SBD/April 10, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
Moores will own 51% of Padres'
portion of new Fox RSN
LOCAL TIES: In L.A., Bill Shaikin wrote that it is "doubtful that any of the losing Dodgers bidders would jump into the Padres sweepstakes." Shaikin cited sources as saying that Moores has "retained Steve Greenberg of Allen and Co. to broker the sale" of the team. MLB officials have "encouraged L.A.-based baseball executive Dennis Gilbert to pursue the Padres, but he figures to let the Dodgers ownership transition play out first." Baseball HOFer and San Diego State Univ. baseball coach Tony Gwynn said that he "has not heard from any prospective Padres owners, but he would listen to what they had to say." Gwynn said, "I'd have to do my homework on it. I've heard that Magic [Johnson] was interviewing the groups, to see which one he wanted to align himself with." Shaikin wrote Padres fans "would feel better with Gwynn fronting an ownership group, secure in the belief that he would not align himself with buyers he did not trust to put a winner on the field" (L.A. TIMES, 4/8).
Bobcats investor Andy Warlick understands that “few owners, fans, coaches or players like to purposely ‘rebuild’ a team,” but he has “heard nothing but positive feedback from the fans who do attend games, particularly in the entertainment value,” according to Richard Walker of the GASTON GAZETTE. Warlick said, “Nobody wants to hear it and it’s tough. It’s tough when you look at the marketing side. I can’t even imagine in my business doing this. I try to. It’s tough to say, ‘We’re going to take a step back,’ and then continue to be enthusiastic.” Warlick: “The quality control is good. Now the product needs to improve. And we’re going to work on that. But is it a fun event? Is it something you can bring your family to and have a good time? And I think we’re doing an exceptional job and I think our numbers would support that” (GASTON GAZETTE, 4/7).
ROUGH TIMES: In DC, Rick Maese wrote Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan is “the game’s greatest player,” but he has now “become one of its most curious owners, a fanatical competitor who can’t field a competitive team.” Former Bobcats head coach Sam Vincent said, “The work he put in to be a great player and the work you put in to be a great executive, those are different things. That additional time you spend on jump shots, running, dunking, I don’t know if he puts in that same amount of time as an executive or if he even cares to” (WASHINGTON POST, 4/8). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler noted he watched the Bobcats “in person for the first time in a few weeks Saturday night,” and was "struck by how far, far, far away the Bobcats are from being a legitimately good NBA team” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/9).
The Dodgers in a document filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court yesterday argued that the team "should not be required to reveal the conditions that govern use of the land surrounding Dodger Stadium," according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. The team said those restrictions include "sensitive non-public commercial information" that should remain sealed. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kevin Gross is "set to hear the matter Friday, as part of a hearing in which he is expected to approve the sale of the team." The Dodger Stadium parking lots are jointly owned by former Owner Frank McCourt and Guggenheim Baseball Management through a business entity "that was not part of the bankruptcy filing." The absence of details such as how McCourt "might be involved in the future of the parking lots, and how much money he would receive from them, has frustrated Major League Baseball officials eager for the Dodgers to make a clean break from McCourt ownership" (L.A. TIMES, 4/10). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Andrew Ross Sorkin noted Dodgers controlling Owner and Guggenheim Partners CEO Mark Walter, in addition to company cash, "plans to use money from Guggenheim subsidiaries that are insurance companies -- some state-regulated -- to pay for a big chunk" of his $2.15B purchase of the Dodgers. Sorkin wrote, "Using insurance money -- which is typically supposed to be invested in simple, safe assets -- to buy a baseball team, the ultimate toy for the ultrarich, seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen." Walter has been "somewhat open in acknowledging that Guggenheim’s companies will be tapped, but the investor group has not disclosed how much of the purchase price is coming from individuals." Walter, who has a "fiduciary duty to the firm’s policyholders, plans to pump their money into a baseball team, even though he says he’s not seeking to realize a return on the investment" (NYTIMES.com, 4/9).
WINNING BACK THE FANS: In L.A., Steve Dilbeck wrote Dodgers investor Magic Johnson is "supposed to have a clue as to how McCourt is perceived in this city," and yet "inexplicably, there was Magic sitting next to McCourt at the season opener in San Diego" last week. Johnson was seemingly "clueless to the fan rage aimed at the man who took the Dodgers into bankruptcy." Dilbeck wrote, "Magic’s gang bid $500 million more than the next group. If anything, McCourt needs to kiss up to Magic. ... The best thing Magic can do is keep a healthy distance from McCourt" (LATIMES.com, 4/9). Also in L.A., Dylan Hernandez notes the Dodgers drew 2.93 million spectators to home games last season, marking the "first time in 16 seasons that attendance was less than 3 million." Dodgers 1B James Loney said that the atmosphere at the ballpark "noticeably changed last season." Loney: "It was a little different, especially night games, not having that many people there." The Dodgers will play their home opener today against the Pirates, but manager Don Mattingly said that it will "take time for the Dodgers to learn whether they have regained the support of fans." Mattingly said, "Opening day probably won't be the best indicator. Opening day is always full of juice, you know. It's always pretty much packed. When you start getting into the regular games, when you get kind of the day-in-day-out-type crowds, that's when I think we're going to find out if it's going to be a little bit different" (L.A. TIMES, 4/10).
