SBD/November 30, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
Flex-N-Gate President Shahid Khan's deal to buy the Jaguars from Wayne Weaver is for $760M, with Khan using $350M of debt “to finance the deal,” according to sources cited by Mike Ozanian of FORBES.com. Forbes in August estimated the franchise to be worth $725M, "last among the National Football League’s 32 teams.” The Jaguars sale price “clearly reflects the boost in television revenue given that the most recent sale prior to the Jaguars were the St. Louis Rams," which Stan Kroenke bought last year for $750M (FORBES.com, 11/29). Khan has bid on the Rams, but ESPN’s Chris Mortensen noted because of “some complications, and they involve taxes,” the NFL Finance Committee “got cold feet” and declined the offer. However, NFL Exec VP/Business Operations Eric Grubman has been “working hard behind the scenes on this, and they must have a comfort level now with Khan's financial situation” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 11/29). Weaver said that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “supported the sale, an indication that concerns about Khan’s financial and tax situation, raised during his pursuit of the Rams, had been resolved and that the sale would probably be approved by owners” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/30).
DEDICATED TO JACKSONVILLE: Weaver spent a fair amount of time in his press conference yesterday announcing the sale of the team reiterating that the franchise will remain in Jacksonville. The Jaguars have often been rumored as a candidate to relocate to L.A., but Weaver said, “I've had calls from California I just refused to take. It was wasting their time and my time, and they knew it and the people that I ran into at meetings and other parts that would ask about California, I'd just say, ‘You know, we have no interest. We're a Jacksonville franchise and we plan to stay a Jacksonville franchise.’” There is no clause in the deal with Khan that implicitly states the team will remain in Jacksonville, and Weaver said, “It's hard to write something that forces somebody to say you're going to keep something here. The only reason that I would have ever moved the team is if I couldn't make it sustain itself here. We have been able to do that and there's no reason that Shahid won't be able to do that.” Weaver said Khan is “going to spend time here in Jacksonville, and he's going to run this franchise much like he does his other companies. He's keeping the Jaguar management group intact.” Khan “will be hands-on and not day-to-day here, the way I am, but he'll be here running the business with our current management group.” Khan will make his public debut as the Jaguars prospective owner next Monday before the team’s “MNF” game against the Chiefs (JAGUARS.com, 11/29). WSCR-AM David Schuster: “Why wouldn’t you move it to Los Angeles? That’s just a gold mine, at some point, waiting to happen. Jacksonville or Los Angeles? Nice knowing you, I’m out of here” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 11/29). SI's Peter King said of Khan, "I do think that he's got to say, ‘Hey, I'm not moving the team from Jacksonville.’ But he'd be foolish to not think that if this team isn't supported more consistently through good times and bad, he's got to consider his options." King also said, "I don't think Los Angeles is the only threat to the good people of Jacksonville. I also think London is a threat because eventually, I think in our lifetime there's going to be a franchise on the mainland of Europe, at least one and probably more” ("PTI," ESPN, 11/29).
HERE TO STAY FOR A WHILE: YAHOO SPORTS’ Jason Cole noted while the idea of the Jaguars moving to L.A. "isn’t as simple as it might seem," as the team has a league at EverBank Field that "runs through the 2027 season.” Former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney, who helped write the deal between the team and the city-owned facility, said, “The team would have to show that because of lack of attendance it’s losing money for three straight years and that’s probably a difficult thing for an NFL team to do.” Under the growing television revenue the NFL receives, teams “have never been more profitable.” The average value of an NFL team “has climbed to approximately $1 billion.” Delaney said, “Even if the team declared that it was losing money, the issue would be litigated and all the books from the team would be subpoenaed.” He added, “Could you find a way out of the lease? Yes, but it’s going to take some very serious work and there’s going to be a lot of uncertainty along the way” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/29). NFL Network's Jason La Canfora noted the Jaguars' lease is “fairly restrictive” and it would “be expensive -- upwards of $50 million -- to get out of it." La Canfora; "But there are some clauses in there where if he could prove three years of financial hardship and meet certain parameters it becomes a little bit easier to move” ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 11/29).
A FOND FAREWELL: In Jacksonville, Mark Woods writes the Weaver family “didn’t grow up” in the city, but Jacksonville is “lucky they ended up here.” Weaver “never threatened to move,” and he was “constantly dousing such rumors, digging deeper roots in Jacksonville” (JACKSONVILLE.com, 11/30). Also in Jacksonville, Gene Frenette writes, “No matter what anyone thought of Weaver as a football owner ... he and his wife, Delores, have been absolute pillars in the community.” The Weavers “immersed themselves in contributing to a better Jacksonville, donating approximately $60 million through the team’s foundation or personal assets to assorted charitable causes.” Frenette: “Everyone knew Weaver’s heart for Jacksonville was in the right place. Without Weaver, this city is likely still without an NFL team and struggling to carve a niche for itself nationally” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 11/30). The Community Foundation in Jacksonville President Nina Waters said that the Weavers “have changed the way philanthropy is done in Jacksonville.” The Weavers “will continue their philanthropic work through the Weaver Family Foundation.” Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation Exec Dir Peter Racine said that the nonprofit “will also continue operating, though without the Weavers’ involvement” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 11/30). In Jacksonville, David Bauerlein notes for Jacksonville civic leaders “who bonded with Wayne and Delores Weaver over the past 18 years, the arrival of a new Jaguars owner hits the reset button sooner than they anticipated.” They said yesterday that they “hope Khan will be as engaged as the Weavers have been in Jacksonville’s business and charitable organizations” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 11/30).
