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SBD/June 5, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
The Trail Blazers yesterday “hired Neil Olshey as their general manager," three days after Olshey was reported to have reached an agreement to stay with the Clippers, according to Jason Quick of the Portland OREGONIAN. The Trail Blazers “swept in after contract negotiations with the Clippers broke down" and will introduce Olshey in news conference this afternoon. Quick notes Olshey comes to the Blazers “in perhaps the most fluid time in the franchise’s history.” Olshey “twice interviewed for the position -- once in summer 2011, then again in late May with owner Paul Allen in London.” It is “unknown whether Olshey will keep the Blazers' current basketball operations staff," which includes acting GM Chad Buchanan. Most of the staff is "under contract through June 2014,” including Buchanan, Dir of NBA Scouting Mike Born and Assistant GMs Bill Branch and Steve Rosenberry. Buchanan said, “I don't have any idea if he will want to keep me.” Quick notes Olshey's agent Warren LeGarie and Clippers Owner Donald Sterling -- “a notoriously stingy owner -- couldn't come to an agreement on Olshey's contract, and the Blazers moved in and made their offer” (Portland OREGONIAN, 6/5).
SHREWD MOVE: In Portland, John Canzano writes Olshey is “either going to save the Trail Blazers franchise, or he's going to join the ranks of those who have been chewed up by the wild ride of a Paul Allen machine and spit out in the back alley.” Canzano: “Olshey ends up a surprisingly practical hire. It's not shiny. It's not shocking. As a huge positive, it appears that the guy knows how to negotiate brilliantly.” Fans “shouldn't care if he leveraged one to get the other, or vice versa.” Whatever the case, Olshey “was in demand and took his pick of GM jobs.” Olshey “led the Clippers out of the lottery and he won't have to play catch-up in the NBA draft, and for that, I'm giving him a chance to steal the show.” As much as the hire “lacks luster and won't cause a rush on season tickets, they're getting a guy who was the sitting general manager while the Clippers turned their fortune.” It is “not as splashy as Phil Jackson," but Blazers fans are "overjoyed at the idea that the team finally has a general manager.” Canzano: “A lot of this feels like it rests with Allen. He owns the team, and has final say on the major decisions, but it's been some time since the Blazers felt like they had a healthy exchange of ideas between owner and general manager” (Portland OREGONIAN, 6/5).
WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE CLIPPERS?: In L.A., Broderick Turner writes Clippers President Andy Roeser “has already begun the search" for a GM to succeed Olshey. Coach Vinny Del Negro, Dir of Player Personnel Gary Sacks and Roeser “will handle all of team’s responsibilities in regard to basketball operations” (LATIMES.com, 6/4). CBSSPORTS.com’s Royce Young wrote, “You’re already thinking it, but I’m going to go ahead and say it: Clippers [are] being Clippers. They re-sign Vinny Del Negro but somehow let the architect that built the franchise into a contender slip away.” Sterling is “notoriously conscious with his spending, and the Blazers are desperate in landing a high quality GM.” More than likely Allen and the Blazers “hit Olshey with a big offer that Sterling didn't want to match.” But with him gone and the team facing major roster decisions very soon with F Blake Griffin and G Chris Paul, "Olshey's departure may not bode well in retaining those stars” (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/4). CBSSPORTS.com’s Ken Berger wrote when “pressed on a conference call about what was standing in the way of his staying with the Clippers, Olshey remained silent as a P.R. man stepped in and said that question had been ‘asked and answered.’” Sources said that Olshey “almost didn’t get an interview,” but Blazers BOD member Bert Kolde, Allen’s “right-hand man, arranged Olshey’s interview.” Berger noted Kolde’s role in the process “was important, since it was improbable at best" that the team President Larry Miller would "hire a GM with the same agent as dethroned Portland executives Kevin Pritchard and Tom Penn” (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/4).