HIS NAME IN LIGHTS: On Long Island, Steven Marcus notes Johnson is in N.Y. "promoting the new Broadway show, 'Magic/Bird,' which chronicles his rivalry and ultimate friendship" with Basketball HOFer and Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird. Johnson said of the Dodgers, "I'm happy about the way they are playing and the response from all Dodgers fans from around the country and the world. It's been very positive." While his financial investment in the Dodgers "is said to be small, his involvement could be significant." Dodgers investor Stan Kasten said of Johnson, "He's going to be there with suite sales, sponsorship sales, community relations programs. He's going to be there with players and prospective players. He's going to be there with civic leaders. I can't tell you the hours and the days, but I know he's going to be there" (NEWSDAY, 4/10).
The potential sale of the Hornets “took a major step toward completion” yesterday when “potential buyers Raj Bhathal and Gary Chouest were in the league office” in N.Y., according to sources cited by Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. A source said that Saints Owner Tom Benson “spoke with” NBA Commissioner David Stern while Bhathal and Chouest were in N.Y. Sources indicated that Chouest “ultimately could be involved in the Bhathal partnership when the sale [is] consummated, potentially along with other local investors.” Sources said that the asking price for the team “will be in the neighborhood of $340 million.” It is unclear whether Bhathal, Chouest and Benson “would be part of the same ownership group or are bidding independently” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 4/10). In New Orleans, John DeShazier wrote Benson as a potential owner for the Hornets “could be one of the best things to happen to the franchise.” A late re-entry by Benson into the bidding “would give New Orleans, and the NBA, virtually everything it’s looking for in a Hornets owner” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 4/8).
A full-page letter addressed to Maple Leafs fans from Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment Chair Larry Tanenbaum appears in Toronto newspapers today, and as "end-of-season statements go, this one was hard to miss," according to James Mirtle of the GLOBE & MAIL. The letter read in part, "We have fallen short of everyone’s expectations, and for that we are sorry. We take full responsibility for how this team performs on the ice, and we make no excuses. The way this year ended was unacceptable." Mirtle writes the letter is a "rare public comment for the team’s minority co-owner, whose stake in the organization is set to increase slightly when the Rogers and Bell consortium takes over later this year." Tanenbaum was "again a regular at Leafs games this season -- sitting in his season’s tickets behind the home team’s bench and shaking hands with players in the dressing room after wins -- and he couldn’t have enjoyed what he saw during the past two months." Maple Leafs President & GM Brian Burke will meet with the media today, and he was "given a mild vote of confidence in Tanenbaum’s letter, which stated that 'ownership believes in the plan for the Maple Leafs.'" SportsCorp President Marc Ganis said of the letter, "By making this public, they’re trying to express to the fans that ownership is feeling the same way the fans are ... and ownership and the fans are in the same boat. They’re both paying top dollar, they both expect better results and they’re both furiously disappointed" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/10). In Toronto, Kevin McGran writes the likes of this "unequivocal apology ... have not been seen by the powers that be in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment." There is "no doubt the franchise has been humbled." A tailspin that began in early February "dropped them from playoff contention, cost coach Ron Wilson his job and turned the city into the butt of jokes in other NHL markets." The Maple Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup since '67, the "longest drought in hockey," and they have not "reached the playoffs in seven seasons, also the longest current drought" (TORONTO STAR, 4/10).
HOLDING PATTERN: The NATIONAL POST's Sean Fitz-Gerald notes the Maple Leafs, along with the Raptors, Toronto FC and the "long list of MLSE’s holdings, are in a holding pattern while the sale of their parent company approaches a closing date this summer." Tanenbaum increased his ownership stake to 25% from 20.47%, and "also maintained his title" as MLSE Chair. It is "not clear whether the open letter to fans is a signal that he is preparing to become a more public face for ownership" (NATIONAL POST, 4/10).
Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg on Friday said that he “still expects a boost in attendance this year.” But in Tampa, Michael Van Sickler noted season-ticket sales “are below expectations,” and corporate support “remains among the worst” in MLB. Whether better attendance “can mend relations between Sternberg and St. Petersburg city leaders is unclear.” Sternberg and city officials “have talked sparingly” since Sternberg announced two years ago that he “wanted to explore new stadium options outside of Pinellas County.” Sternberg has spoken with St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster “a few times by phone since then, but Sternberg still describes relations with St. Petersburg as lukewarm.” Meanwhile, he said that he is “encouraged by suitors from Tampa and Hillsborough County who say they'd support a stadium on that side of the bay, as well as by efforts from regional business interests to support the club.” Van Sickler wrote Sternberg “sounded wistful talking about the Miami Marlins stadium.” Sternberg: "I like my stadium. I love the place. I'd challenge anyone, and we have, to come in and say it's not a great experience. It's not an ideal experience. Something is keeping people from coming in" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/7).
AIM FOR THE BULLSEYE: In St. Paul, Tom Webb notes Target's mascot dog, Bullseye, now “graces a 37-foot-tall sign affixed to Target Center, overlooking right field” at the Twins' ballpark. The lighted sign, installed “in late March, features a wagging tail that is programmed to move at different speeds.” The same spot last season “held a huge Sanford Health sign, which many fans disliked for intruding on the view of the Minneapolis skyline.” The Twins were “among the harshest critics, protesting the ‘disturbing’ and intrusive sign.” The ballclub “seems to have warmer feelings about the big dog.” Twins President Dave St. Peter said, "It would be my personal preference that there be no sign there." He added, "Time will tell, but there's a younger demographic of fans that will certainly enjoy that sign" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 4/10).
COLOR ME BLUE: In Toronto, Brendan Kennedy wrote amid the “bubbling optimism” for the Blue Jays this season, there is “a surging fan base that has distinguished itself from other sports fans in the city.” The fans are “young and irreverent, smart and sarcastic,” and they “favour blogs and Twitter over radio call-in shows, hold baseball book clubs and trivia nights, and seem to root as much for the team’s progressive general manager -- who at 34 is part of their demographic -- as the players on the field.” The core fans are “buoyed by a young, exciting team and a fashionable retro-inspired new logo.” Still, the “million-dollar question -- at least for the team’s front office -- is whether this renewed excitement translates into ticket sales.” Last year the Jays were “sixth-worst in league attendance, but the home opener’s record one-hour sellout may be a harbinger of this renewed interest.” Meanwhile, Kennedy noted New Era Caps “won’t share their sales figures,” but Managing Dir of Canadian Operations Rick Baetz said that “while the Jays’ early-90s, white-front vintage cap has always been a big seller, when the new logo was launched last fall there was a ‘significant’ sales spike.” Baetz: “It exceeded our expectations by 30 or 40 per cent. We expect a spike whenever there’s a logo change, but this was exceptional for sure, no two ways about it” (TORONTO STAR, 4/9).
MOTOR CITY: In Detroit, Bill Shea noted that after the first three games of '12, the Tigers "have seen 120,525 fans come through the gates at 41,255-seat Comerica Park, for an average of 40,175 per game." That translates into "about $1 million in addditional revenue compared to this point last season. It's the biggest opening three-game series crowd since the ballpark opened in 2000" (CRAINSDETROIT.com, 4/9).
In Arizona, Daria Del Colliano noted D'Backs Managing Partner Ken Kendrick is "pleased to have his club out from under that albatross of debt this season." Kendrick said, "We can now think in a way that you would always want to think in your business that you don't have an extraordinary obligation that isn't helping you win ballgames." However, that "doesn't mean the D-backs aren't willing to continue to spend if TV revenue goes up." Kendrick said, "If the TV money is there then we'll be able to spend them on players" (ARIZONASPORTS.com, 4/6). Meanwhile, in Phoenix, Mike Sunnucks noted the D'Backs drew 108,112 fans for their opening weekend sweep of the Giants, the "best opening weekend for the team" since '03 (BIZJOURNALS.com, 4/9).
UNDER THE RADAR: In S.F., Gwen Knapp wrote the MLB Giants' mascot "may know the team's leading investor, Charles Johnson, better than any of the current players do." Johnson "has signaled a strong intention to stay removed from the day-to-day operations of the team." As he accrued a larger stake last year and became "publicly acknowledged as the top partner, the Giants declined all requests to interview him." Johnson's current stake in the team "has been estimated at close" to 25% (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/8).
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Rockies Owner, Chair & CEO Dick Monfort said yesterday, "We stunk last year. We've got the prettiest ballpark in America. We've got the best weather. I think we do everything in our power to let fans have the greatest experience. But really, at the end of the day, they are here to see us win. So that's what we have to do. We have to win. We have to put out a competitive team that plays hard every game" (DENVER POST, 4/10).