Hornets President Hugh Weber yesterday said that calls to the club’s offices on Monday “would indicate another surge in season-ticket sales -- the Hornets entered the day just 377 short of their goal of 10,000 -- in the next week or so,” according to Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Weber said, “And we had a lot of people who didn’t renew their tickets yet or didn’t buy yet and told us, ‘When you guys get a deal done, call me back.’ So we’re busily getting those people committed and on board. We’re very hopeful these last 377 tickets or so is something pretty achievable in the next week.” After that goal is accomplished, the next steps in the Hornets’ “offseason revitalization will be the announcements of a new lease agreement with the state and a new owner.” Sources said that “the framework of a lease extension -- with, the Hornets have said, no out clauses -- must be completed so that a new owner or ownership group will buy the team with the full understanding the team is bound to the city for the duration of the lease.” Sources also said that a simultaneous announcement of a lease agreement and a new owner “could come by mid-January.” The last time the Hornets sold more than 10,000 season tickets “was the 2008-09 season, following the Southwest Division championship” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 11/30).
Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts said that MLB's new CBA will "not lead to any change in strategy on the Cubs' part, and that nothing is new on the Wrigley Field renovation front," according to Paul Sullivan of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Ricketts had "no update on the Cubs’ plans for financing the estimated $300 million in ballpark renovations, saying he continues to talk with elected officials." As for changes at Wrigley, he said there will be "nothing dramatic from a structural standpoint" in '12. Ricketts: "From a fan amenities standpoint, there are some things we’re kicking around, but we haven’t finalized what those will be." After "years of spotty coverage for cell phone users," Ricketts said that "improved wireless access at Wrigley is 'in the cards'" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/30). Ricketts also said that he "was 'personally surprised' at the the new draft rules in the" CBA that include harsh penalties for exceeding tax thresholds. Ricketts: "It's a big shift, a bigger shift than I expected." He also indicated that he is "not sure how big the front office will grow, but he has encouraged [President of Baseball Operations Theo] Epstein to increase it as he sees fit." Addressing the perception that his honeymoon period as owner is over, Ricketts said, "In the end, if we win, people will think we were good owners. If we lose, we're bad owners" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/30).
CAREFUL WITH YOUR MONEY: In Illinois, Mike Imrem notes new owners "tend to provide baseball operations with financial leeway for a while before realizing whose money is being spent." As much confidence as Ricketts "has in Epstein, he might want to stay vigilant on the spending side of the Cubs." Imrem: "We don't know yet whether Epstein will be as liberal with the Ricketts family fortune. ... Maybe the onus is on Tom Ricketts to find a way to print money at Wrigley Field for Theo Epstein to play with" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 11/30).
In Ft. Lauderdale, Mike Berardino noted with the NBA lockout appearing to come to an end, the NHL Panthers "won't have an unobstructed path to the South Florida sports fan's wallet for much longer." But the Panthers "took advantage of these past two months to grab as much attention as they could from a skeptical fan base." Panthers RW Jack Skille said, "For the time being, people have seen a lot of energy at our games and I think they're excited about it. You can see the crowds getting bigger." Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said, "I want as many people talking about the Florida Panthers as possible in the area. I want us to be on the radar. We want people to know we're an exciting night out" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/29).
LITES WILL GUIDE THE WAY: In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel notes the sale of the Stars is "just a first step for this once distinguished franchise's long march back to relevance in this town." There are "so many mistakes this team made, some self-inflicted and others not, that to think a new owner can solve all of them immediately is foolish." Even though Jim Lites will "freely admit he made a few mistakes in his tenure as the team president previously, the decision to bring him back is the absolute right one." Engel writes, "Say whatever you want about this man, but he deeply cares about this sport and this franchise in this market." Lites said that he plans to ask former NHLer Mike Modano to "become a visible face of this franchise again, but not until next summer" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 11/30).
REFRESHING APPROACH: In Phoenix, Dan Bickley notes the "collateral damage from a nasty work stoppage has negatively impacted" Suns Owner Robert Sarver's image, which "wasn't exactly glowing." Sarver "must find the right blend of charm and restraint, reaffirming Phoenix as a destination city for future free agents." Sarver has "charged every department in the organization to come up with something new for the upcoming season, something that will add to the fan experience, something that marks the dawn of a new era." It is called "Project Refresh," and after "all these years of heartbreak, it's time for a new beginning." Bickley: "That goes for the owner. That goes for everyone" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 11/30).
GM FOR NOW: On Long Island, Alan Hahn noted Knicks Owner James Dolan "appointed [Glen] Grunwald, whose official title remains senior vice president of basketball operations, to the role of interim general manager in June when Donnie Walsh decided not to return as team president." Sources said it is likely that Grunwald "will hold the position for the entire 2011-12 season." Sources also said that the Knicks have "yet to formally interview any candidates to replace Walsh." The "sense is that Grunwald ... can handle the job for now" (NEWSDAY, 11/29).