casted a "wider net to find more experienced candidates, questions arose about Cherington’s autonomy." Lauber: "After weeks of heading up the managerial search, had he been undermined by ownership and team president Larry Lucchino? Had the rookie GM already been reduced to a puppet?" A source said, "I don’t think he would’ve taken the job if that would be an issue." Cherington "continues to stress that the process is 'collaborative.'" Lucchino "has disputed any notion that the new GM has been undercut, instead lauding him as 'terrific, solid and thoughtful.'" And Owner John Henry last week said, "Ben’s in charge." Still, Cherington left last week's GM meetings "without a manager and with some doubt, at least among a fan base seeking action, about how much power he wields with ownership" (BOSTON HERALD, 11/20). In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy wrote, "Can the Red Sox do anything else to boost their image as a doofus organization?" They are a "daily pinch line" after a "series of head-scratching missteps and mind-bending news conferences." Shaughnessy: "Why make your serious new GM look powerless right out of the gate?" Henry "has gone underground," as EPL club Liverpool "and his new family have taken his attention away from the Red Sox." Lucchino is "presenting as the de facto GM of the Red Sox, which is not necessarily a bad thing." He is the "guy flexing his baseball muscles" now that Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein is "no longer battling for power inside the walls of Fenway" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/20). On Long Island, Ken Davidoff wrote, "I goofed. I made the assumption that Boston ownership would let [Cherington] pick his skipper." It looks "very weird for Boston to be changing course so dramatically at this juncture" (NEWSDAY, 11/19).
LEADING THE CHARGE: In Boston, Michael Silverman writes, "The Big Three, led by Lucchino, got the Red Sox to where they are. And the Big Three, led by Lucchino, will shepherd the search-and-rescue mission required for them to get out of this mess." Lucchino said, "The team suffered a historic collapse -- it had, and has, implications -- but there’s nothing that’s wrong with the Red Sox that can’t be cured by what’s right with the Red Sox." He added, "If you’re looking at what is the governance of the club, it’s not invested in any single person. In John, [Chair Tom Werner] and me, we have people now with 40, 45 years history of running baseball teams. No one of us individually is as smart as us collectively, and we involve the GM and the senior staff in the organization. We’re optimistic about our ability to solve the problem." Silverman notes it is "Lucchino whom Henry and Werner trust the most as a problem-solver" (BOSTON HERALD, 11/21).
Small-market-related economic hardships "could force Jazz ownership to place a 'For Sale' sign on the franchise," according to a source cited by Jody Genessy of the DESERET NEWS. The source said that the Jazz were "expected to report losses in the $17 million range for the 2010-11 season." The source: "If I was a betting man, my guess is that the Millers will sell the team within the next five years, unless this CBA changes the formula so that the team can make some money." Others said that the Millers "will never sell the Jazz." To make matters "worse for Jazz ownership, the Miller Motorsports Park has been a consistent money loser since opening in 2006." The source said that the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies' TV and radio stations -- KJZZ and KFAN -- "have also taken significant losses, cutting into profits made by the Millers' movie theaters and Fanzz stores." The Millers' "biggest moneymaker and original raison d'etre -- the car dealerships -- continue to bring in big bucks." However, the source said that the "40-plus new and used auto lots saw their profits fall more than 50 percent in a recent three-year period." For years, the Millers "have considered the Jazz's financial losses 'a cost of doing business.'" Because of his team's "predicament, Miller has been labeled as a hawk in the ongoing negotiation process" for a new CBA. Though Miller "isn't directly involved with the NBA's labor relations committee, his hawk designation suggests the Jazz boss is among the hard-line owners pushing to drive a tough bargain with the players." But the Jazz were "not one of 10 teams who co-signed a letter to the NBA voicing opposition to the 50-50 revenue split Stern most recently offered before players disbanded their union and filed antitrust lawsuits" (DESERET NEWS, 11/21).
In Dallas, Mike Heika noted when Tom Gaglardi was "named the new owner of the Stars, his first move was to make" Jim Lites President & CEO. Lites, who previously served in the same position from 14 years, talked about his plans for spending and developing the team's fan base. He said, "I don’t think we’ll start spending wildly, but this gives us a chance to get in on some talks and consider some changes. ... We don’t want to say, ‘Here’s money; let’s go spend it.’ I think that hurts you in the long run. But, if a situation comes up that fits and costs money, I definitely think we are open to that." Lites continued, "This team is in a very good situation right now with the right kind of contracts and a good young base, and what we have to do is spend responsibly. ... The other thing is we have to make ourselves attractive in a very competitive marketplace with very good sports teams, so we will re-price the building and we will make good tickets available, and we’ll do that for two years, and that’s the first step" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 11/20).
COURSE OF COMPLIANCE: EPL club Manchester City insisted that "they are on a course to comply with UEFA's forthcoming Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations, despite announcing record losses of" $305.9M (all figures U.S.). The club "confirmed the open secret that, in the most recent accounting period, they made the biggest loss in English football history, eclipsing the previous high" of $220.6M recorded by Chelsea in '05. In London, Matt Hughes noted Manchester City's losses are "unsurprising given how they have thrown money at recruiting some of the world's best players since Sheikh Mansour bought the club in 2008." Mansour has spent $1.3B on the club in that time (LONDON TIMES, 11/19).
NOT FOR SALE: In the U.K., Mat Kendrick noted Aston Villa Owner Randy Lerner confirmed that he "has absolutely no intention of selling the club." Lerner indicated that his "absence from all but one of Villa’s matches so far this season was due to his son changing schools." He said that work is "continuing behind the scenes about the possible pros and cons of re-developing the North Stand and increasing the capacity of Villa Park to 50,000" (BIRMINGHAM MAIL, 11/19). Lerner: "I am someone who runs the risk of being an under-communicator. But I would rather be hard-working and focus on my job and under communicate than the opposite direction" (LONDON TIMES, 11/19).
NOT INTERESTED: In Atlanta, David O'Brien noted if Liberty Media "decides to sell the Braves," Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban said that he "wouldn’t make an offer." Cuban said, "I like franchises that need a lot of help. The Braves have a great franchise." Liberty has "not announced any intentions to sell the franchise, but there's been much speculation the group will sell at some point in the not-too-distant future because the Braves are not considered an important asset by Liberty" (AJC.com, 11/19).