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Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban was "eliminated from the Dodgers' ownership sweepstakes Friday, along with" White Sox Special Assistant to the Chair Dennis Gilbert, according to sources cited by Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. At least "eight bidders advanced to the second round Friday, including a group led by" Basketball HOFer Magic Johnson and former Nationals and Braves President Stan Kasten, and another group headed by L.A. developer Rick Caruso and former MLB Exec VP/Baseball Operations Joe Torre. SAC Capital Advisors Founder Steven Cohen, former Dodgers Owner Peter O'Malley and Rams Owner Stan Kroenke "also are believed to have advanced, as well as a joint bid between" Shamrock Holdings President & CEO Stanley Gold and the Disney family. Shaikin noted it is "uncertain how many parties did not make the cut." The remaining players "will be investigated by Major League Baseball, with each bidder paying $25,000 to cover the cost of an MLB investigation" (L.A. TIMES, 1/28). Shaikin also notes Colony Capital Founder, Chair & CEO Tom Barrack has partnered with F1 Grand Prix of America Exec Chair and former YES Network Chair & CEO Leo Hindery "on a bid for the Dodgers." Hindery and Clarion Capital Managing Partner Marc Utay "lead one of at least eight groups that survived Friday's first cut among the bidders." That group "had been one of the two prospective buyers known to remain in the bidding without a significant tie to Los Angeles" (L.A. TIMES, 1/30). Shaikin noted Beverly Hills developer Alan Casden is thought to be among the "remaining bidders," while a group led by former MLBers Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser "is out of the running." Meanwhile, Shaikin noted Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle "did not bid on the Dodgers, but he might still play a part in the future of the team." A source said that with the opening round of bidding concluded, Burkle "might consider backing groups led by Rick Caruso or Stanley Gold" (L.A. TIMES, 1/29).
THE DEVIL YOU KNOW... In L.A., T.J. Simers noted the Dodgers' new owner "will not be selected because he considers the team a local treasure." It will not "matter if he's a good guy, makes himself available to the fans like [Angels Owner] Arte Moreno or treats the Dodgers like just another investment in his portfolio." Simers: "With the second round of bidding underway, I was wondering if anyone besides [outgoing Owner Frank] McCourt is really assured of being better off with such a change. ... Change is difficult. This one will certainly involve higher ticket prices as [McCourt] has lowered them for this season and the new guy will be paying more than $1 billion to please McCourt." The payroll and stadium "are going to need an upgrade," and just because the new owner "isn't McCourt doesn't mean he's not going to eventually hit Dodgers fans with the bill." Simers: "Do you think the new owner is going to maintain the status quo? Let me help you: No! No one is going to be safe" (L.A. TIMES, 1/29).
The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission Friday said that the Rams "cannot play 'home' games more than 4,000 miles away in London under the terms" of their lease, according to Matthew Hathaway of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. The CVC "contends that the Rams' plan to play one home game at London's Wembley Stadium each year for the next three seasons would violate the team's 30-year lease of the Dome." That lease is "under increased scrutiny, as the CVC tries to figure how to close an escape clause that could let the Rams skip town after the 2014 season." Wednesday is the deadline for the CVC to "present the Rams with a detailed plan for improving the Dome -- to satisfy the lease's requirement that it be a 'first tier' stadium, or one that's in the top 25 percent of all" NFL venues. Rams Owner Stan Kroenke called the chance to play games in London "a tremendous honor for our franchise." The CVC manages the Dome, and it is "responsible for negotiating 'first tier' improvements that would keep the lease in force through 2025." The CVC's BOD met Wednesday, and a board member said that the lease "was scheduled to be discussed." The issue did "not come up during the public part of the meeting." The board met in a closed session for "about 20 minutes, but the CVC would not say what was discussed." The board is "not scheduled to meet again before the Wednesday deadline for giving its Dome improvement plan to the Rams" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/28). Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio said, "This is going to be the subject probably of negotiation, possibly litigation, but at a time when there are bigger issues between St. Louis and the Rams … this isn't the kind of thing that sets the right tone for any efforts to find a way to keep the Rams in St. Louis for the long haul” (“NBC Sports Talk,” NBC Sports Network, 1/27).
Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs Saturday said that he "supported" G Tim Thomas' right to "feel and say what he believes," according to Steve Conroy of the BOSTON HERALD. Jacobs' statement was his first public comment following Thomas' decision to skip the team's White House visit last Monday in honor of its '10-11 Stanley Cup win. Jacobs said of Thomas, "He’s done his job very well for us, and I’m totally behind him. I don’t necessarily agree with his political views, but that’s not what he does for me. And I’ve got to say this: While I don’t agree with it, I certainly feel he has the right to express himself as every American does, and he does a good job" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/29). In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote the Bruins "handled Thomas’ absence perfectly." It would have been a "practical impossibility to 'force' the recalcitrant goaltender to attend the ceremony and no doubt would have provoked a confrontation with the NHLPA had the club suspended Thomas for failing to join the team function." Brooks: "Thomas made his point. The Bruins made theirs by responding to a difficult situation with dignity befitting a champion" (N.Y. POST, 1/29). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont cited two Bruins execs as saying that they "would have mandated that Thomas appear at the White House with the Bruins, defining it as a team meeting." One exec said that he "would not be surprised to see the Bruins cut him free this summer in the two-week buyout period leading to July 1 free agency." Dupont also noted the Bruins face the Senators tomorrow night in Boston and if "some in the Garden crowd remain stewed" over the White House incident, it "might be in coach Claude Julien's interest to go with Tuukka Rask Tuesday and again Thursday with the Hurricanes in town." That would leave Thomas "well-rested, and perhaps a dozen or so news cycles removed from his hell-no-I-won't-go stand, to face the Penguins" in Boston on Saturday (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/29).
