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SBD/February 28, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
The Dodgers received "multiple bids worth $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion apiece during the second round of bidding for the baseball team," according to sources cited by Matthew Futterman of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The franchise is "poised to fetch a record price for a U.S. sports team" as MLB execs begin a "new round of vetting for potential owners this week." Sources said that bidders "advancing to the third round included" SAC Capital Advisors Founder Steven Cohen; a group that includes F1 Grand Prix of America Exec Chair Leo Hindery, Clarion Capital Managing Partner Marc Utay and Colony Capital Founder, Chair & CEO Tom Barrack; and another group led by Basketball HOFer Magic Johnson and former Nationals and Braves President Stan Kasten. Other bidders who remain are Rams Owner Stan Kroenke and N.Y. Observer Owner & Publisher Jared Kushner (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/28). A source said that Beverly Hills-based developer Alan Casden and a group headed by Shamrock Holdings President & CEO Stanley Gold and the Disney family are "still in the mix." Although the process "remains officially open to additional bidders, it is so far along and so many hurdles must still be cleared that it's likely this is the final group" (ESPNLA.com, 2/27). In L.A., Bill Shaikin reports of the "nine parties still in contention last week, the two eliminated" yesterday were Grizzlies Owner Michael Heisley and Brewers minority investor and L.A.-based Ares Capital co-Founder & Managing Partner Tony Ressler. The remaining bidders will proceed to a "multilayered review" by MLB, including consideration "by two committees of owners." Each bidder then will be "subject to a vote of all owners, with three-fourths approval required." If a bidder is "not cleared to proceed to the ownership vote," outgoing Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt "can ask a court-appointed mediator to intervene" (L.A. TIMES, 2/28). A source said that Heisley "remains in the bidding process ... despite a published report to the contrary." Heisley "had not been told that his bid had been rejected." A source said that Heisley's group has a meeting scheduled for tomorrow "with a committee that will include" MLB officials (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 2/28).
PARKING WOES: In L.A., T.J. Simers notes former Dodgers Vice Chair Steve Soboroff has some "advice for McCourt: Sell the parking lots, fearing now that if McCourt does not, a new owner will make the same mistake Soboroff did in believing he can overcome it." Soboroff said, "People think it's just going to be better around here because Frank is gone, but it can be 50 times worse." Soboroff added, "I'd tell him to sell the parking lots to the new owner. What's the best-case scenario under the lease agreement for the parking lots? No problems. The worst case is horrendous. You have a landlord-tenant relationship; you have a rental relationship; developmental relationship" (L.A. TIMES, 2/28). Also in L.A., Steve Dilbeck wrote one thing "you have to give McCourt, he always said it was the team and stadium that were for sale, and not the surrounding parking lots." Still, the assumption "was always that that was largely a negotiating ploy to squeeze hundreds of millions more out of the sale." Dilbeck: "I still would love it if all the bidders pulled out if McCourt insisted on retaining the parking lots, but it’s not like I hold out actual hope. As wildly pricey as the property is, it is the team that holds the greatest value" (LATIMES.com, 2/24). However, in California, Howard Cole wrote McCourt "is not now, nor was he ever going to keep the parking lots." Cole: "Yes, I get that McCourt would love to keep the land, and revel even more so in the satisfaction that he’s screwed Major League Baseball one last time. But the bottom line will win out. Greed is good, remember, and it trumps making a statement of some kind, especially when no one’s listening" (OCREGISTER.com, 2/27).
Mets Owner Fred Wilpon yesterday said that he has "no plans to sell the team despite its recent financial troubles and the fact his family is embroiled in a clawback lawsuit by the trustee for victims of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme," according to Mike Puma of the N.Y. POST. Wilpon in his first appearance at the Mets' Spring Training complex said, "We intend to own the franchise for a very long time. Whether they’re happy about that right now, I don’t know.” He indicated that the Mets have "seven commitments in place in their effort to sell 10 shares of the club and raise $200 million in capital." The Mets would use much of that money "to repay loans," but Wilpon said that he "intends to reinvest leftover money in the team." Wilpon confirmed that four of the shares in the team "have been sold to SNY -- the sports network in which Wilpon and his partners own 65 percent." He also said that his family "bought two of the shares." He "did not identify other investors, although billionaire hedge-fund investor Steve Cohen reportedly will get a piece of the team." Although the Mets lost $70M in '11, Wilpon said that the decision to "slice the payroll from $140 million to about $90 million was as much a baseball decision as a financial one" (N.Y. POST, 2/28). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Brian Costa noted each minority share "will represent a 4% interest" in the Mets. Wilpon said, "It will be better for the organization because we’ll pay off a lot of debt. We’ll reduce the first mortgage on the team debt. And we will have additional ready cash to run the team" (WSJ.com, 2/27).
