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SBD/May 2, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
The sale of the Blues to a group led by team minority owner Tom Stillman is “just about done,” according to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. Stillman would receive the Blues, the lease to the Scottrade Center and the club’s AHL affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen, among other items as part of the sale. The deal, reportedly worth approximately $130M , would be subject to approval by the NHL BOG. “This is a process that generally always takes time to complete,” Daly said. “But we’re now moving forward rapidly toward what we hope will be its successful conclusion.” Stillman, who also is the Chair & CEO of Summit Distributing, the second largest beer distributor in Missouri, became a minority owner of the team in '07. Stillman’s ownership group includes former U.S. Sen. John Danforth -- Stillman’s father-in-law -- along with Luxco CEO Donn Lux, surgeon Rick Lehman, Maritz CEO Steve Maritz and the Taylor family, owners of Enterprise Holdings. If the deal is closed and approved, it is expected that current Blues Owner Dave Checketts will no longer be affiliated with the franchise. Checketts put the Blues up for sale in March '11 when he could not complete a sale of the 70% stake in the team owned by Towerbrook Capital Partners. After a proposed deal between Checketts and Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer fell through, Stillman stepped up in January and signed a purchase agreement. Stillman is not expected to make any major changes to the team’s hockey operations staff, which include President John Davidson, GM Doug Armstrong and coach Ken Hitchcock (Christopher Botta, SportsBusiness Journal).
NHL HELPING BLUES OUT? The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts cited two sources as saying that the Blues’ debt situation is "serious enough under current chairman Dave Checketts that the NHL has been paying the team’s bills, likely in the form of advances on its share of league revenues, since early January." Daly indicated that it was “'not accurate' to say the Blues sale is awaiting only an announcement or that the team was getting money from the league" (GLOBEANDMAIL.com, 5/1).
The Dodgers have scheduled a 1:00pm ET press conference for today in L.A. to introduce Guggenheim Baseball Management, which yesterday closed on its $2.15B purchase of the club. Among those slated to appear are Guggenheim execs Mark Walter, Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten, Peter Guber, Bobby Patton and Todd Boehly, L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, MLB Exec VP/Labor Relations & HR Rob Manfred, club ambassador Tommy Lasorda and a large contingent of former Dodgers players, including Steve Garvey, who was part of a failed bid for the team. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig late yesterday issued a lengthy statement praising the completion of the highly complex deal and the arrival of Guggenheim. Despite numerous objections from the league during an April 13 bankruptcy court hearing to approve the sale, Selig yesterday said MLB's requirements regarding the installation of new owners "were met." While never specifically mentioning former owner Frank McCourt or their multiple, fractious battles, Selig added, "I am grateful that the unbecoming events of recent years are behind us" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
THE NEW REGIME: In L.A., Bill Shaikin notes Selig's statement "did not address MLB's role in approving McCourt as an owner, or in approving the transaction in which he established a new entity to control the Dodger Stadium parking lots, enabling McCourt to keep half-ownership of the lots even as he sold the team." Meanwhile, sources said that a "teary-eyed McCourt thanked the Dodgers' employees at a morning meeting" yesterday. He also "introduced the staff" to new controlling Owner Mark Walter and new team President Stan Kasten. Shaikin notes no "major changes to the team are expected immediately." The Dodgers' exec departures yesterday "included McCourt and two of his closest lieutenants," Vice Chair Jeff Ingram and Senior VP/Public Affairs Howard Sunkin. Kasten is "expected to evaluate the Dodgers' front office personnel before considering additional changes." GM Ned Colletti "remains in place" (L.A. TIMES, 5/2). Shaikin notes McCourt yesterday also "emailed a letter to the Dodgers' staffers, thanking them for their efforts" (L.A. TIMES, 5/2).
FIELD OF FOCUS: ESPN L.A.'s Ramona Shelburne wrote under the header, "Dodgers Owners Return Focus To Field." Shelburne noted Guggenheim Baseball Management's message is "the same as it's been from this new ownership group throughout the entire process: This isn't about us." After eight years "in which the owners of the team became the dominant story, obscuring every good and bad thing that happened on the baseball field, at the very least it's pretty refreshing." Shelburne wrote the "best owners generally sit quietly up in an ownership suite, make the financial decisions to put the team in position to succeed and let the players on the field shine" (ESPNLA.com, 5/1). MLB Network's Chris said Guggenheim Baseball Partner Magic Johnson is "going to be the face of the franchise." Rose: "He's there to kind of smooth over the rough edges, as far as PR goes. They do need to kind of rebuild that relationship with its fan base, which ... did not draw 3 million fans for the first time since 1992. I think there's some repair job that has to go on there. I think Magic is the perfect guy to do it.” MLB Network's Kevin Millar: “It's Magic Johnson. He's got a great smile. I think the players now have some security they know who owns the club, they know who they're going to answer to.” Rose: “Remember last year, every two weeks we were wondering whether the team could make payroll? Apparently that's not going to be a problem anymore” (“Intentional Talk,” MLB Network, 5/1). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes Guggenheim Baseball Partner Magic Johnson is the "epitome of showmanship and fun," while McCourt "shows what can happen to someone fundamentally flawed." Meanwhile, Dodgers fans are "ceasing and desisting their picket-line protests along Sunset Boulevard." Many are "driving back over the hill to return to the park" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/2).
