SBD/March 26, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
Three bidders "remain in contention" to purchase the Dodgers, and outgoing Owner Frank McCourt "will conduct a final auction that may begin" tomorrow, according to sources cited by Soshnick & Church of BLOOMBERG NEWS. The sources said that SAC Capital Advisors Founder and Mets investor Steven Cohen, Rams and EPL club Arsenal Owner Stan Kroenke and a group led by Basketball HOFer Magic Johnson are "still in the running." One source said that the remaining bidders "will seek final approval from baseball’s owners," probably tomorrow. Sources said that once that happens, the auction "may begin that day or the following morning" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 3/24). In L.A., Bill Shaikin noted after MLB owners vote on the remaining bidders, final negotiations "would take place with Frank McCourt and Blackstone Advisory Partners, the investment bank brokering the sale." Retired U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Farnan, who is serving as the court-appointed mediator, has "asserted his control of the sale process at a time when relations are believed to be strained between MLB and Blackstone." Shaikin noted the joint bid by Grizzlies Owner Michael Heisley and L.A.-based Ares Capital co-Founder & Managing Partner Tony Ressler was "one of two rejected Friday," along with a bid by Shamrock Holdings President & CEO Stanley Gold and the Disney family (L.A. TIMES, 3/24).
AGENT OF CHANGE: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Liz Mullen notes WMG's Arn Tellem is part of Cohen's bid group and if the two successfully purchase the Dodgers, the move is "expected to affect the sports agency business as a whole" as well as WMG. It is expected that Tellem "would be president of the Dodgers" if their bid is selected. As part of "prudent company planning, Tellem has been increasingly delegating hands-on agent activities -- such as client recruiting, client maintenance and contract negotiation -- to other agents at Wasserman over the past few years." Sources said that when the chance to own the Dodgers "became available, Tellem pursued the opportunity" with Casey Wasserman's "full knowledge and support" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/26 issue).
COURT REPORT: The L.A. TIMES' Shaikin notes McCourt is not "legally obligated to take the high bid" in the team's sale. The Dodgers' bankruptcy is "unusual in that all creditors will be paid in full," and the remaining proceeds will "go to McCourt." But Shaikin writes McCourt "would not leave much money on the table, to be sure." McCourt could "decide that an offer from Cohen -- all cash, no financing, plus assumption of the Dodgers' debts -- makes it most likely the deal can close on time." He could also "opt for perceived civic goodwill and select the Johnson group." Or he could choose Kroenke, with the "hope of playing a role in luring the NFL" back to L.A. The NFL still considers L.A. one if its markets, so Kroenke "would be in violation of the league's cross-ownership rules as soon as he bought the Dodgers." The NFL has "long coveted the Dodger Stadium parking lot as the site for a football stadium," but a source said that the NFL would be "reluctant to approve a stadium there if McCourt retained ownership of the property" (L.A. TIMES, 3/26). FORBES' Mike Ozanian wrote McCourt "will get the last laugh," as he is "going to pocket more than $400 million when all is said and done" (FORBES.com, 3/23).
FUTURISTIC PLANS: The L.A. TIMES' Shaikin noted ESPN analyst Orel Hershiser, whose group bidding for the Dodgers did not survive the first cut, released on Friday a "stadium renovation rendering," and he said that he "hoped to use the drawing to share with prospective new owners a vision for the preservation and enhancement of Dodger Stadium." Hershiser said that he and "his partners -- most notably, the South Korean electronics giant LG -- wanted to present their ideas to the fans as well as to potential owners." The core concept is to "turn Dodger Stadium into a 'futuristic electronic showcase.''' Shaikin noted some elements of the rendering "appear jarring -- a double-deck pavilion in right field, demolition of the reserve deck down the left-field line, and an overall view beyond the outfield wall that closely resembles" Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (L.A. TIMES, 3/25).
The Cowboys and Redskins have each “filed a grievance against the NFL and the NFLPA to have $46 million in salary cap penalties overturned,” according to Calvin Watkins of ESPN DALLAS. Cowboys Exec VP, COO & Dir of Player Personnel Stephen Jones yesterday said, “Within the confines of our collective bargaining agreement, we are trying to have a voice and a hearing in terms of our cap situation.” He also said that the Cowboys “hoped to avoid filing any legal action over the cap penalty.” The owners of the other 30 NFL teams “will be briefed on the grievance at the owners meetings” this week. Arbitrator Stephen Burbank “will rule on the grievance” (ESPN.com, 3/25). In Ft. Worth, Clarence Hill Jr. cited a team source as saying that the Cowboys think they have a "good case largely because the NFL management council originally approved the contracts in 2010” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/26). In DC, Rich Campbell notes the specific grounds on which the Redskins “are disputing the matter also were unknown.” Redskins Exec VP & GM Bruce Allen last Wednesday said that it was “up to the league to answer for the penalty” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/26).
THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY: Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones Friday said, "What we're doing is a combination procedural and legal and all of that." He added the team is "talking with not only the league but the Redskins and whoever we can visit about it." In Dallas, Rainer Sabin noted Jones “is working in concert with the Redskins -- an arrangement he admits is odd.” Jones: “First of all, there is no joy in Mudville, having to team up with the Redskins on a point with the league. They're competitors, not cohorts. It just shows you, independent of that, some of the issues we have with this cap space issue. Sometimes you can have strange bedfellows and this is one of them" (DALLASNEWS.com, 3/23).
IN HIS OWN WORDS: Giants President & CEO John Mara, who also serves as NFL Competition Committee Chair, said of the situation, “The penalties imposed were proper, and what they (Redskins and Cowboys) did was in violation of the spirit of the salary cap and they attempted to take advantage of a one-year loophole and gain a competitive advantage. The commissioner acted reasonably, and quite frankly I think they’re lucky they didn’t lose draft picks. ... It has nothing to do with collusion. It has to do with attempting to gain a competitive advantage through a loophole (USA TODAY, 3/26). Stephen Jones responded to Mara's comments, saying, “That’s John’s opinion. That’s not my opinion” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/25). ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano wrote when people sit down to talk about “the right and the wrong of this whole situation, there's very little right and a whole big pile of wrong, and the defiant stance Mara took Sunday afternoon made that pile much bigger.” Mara came out “guns-a-blazin.” And if there are people out there “who believe (as I do) that the NFL has acted with irresponsible, petty arrogance in this case and imposed unjustified penalties against teams that broke no actual rules, Mara's stance isn't likely to change their minds” (ESPN.com, 3/25). YAHOO SPORTS’ Doug Farrar wrote there are “a few problems with Mara's statement.” First, he “establishes a serious conflict of interest case against the Management Council -- it could very easily be argued that existing owners should either step down from the Council, or that the council should not have the ability to rule against its competitors.” That is “antitrust at the very least.” Second, the "spirit of the salary cap" statement is “just plain silly” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/25).
WHAT HAPPENS NOW: SI.com’s Don Banks cited NFL sources as saying that while the “process of having the matter settled by an arbitrator always makes the outcome of the grievance process more difficult to predict, Mara expressed no sense of concern.” But other league sources “weren't as confident, and acknowledged that the size of cap penalties might be reduced as part of a final ruling, or perhaps even overturned.” A source said, “Who knows where this goes with an arbitrator involved? There might have to be some ground given. But it really doesn't seem to be (NFL commissioner) Roger Goodell's style to change his mind to any great degree when it comes to his decisions” (SI.com, 3/25). YAHOO SPORTS' Farrar wrote if the Management Council “is smart, or if Roger Goodell is smart enough to advise them strongly, there will be a settlement that favors both sides in this case” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/25).
A fan protest at Dolphins HQs last Tuesday “created a ground swell powerful enough to reach the top of the embattled franchise,” and team Owner Stephen Ross “reached out to at least one of those upset fans Thursday night,” according to Izzy Gould of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Dolphins CEO Mike Dee “arranged the call” to 20-year season-ticket holder Jason Lawrence, who said, "I was nervous as hell. I was shaking, and everything. I thought they were going to be upset. ... It was the coolest thing I ever did in my whole life." Lawrence said that he “asked about the decision to trade leading wide receiver Marshall to Chicago for two third-round draft picks.” Lawrence: "(Ross) said they had been shopping (Marshall) for a couple weeks. Nobody would return their phone calls about getting him. If Chicago didn't take (Marshall) … they would have ended up cutting him very shortly after that, and got nothing" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/24). In Miami, David Neal wrote the Dolphins have rarely “left their fans feeling as empty during the offseason as this year.” The Dolphins reaching out to Lawrence is “perhaps realizing fans and media thought they were scurrying about sans direction.” Lawrence: “It was a really nice 27-minute conversation. Very candid. I’m so impressed they would do this. I feel so much more positive and everyone I talked to about it is more positive.” He added, “Ross promised me they would be more transparent and try to talk to fans. I told him, ‘I don’t want to know your secrets. But if you make a move or don’t make a move, tell us why. Other teams do it.’” Neal noted despite ticket prices “remaining the same, the final season-ticket count could be under 40,000 for the first time since the strike-shortened 1982 NFL season” (MIAMI HERALD, 3/25).