CITI LOVE: In N.Y., Tyler Kepner notes Wilpon yesterday "spent more than 20 minutes with reporters, a rarity in recent years." He acknowledged that the "possibility of a trial had stretched the team’s finances, but insisted that General Manager Sandy Alderson was the real architect of the new vision of a leaner, more efficient operation." Alderson probably could have "used another $10 million or so to construct the 2012 team, but anything more might have been excessive" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/28). Wilpon said, "A higher payroll does not necessarily constitute a better team. We've had higher payrolls" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/28). When asked if the team's finances "will affect whether he authorizes Alderson to add payroll if the Mets are in contention," Wilpon said, “I would tell you let’s see how this team plays, and let's see what we need" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/28). Wilpon: "We’ve got to win the fans back. No, strike that, we’ve got to win the fans and the customers back. They love coming to Citi Field. People love going to Citi Field. But we have a diminished population coming to Citi Field. We need that revenue. We just can’t do it on the air. We need that revenue to support (the team). And the only way we’re going to get that revenue is if we have a competitive, interesting team on the field” (Bergen RECORD, 2/28).
GOOD HUMOR MAN? In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes Mets fans "can appreciate a good sense of humor, even with times as dire as they are." But they "don’t appreciate being made fools of." Wilpon yesterday pulled out a roll of $5 bills and said to reporters, "I’m OK. I’ve got fives!” Vaccaro: "If nothing else, the Mets should have the common sense and the common decency to realize their fans are not idiots, that if there are real financial concerns hanging like a millstone around the Wilpons’ necks ... then it is particularly stupid to taunt their customers so blithely, and so blindly" (N.Y. POST, 2/28). On Long Island, Ken Davidoff writes when Wilpon "appeared at the Mets' training complex Monday, you thought about possible endings." Davidoff: "How long can Mets fans and Major League Baseball tolerate the desecration of a jewel franchise?" (NEWSDAY, 2/28).
LOOK! UP IN THE SKY! In N.Y., Andrew Keh noted to "motivate the team," Mets COO Jeff Wilpon ordered "orange T-shirts for the entire roster that featured the U-shaped logo from the cartoon series 'Underdog,' which aired in the 1960s" (NYTIMES.com, 2/27). Also in N.Y., Peter Botte notes while most Mets, including manager Terry Collins, "appeared to enjoy the stunt," Mets 3B David Wright "wasn’t thrilled." Wright said, "I don’t really like using the whole underdog thing. I don’t really like playing that card" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/28).
Businesses are "already tapping the Timbers juggernaut," as sponsorship revenue is up by 10% over last year, which "had set an MLS record for a first-year franchise," according to Andy Giegerich of the PORTLAND BUSINESS JOURNAL. The Timbers also expanded Jeld-Wen Field's capacity from 18,627 seats to more than 20,000. Each home game is "expected to sell out" and season tickets are "already gone." Team Owner Merritt Paulson said that the Timbers "hope to improve the quality of the in-stadium video wall and its accompanying audio." Fans in "some designated sections will be allowed to stand throughout the contests." Paulson "wouldn't rule out working with others to bring more sports to the city, although that offer doesn't include bringing back minor league baseball." Paulson: "I wouldn't rule out other sports opportunities, but I won't throw anything out there because I'm focused on the Timbers." Paulson noted that while his father Henry, the former U.S. Treasury Secretary, is a partner in the group that owns the Timbers, Paulson "must repay his father the tens of millions that the senior Paulson has invested." He said, "All of this is essentially a loan from him. It's not like it's a trust fund. It's definitely an interesting dynamic" (PORTLAND BUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/24 issue).
D'Backs President & CEO Derrick Hall said yesterday that the team has "sold around 1,300 new season-ticket packages and the renewal rate from last year was near 90 percent." Single-game tickets "went on sale" yesterday. Hall said, "There's definitely been some momentum. Very favorable, especially in this economy." He added, "Our affordability has always played a key role in being an attractive entertainment option for our fans. When they're looking for an affordable option of entertainment with an air-conditioned environment, it's often Chase Field" (MLB.com, 2/27). Meanwhile, in Phoenix, Bob McManaman notes D'Backs ownership "agreed to stretch the overall payroll this year to nearly $80 million, which is about a $15 million jump" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/28).