REACTION CONTINUES: Thomas said Friday of the response to his decision, "It's all media driving right now, and has been from the start." He added, "Everything that I said and did was as an individual, not as a representative of the Boston Bruins." In Toronto, Dave Feschuk noted the "problem, just one of many in Thomas's line of illogic, is that this ongoing matter has everything to do with the Boston Bruins" (TORONTO STAR, 1/28). In Toronto, Steve Simmons noted Thomas "wasn’t personally invited to The White House. The Stanley Cup champion Bruins were." Simmons: "This is not, as some people have made it, comparable to the politics of Muhammad Ali. This was a stance of little relevance and Thomas’ statement to explain his position had no mention of his team or his teammates, brushing them aside" (TORONTO SUN, 1/29). In Detroit, Drew Sharp writes because White House team championship ceremonies "generally are apolitical, Thomas' actions disrespected the office, not the man" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/30). In Denver, Adrian Dater wrote, "The more I've thought about it, the more I think 'who cares?' about Tim Thomas' one-man boycott of the White House last week." Dater: "At first, I thought it was a slap in the face of his teammates. As time went by, I thought his teammates couldn't care less about it" (DENVER POST, 1/29).
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman after the BOG meeting Saturday "sounded optimistic" that the Coyotes' "twisted ownership tale might finally be nearing a conclusion with an unnamed group of investors currently looking at buying the team," according to Scott Burnside of ESPN.com. Bettman said, "We hope, based on the things that are ongoing, to have the sale in place before the end of this season that would keep the team in Glendale." The league "has been tight-lipped on the identity of this group." But NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said, "They're legitimate; they've been working at it for a while. They've been spending money. They've been doing due diligence. So those are all positive signs. It doesn't mean they're going to buy the franchise, so we'll see how it plays out." Burnside noted the Coyotes "will head into a third straight trade deadline period without the ownership situation being resolved." The "failure to find a new owner for the beleaguered franchise makes it impossible for GM Don Maloney to improve his playoff-hopeful team because the league has imposed a strict budget that cannot be modified." The fact that the Coyotes "remain under the stewardship of the NHL means the team is in effect competing against its own owners for a highly valued playoff berth" (ESPN.com, 1/28). Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs last week "accused the league of standing in the way of a potential sale by asking too much money for the franchise." The $170M figure "was quoted to Bettman on Saturday and he didn't correct the questioner." But Bettman said, "The mayor isn't very well-informed on the status of the transaction. With all the groups we've talked to, price has never been an issue" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 1/29).
STANDING BY: QMI AGENCY's Chris Stevenson wrote while the NHL "hasn’t given up" on keeping the Coyotes in Glendale, that "doesn’t mean the folks in Quebec City should put away their Nordiques jerseys or any of the other markets that are interested in landing an NHL team should give up hope." Kicking tires in Arizona is "one thing," buying the car "is another and that is why hopes remain high in Quebec City they can get an NHL franchise back just like Winnipeg did with great success last May." What "could be an option -- if it came to it -- would be the Coyotes playing in Le Colisee in Quebec, the former home of the Nordiques before they left for Colorado in 1995, until the new building is ready." But what "seems clear is construction would have to be started on a new building before the NHL would even consider moving to Quebec City." A league source said that playing in Le Colisee until the new building is completed "wouldn’t be the ideal situation, but could be workable" (QMI AGENCY, 1/29).
BLUES UPDATE: Bettman said that he is "optimistic that a group led by Blues minority owner Tom Stillman can soon finalize a deal to buy the club." Bettman: "We've been in regular touch with Tom and his people. I spoke to Tom last (week) and he believes that things are on track, and based on the pulse that we're taking of the transaction and the things that need to be done, we're optimistic that (the sale will be completed) hopefully in the not-too-distant future." Blues President of Hockey Operations John Davidson attended Saturday's BOG meeting and said that the update on the team "was brief." Davidson: "It was very short. They mentioned that everything with St. Louis seems to be lining up properly and all looks fine." In St. Louis, Jeremy Rutherford noted Stillman's group "will continue working to secure financing and have its economic structure meet the approval of the NHL." Stillman's investors "also need the league's blessing" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/29).