The people and résumés in the Broncos front office “are impressive” but what the team's football operations execs “don't have is a whole lot of experience,” according to Mike Klis of the DENVER POST. Broncos Exec VP/Football Operations John Elway said, “When you talk about experience, we're going to have a consensus with the decision-making. Ultimately, I've got to break any ties.” Dir of Football Administration Mike Sullivan is known as the “new salary cap guru, recently a high-powered agent who for years made his living negotiating ‘against’ salary cap gurus.” Meanwhile, Dir of Pro Personnel Keith Kidd has previously worked for the Cardinals, Browns and Patriots, in addition to ESPN's Scout Inc. The perceived inexperience “surfaced when Elway recently streamlined the top part of his front-office structure by not renewing the contract of longtime salary cap manager Mike Bluem and parting ways with" GM Brian Xanders. Regarding who now serves as the team's GM, Elway asked, “What's your definition of a GM?" Klis noted Dir of Player Personnel Matt Russell “has the most front-office responsibility beneath Elway.” Elway said Russell "has been in the business of evaluating players for a long time. And he's very good at it." Assistant to the head coach Mark Thewes “is handling personnel administrative duties, including collective bargaining agreement compliance and communication with the league office.” In addition, Broncos coach John Fox has 24 seasons of experience on NFL coaching staffs, "and is involved in every roster decision” (DENVER POST, 6/3).
Under a proposed 20-year agreement with the city of Glendale, Coyotes Owner Greg Jamison "has an option to buy the arena and is obligated to attempt to change the team's name to the Arizona Coyotes," according to Halverstadt & Chan of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. The proposed terms “may cost Glendale more than $45 per resident each year over the life of the deal." The city also “appears poised to pay” a group led by Jamison nearly $325M over 20 years "to operate and make improvements" to the city-owned Jobing.com Arena. An analysis of the proposed agreement released yesterday by the city showed that Glendale “expects to collect less than half that amount via ticket surcharges, rent, sales tax and other team fees during the same period.” Jamison has said that he “hopes to capitalize on the Coyotes' deep playoff run this season to increase ticket sales and bring in more sponsorships for the team.” But such success “may not translate into smaller payments for Glendale.” The city's analysis showed that if the Coyotes went to the Stanley Cup Final "for the next 20 seasons and the arena booked 30 sold-out concerts each year for the next 20 years, Glendale could still expect to lose about" $9M annually. That figure “does not include the city's annual arena debt payments," which will average about $12.6M a year over the next 20 years. The Glendale City Council is “expected to discuss the proposed agreement at a public workshop Thursday.” Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs yesterday said that she “cannot support the deal” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 6/5). The GLOBE & MAIL’s David Shoalts notes while the city said that the management fee Jamison and his partners will collect works out to an average of $15M per year, the payments "will not be that amount or less until the last eight years of the lease.” Glendale taxpayers in the first two years will pay over $17M a year "with the fee rising" to $20M annually in the next three years "and then dropping" to $18M for years five through eight. The lease also states that the city “is not responsible for parking operations” (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/5).
The Devils "have not paid" nearly $80M owed to the club's banks that was used to build Prudential Center, according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. The Devils have lost as much as $20M a season during Chair & Managing Partner Jeff Vanderbeek’s tenure, "but that should be whittled this year by 10 playoff sellouts and additional sponsorship money." A source said that the team’s season-ticket renewal is "95 percent, up from 84 percent last season." However, the team and Prudential Center would be in default of $77M in debt "if not for deadline extensions by their lenders." Vanderbeek has also not been able to name the "magic number to persuade the minority owners, Raymond Chambers and Mike Gilfillan, to sell their shares." The NHL "gave the team a financial lift earlier this year by advancing it millions of dollars in future national revenue from television and other sources." The advance from the league means that "down the line, the Devils will simply get less" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/5). Vanderbeek said, "We're involved with very constructive conversations with the banks and equity partners, and that's really all I'm going to say about it while the Stanley Cup's going on." Vanderbeek on Friday "reiterated that he was dedicated to sticking in Newark, noting what he perceives as progress in the area surrounding the arena and the additional season ticket sales, though the team was still just" 24th in attendance in '11-12, up one spot from '10-11 (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 6/2). CNBC’s Darren Rovell said the Devils are the “one team whose owner needs a title more than its fans” (“CNBC Sports Biz: Game On!,” NBC Sports Network, 6/1).