SHREWD MOVE? In Miami, Armando Salguero wrote, “Ross lacks nuance. He lacks tact. He is a blunt instrument.” Ross was “advised by the Dolphins and agreed that the best way to address the protestations of fans … was to rush headlong into a one-on-one phone call to a fan to explain his team's rationale for this offseason.” It is an “interesting public relations move but there are myriad reasons other embattled owners don't do it -- for one it has the potential to make as many problems as it solves.” Salguero: “Ross opens himself up for questions that I've already read via email from other disgruntled fans: When is Ross going to call me? I'm upset, too, I want a phone call! Is Ross going to call every fan or just the ones so upset that they protest? Isn't that rewarding the protest and penalizing patience?” By calling this one fan, Ross has “made his season ticket more valuable than others.” Salguero: “I like Steve Ross. I love his passion and I believe he has the Dolphins' best interest at heart. But he needs refining. He also could stand to listen to the right people more” (MIAMIHERALD.com, 3/25). YAHOO SPORTS’ Doug Farrar wrote the phone call was “an interesting gambit, but there's still something rotten going on in that organization ... and all the PR spackle in the world won't make it go away” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/24). The MIAMI HERALD’s Salguero in an open letter to the team wrote under the header, “Dear Miami Dolphins, We Can’t Stand It Anymore!” Salguero: “If things don’t get better for us, things are going to get worse for you.” He continued: “In past years, you could explain the reasons for such struggles and get sympathy or understanding. But we’re not hearing it anymore. That’s what happens when people get fed up” (MIAMI HERALD, 3/25).
Jets Owner Woody Johnson in his first comments since acquiring QB Tim Tebow last week denied that the trade “was inspired by the Giants run to the Super Bowl as a way to regain some traction in the marketplace,” according to Gary Myers of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Johnson “expressed his support” for incumbent QB Mark Sanchez, but he "managed to take a subtle shot Sunday at his beleaguered quarterback." Johnson said of the impact adding Tebow will have on Sanchez, “Mark is very, very good. We've all seen him in the fourth quarter. Wish he would get better in the first quarter perhaps. In the fourth quarter, he realizes he's got to make some improvements." Johnson: "My highest compliment to the Giants. They pulled it off. I'm proud to share a building with them. They did what we wanted to do too and that is peak at the right time. They were horrible at the beginning of the year, but then they put pedal to the metal at the end, extremely successful, no flaws. I told John (Mara) and the Tisch family, I complimented them on great success and their ability to pull this off. This is what we are all searching for" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/26).
RIGHT BACK AT YA: The N.Y. DAILY NEWS’ Myers notes the Giants yesterday were “not flinching, but they also took some not-so-subtle jabs at their crosstown rivals.” Giants President & CEO John Mara was asked if N.Y. is big enough for the Giants and Tebow. Mara, referring to the team re-signing its backup QB, said, “I don’t know. But the David Carr press conference will be tomorrow afternoon, too.” Jets coach Rex Ryan said, “When you win a Super Bowl, you can say anything you want because they are the world champions. That’s all fine and dandy. To the young man, he’s not going out there trying to get the attention. The attention follows him.” Giants Chair & Exec VP Steve Tisch said of the Jets' Tebow trade, "Well, they are getting a lot of attention, so if that was one of their goals, I think they have been successful.” Tisch: “My feelings are that I may attend a Jets game” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/26). Ryan said of Mara's comments, “If we had won the Super Bowl, we would have done the same thing. I don’t look at it like, has this team won the Super Bowl or not? We don’t care. I care about one team, and that’s ours” (NJ.com, 3/25). In Newark, Jenny Vrentas notes both Ryan and Johnson “dismissed the idea that they are trying to upstage the Super Bowl champion Giants.” Johnson said in response to Mara’s remark about the team re-signing Carr: “Well, that’s pretty interesting” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 3/26).
Moores said he was led to believe Padres'
sale would be completed before '12 season
JUST KEEP WALKING: Meanwhile, Canepa wrote Moorad should "step all the way down, to street level, and walk away." Canepa: "Nothing against Moorad. He tried. He might have been a great owner. ... He didn’t get much of a chance to prove anything. But we’ve had enough of what’s fast becoming Moorad’s Folly. Time for him to get out for the good of the franchise and its fans." Apparently during his player agent days, Moorad "rubbed a few powerful bosses the wrong way." He is "poison in their cocktail." His stepping down and elevating Tom Garfinkel to CEO "isn’t going to be enough to cure the problem." Moores said, “My sense is all the air is out of that balloon. I can’t imagine anyone thinking Jeff can come up for approval. All the hollering and screaming I did couldn’t get it done. But who knows?" Moores was a "good owner," and he "saved baseball in this town." But now Moores has to "find somebody to take over this franchise and hopefully be an owner for the people" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/23). In California, Jay Paris wrote the Moorad era "won't be recalled for much more than him either auctioning off popular players or simply shoving them away." The result often "left the Padres fielding teams that weren't major league caliber." Paris: "Wouldn't it be grand if the Padres got a big-time owner interested more in winning than squeezing every nickel out of this franchise?" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 3/25).