PAYING THE TAB: The L.A. TIMES' Shaikin notes the Dodgers' bankruptcy filing "will cost the team more than $30 million, after the team was ordered to pay the legal bills" of MLB. Sources said that McCourt and Guggenheim Baseball "will share responsibility for the more than $10 million in MLB legal bills." The precise amount each side will pay "could not be determined, and final bills have yet to be submitted." A court filing indicated that the Dodgers reported "more than $20 million in 'bankruptcy-related expenses' through February" (L.A. TIMES, 5/2).
Monday was the second-largest web traffic day on NBAStore.com since the start of the '11-12 season due in large part to the Nets unveiling their rebranding efforst in conjunction with their move to Brooklyn, and Nets merchandise represents 27% of total sales for the day combined on the website and the NBA Store in N.Y. Since the launch of the rebrand, the Nets have been the top-selling team overall on NBAStore.com and at the physical store. Sales on Netsstore.com Monday were more than double the total sales for the entire ‘10-11 season. Modell's, the Nets' official sporting goods retailer, sold more Nets merchandise Monday than all of last season (NBA). In L.A., Chuck Schilken writes the relocation of the team is a "new beginning for the sports-deprived fans of Brooklyn." Schilken: "Hopefully, it also will be a fresh start for a franchise that has suffered a dramatic fall in recent years.” If the new logo “symbolizes a return to the glory years for Brooklyn sports fans, one can only hope that all the change can also bring about a return to glory for the team as well” (L.A. TIMES, 5/2).
STARTING OVER: In New Orleans, Jeff Duncan reports more than 86% of 5,035 respondents in a Nola.com poll indicated that Hornets Owner Tom Benson "should change the Hornets' name." Benson has repeatedly stated he wants to give the team a new name that more reflects the New Orleans region, but a name change "likely won't become a reality before 2014." Duncan writes Benson and his management team “would be wise to consider the rebranding job” done by the Nets. Whether fans are “gaga over the spartan urban look or not, you can’t argue with the strategy behind it,” and the Hornets’ rebranding “needs to be planned just as carefully because you only get one chance to do this -- and it must be done right.” Duncan: “There’s been talk of changing the color scheme to the Saints’ black and gold combination. In my mind, that would be a mistake. The Hornets need to be treated as a separate entity. They aren’t, as one executive said recently, ‘Saints Light.’” Meanwhile, the name Dukes “has gained some currency in local circles," and Duncan writes it is "starting to grow on me” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 5/2).
In Miami, George Richards writes with Panthers GM Dale Tallon’s leadership, the team hopes the club "becomes a destination point for free agents." Tallon believes that he "can sell the Panthers and South Florida to anyone after this past season." Richards: "Gone is talk of the Panthers missing the playoffs for an NHL-record 10 seasons; gone is talk of the Panthers being a substandard organization. Winning sure seems to cure most problems." Tallon said, "We sent a message to everyone in the hockey world that this is the place to be." Panthers C John Madden said, "They changed the culture here. Florida’s a great place to play. I never thought I’d say that sitting from the outside all those years in New Jersey" (MIAMI HERALD, 5/2).
ON THE PROWL: In Phoenix, Mike Sunnucks reported the sale of the Coyotes to an ownership group headed by former Sharks President & CEO Greg Jamison "could be approved" by the NHL and the city of Glendale "as early as May 8." That would keep the Coyotes in Arizona "and allow the team to rollover its on-ice success in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs into ticket sales and business sponsorships for next season." The city, NHL and Jamison are "working out the Glendale portion of the deal that previously has tripped up other bids for the Coyotes." Glendale City Council members "will be briefed again on the Coyotes situation early next week" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 4/29).
FAMILIAR FACE: In Toronto, Steve Simmons notes Devils President, CEO & GM Lou Lamoriello is the "longest-serving general manager in professional sports and just about everything in hockey has changed over the past 25 years, except him." No one else in the game "has been a GM longer than 14 years." Lamoriello said, "I think sometimes people forget there are two people in pro sports, the person and the player. We have to look at them and deal with them that way." Excluding Lamoriello's stints in '05 and '07 as the team's interim head coach, 16 "different men have coached the Devils in Lamoriello's time" (TORONTO SUN, 5/2).
REWARDS PROGRAM: The Predators have started “Smashville Rewards,” a program designed to reward season-ticket holders for their business at games at Bridgestone Arena. Fans can earn points for activities such as purchasing season tickets, attending games and participating in special promotions. Points can be redeemed for merchandise, seat upgrades, concessions and more. The club has based its program on similar ones in the hotel and airline industry. Predators Exec VP & Chief Sales Officer Chris Parker said, “We wanted to thank our season-ticket holders for their passion and loyalty, and this program was the absolute best way to do that” (Christopher Botta, SportsBusiness Journal).