The Phillies' home sellout streak nears the three-year mark as it will soon reach 243 games, and it "appears likely that the Phillies will exceed that number this month," according to Mark Kram of PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS. The team has 13 more home games remaining in June and they “only need 11 more sold-out games” to extend the streak to 243. But in a season in which the Phillies have struggled in the standings and with injuries to some star players, “the question remains: How long can this streak continue?” Phillies VP Ticket Sales & Operations John Weber said, “We know at some point it is going to end. And that will be OK, but because of our fan base, we may not draw 45,000 or 44,000. But we will still draw 40,000 or 38,000. We will never fall that far down.” Weber said that the last time the Phillies "failed to sell out a game" was July 6, 2009. The Phillies have “declared sellouts despite the empty seats at Citizens Banks Park that have been apparent at most home games and the fact that tickets are available on the secondary market at less than face value.” Weber: “We are approaching 3.4 million tickets sold. I guarantee you that no team in baseball has that many tickets sold.” He added that “the schedule in August could undermine the streak.” Weber: “We have 19 games in August. People go on vacation. ... Almost every game, we have 40,000 sold already. But we should have some games where we have 3,500 tickets to sell.” StubHub.com Head of Communications Joellen Ferrer said that the Phillies “remain one of the most-searched teams” on the ticket broker’s website (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 6/5).
In N.Y., Josh Kosman reports Yankee Stadium attendance is down 3.6% so far this year -- greater than the 3% drop last season -- and the team "is blaming StubHub for its gate woes.” Yankees President Randy Levine said, “We believe there are serious issues with the StubHub relationship. We are actively reviewing more fan-friendly alternatives for next year.” He also said that the team's contract with StubHub “expires at the end of the season.” Kosman notes the Yankees and other MLB teams have “bellyached about StubHub for a couple of years -- as more fans turn to the low-priced online reseller for tickets instead of buying directly from the team.” The average crowd at Yankee Stadium this season is 40,949 through 25 games, compared with 42,491 last year. The Yankees’ 25-game average is off 9% while "overall, MLB attendance is up" 7%. A source said that season-ticket sales have “dropped a few thousand, to the mid-30,000 range, the drop [is] about the same amount that daily attendance is down” (N.Y. POST, 6/5).
JOINING THE FRAY: In Houston, Jennifer Dawson notes MLB Giants investor David Wolff “has thrown his hat into the ring for a chance to acquire a controlling interest” in the Padres. Wolff has owned a piece of the Giants “for a dozen years, though he will not reveal the size of his stake.” Wolff said of buying the Padres, “I would only do it if I was a managing partner. I would put together a group the way Jim Crane did in buying the Astros.” Wolff, regarding whether he had begun forming an ownership group, said, “No. I have an idea of who I would call. I’m trying to decide how hard I’m going to pursue this. I’m still pondering it” (HOUSTON BUSINESS JOURNAL, 6/1 issue).
GOING FOR GLORY: Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg was profiled under the Personal Business section with the subhead, "Wealth Matters," in Saturday's N.Y. TIMES. In the piece, Paul Sullivan asked, "So what’s the appeal of owning a team?" Sternberg said that there "were only three reasons: to win, to make money or to bask in the glow of being an owner.” Citi Private Bank Sports Advisory & Managing Dir Bradley Rangell said, “You can make money in this. You can make an investment in a rank-and-file team, manage it OK and ride the appreciation. Or you can do what happened in L.A. and put a business plan in place to develop around the team.” Sternberg said, “In the fall of 2005, they handed me the keys. We knew enough to make the car run, but to make it run well was a different story. ... I had no understanding of what it meant to become a public person. Being out there is a necessary part of promoting our brand.” Sternberg, regarding the value of the franchise, said, “I don’t think of what it’s worth. It’s like my house. I don’t think about the value of it because I’m not selling it” (N.Y. TIMES, 6/2).
SOCIAL EVENT: In DC, James Wagner noted the Nationals “started putting the players Twitter handle on the giant center field scoreboard as they’re batting.” A team spokesperson said in an e-mail, “We just started doing this for the players that are on Twitter a part of our larger new media strategy” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 6/4).