ADDRESSING THE MAN: In L.A., Mike DiGiovanna notes the Angels "appear to have addressed any concerns new slugger Albert Pujols had over the team's use of the term 'El Hombre,' the Man, in a two-month billboard campaign leading up to the season." The nickname is appearing on 20 of 70 billboards the Angels have leased through late March, but the term "is not expected to be used in any further marketing or advertising campaigns or merchandise." When asked if the misunderstanding caused the Angels any embarrassment, Angels President John Carpino said, "I don't believe so. If it caused any embarrassment for Albert out of respect for Stan Musial, that's the only concern of ours" (L.A. TIMES, 2/28).
NEW SHOW IN TOWN: USA TODAY's Paul White in a sports section cover story notes the Marlins "want their retractable-roof stadium to become the next destination" in a town where Heat games "have become the place to be seen." The Marlins are the subject of Showtime's "The Franchise," a "free-wheeling, unfiltered season-long look at whether this is going to work." New manager Ozzie Guillen "figures to be the show's centerpiece." Marlins President David Samson said that he "jumped at the TV opportunity as ardently as the Marlins went after" SS Jose Reyes and other newcomers (USA TODAY, 2/28).
DRINK RESPONSIBLY: With the Red Sox banning beer from their clubhouse this year, ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said the move “may be a smart” move, but it is “about PR” (“PTI,” ESPN, 2/27). SB Nation's Bomani Jones said, “It absolutely has to do with public relations because of how things looked last year, but let’s be honest. What’s so crazy about your employer saying you’ve got to buy your own brew?” ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan said it is a “PR move, but it’s one that had to be made because there still is a hangover from the whole chicken and beer thing that’s been dragging this team through the mud the whole off-season” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/27). Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of the Red Sox' ban, "It makes sense to me. You have to be careful in this day and age. You don't want people drinking and driving. It's not that you mind a guy having a beer, but when you're at home they're going to get in a car and drive home most likely. I think it's a pretty good policy" (NEWSDAY.com, 2/27).
In New Orleans, John DeShazier writes if the Hornets "are sold within the next 10 days -- reportedly, from the NBA to a group led by Los Angeles-area businessman Raj Bhathal -- it easily will qualify as the best thing that has happened, and will happen, to the team this season." League ownership of the franchise "pretty much has been an unmitigated disaster for the Hornets." The team is 8-25 going into tonight's game against the Bulls and the NBA's "stab at general managing -- which has played a major part in the disintegration of the season -- has been an embarrassment" (NOLA.com, 2/28).
MANAGE THE LINSANITY: TNT's Charles Barkley said last Thursday after the Knicks' loss to the Heat that the organization "was doing a horrible job managing the media aspect of Linsanity," and added that it "has turned into an on-court issue." Barkley said, "The Knicks have to do a better job handling [G Jeremy Lin] with the press. He does too many interviews. I understand Linsanity and everything. It’s a great story but he’s doing too much." He said the Knicks "can turn them (interview requests) down. Lin needs to rest. This season is so condensed. Turn them down. They’ll get over it.” In N.Y., Bob Raissman noted TNT’s Ernie Johnson "interrupted Barkley’s riff claiming the Knicks nixed a Lin appearance with David Letterman." Raissman noted one way to "keep this train rolling is by showing all sides of Lin." That is why "interviews and public appearances are essential." They are "good for the NBA’s overall business all over the world too." However, as Barkley explained, "there is a down side to all this." One that "could be detrimental to Lin and the Knicks" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/26).
WILLING TO SPEND: In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell noted the Bobcats could have "up to $21 million in space under the salary cap next summer." Bobcats President of Basketball Operations Rod Higgins said that team Owner Michael Jordan "'absolutely' has the resources and the willingness to spend the $80-$100 million it would cost to sign a maximum-salary player if such a talent was willing to sign" with the Bobcats (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/26).
SLOW PACE: In Indianapolis, Mike Wells noted the Pacers are nine games over .500 heading into tonight's game against the Warriors, but that "still hasn't enticed fans to support the team in person." The Pacers are "29th out of 30 teams in the league in attendance, averaging 13,789 fans a game" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/26).