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and Commissioner Gary Bettman "insisted the NHL is not 'subsidizing' the Devils with outright grants and loans," according to Mark Everson of the N.Y. POST. But they did "confess the league has accelerated disbursing upcoming fees such as TV revenue." Daly said, "It’s not atypical. It’s not something we haven’t done before on perhaps many occasions. Obviously there’s something that has to resolve itself there on the ownership front, but I wouldn’t be concerned about the finances of the club." Devils co-Owner Ray Chambers is "trying to get out of his 47-percent stake in the team with the team facing an $80 million debt obligation that already has been extended." Devils Chair & Managing Partner Jeff Vanderbeek "wants to remain in charge of the team, and the Devils have explored avenues such as taking early payment of their local TV deal to pay off their debt." Daly said that "characterizing a financial agreement between Vanderbeek and Chambers as a buyout is 'not accurate.'" Bettman said of Chambers, "He’s still an owner." Bettman added that N.Y. billionaire and hockey fan Nelson Peltz is "not on the table as a Devils savior." (N.Y. POST, 1/29). Bettman said Saturday, "The best that I can say ... is it's no secret that the two current principal owners haven't seen eye-to-eye for a period of time and that has had some difficult consequences in terms of the operation of the club, and we're helping to sort all of that out. I think it's fair to say the club is stable, but ownership isn't getting along and I think all of you know when ownership isn't exactly in a good place not always good things happen" (Bergen RECORD, 1/28). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts notes Bettman’s stance "makes the Devils the most interesting team to watch over the rest of the season." Thanks to league rules, the bankers who "hold the Devils’ loan cannot foreclose until after the Stanley Cup playoffs are over but so far Vanderbeek has not been able to find any saviours." A source said that one group that "examined the Devils’ finances told him they could see no way the team could break even let alone turn a profit" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/30).
Dolphins CEO Mike Dee Friday said that the team will "not increase any ticket prices and might lower some" for the '12 season, according to Barry Jackson of the MIAMI HERALD. The Dolphins sold "just under 44,000 season tickets in 2011 -- their lowest since 1984 and down from 61,000 in 2006." Dee said, "A lot of those folks who have moved here in recent years, unlike prior generations, don't have really an affinity for American football. They're soccer first in their thinking. We've got to convert a lot of people." He added, "We've got to have a playbook for every market that we do business with -- every ethnic group in this marketplace we do business with. We've got to attack this market differently. This is not 1972." Dee referred to the on-the-field upgrades the Heat and Marlins have made and said the "other competition has never been more fierce." Dee: "There's a finite amount of entertainment dollars in the marketplace and we're still in challenging economic times." Jackson noted the Dolphins in recent years have "marketed the team in several ways unrelated to football." But Dee said, "You're going to see us take steps around the Dolphins experience that will be more football oriented" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/28). In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis noted fans have "ridiculed" the team's emphasis on "extraneous stadium entertainment such as the celebrity orange carpet and Club LIV while the main attraction on the field has been second rate." Dee said, "We've got to continue to push the envelope of marketing to get new fans while not upsetting the traditional fan. ... They may not like the orange carpet and some of the entertainment they see. For them it's all about football. But we know there is a core base of new fans that come for all the other things in addition to football. How we walk that fine line is what we do on a daily basis" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 1/27).
PETERSON NOT JOINING FRONT OFFICE: In West Palm Beach, Brian Biggane reported Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland "put an end to the ongoing speculation that former Kansas City GM and President Carl Peterson will be joining the Dolphins' front office anytime soon." Ireland said that while Peterson "sat in on most of the interviews during the recent coaching search and is often consulted" by Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross, his role "has been and will continue to be strictly an advisory one" (PALM BEACH POST, 1/28). Ireland also said that the "'one voice' policy will remain in place during the season" when coach Joe Philbin's words will "speak for the organization." But in Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde noted Ross "wants to make the Dolphins more accessible to the media -- and thereby to the team's fans -- when it doesn't interfere with football work or winning" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 1/27).
ROSS COMMITTED TO WINNING: Ireland Friday appeared on WQAM-AM's "The Joe Rose Show," and Rose said, "There's a perception out there about the owner, Stephen Ross. I tell people I think he really, really wants to win, and he really wants to get this thing turned around, but sometimes the way he goes about things leaves people scratching their heads." Ireland said, "The reality of the situation ... is the guy wants to win in a really bad way. He's committed to winning." Ireland added, "He wants a winner in a bad way. But, he is a young owner, he's still learning the business trade, and we're going to go about trying to teach him everything he needs to know about the game of football" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 1/27).
Emery will have full authority
to retain his scouting staff
QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED: In Chicago, Mike Mulligan notes the first order of business for Emery “is to define his role.” Mulligan asks, “Is he really a general manager? Will he control the salary cap?” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/30). In Illinois, Mike Imrem wrote considering the Bears “have squandered all their benefit of the doubt, the assumption is that this is the wrong guy.” The most “encouraging indicator now would be if Emery were capable of being what the Bears need: Someone worthy of assuming the nickname ‘Intimidator’” (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 1/29).