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SBD/June 14, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
Hedge fund manager Chris Hansen yesterday announced Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer "and two members of the Nordstrom family are part of the investor group seeking to bring" an NBA franchise to Seattle, according to Thompson & Young of the SEATTLE TIMES. The announcement, which came on the eve of a public rally planned for this afternoon in Seattle to show support for the arena proposal, has "buoyed supporters and eased some concerns of local politicians." City and county council members "must still approve the deal for it to take effect." Metropolitan King County Council member Pete von Reichbauer said that some constituents "already are asking why an ownership group that includes one of the richest individuals in the world needs up to $200 million in public bonds to finance the deal." Hansen "did not release the financial stake that the three have in the investment group." He said that they "would have an interest in both the arena and a new NBA team." Hansen also said that "as many as 10 investors would be involved, but that the others were not yet ready to be publicly identified" (SEATTLE TIMES, 6/14). In Seattle, Brier Dudley noted the amount of "financial security these people are offering the taxpayers of Seattle and King County in the arena deal remains to be seen" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 6/13).
HEALTHY DEBATE: The SEATTLE TIMES asked its editorial board members if the news of Ballmer and the Nordstrom family joining the investor group was "a game changer" for the arena deal. Lynne Varner wrote the names add "strength and credibility to the proposal." Varner: "Financially speaking, these guys are deep pockets who should reassure the public of the stability of the investment team and the worth of the proposal. These guys aren't fools. They're not looking to lose money." Bruce Ramsey wrote, "It seems like it's always some big name around here who wants to pick my pocket." Ramsey: "What is it with rich people around here? They have the money. They have truckloads of money. Good for them! I'm not against rich people. Glorious to be rich! But if you're rich, and you want [to] buy a basketball team, and you want to build a stadium for the team and you want to sell tickets to the public, fine. Do it. Do it yourself" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 6/13).
LONG LIVE THE KINGS? In Seattle, Bob Condotta writes, "One of the key questions remains: Where will Seattle get a team?" The NBA "has no plans for expansion, and the pool of teams has shrunk since Hansen's plans first leaked in February." Only the Kings "appear to be a possibility for relocation." NBA Commissioner David Stern has "praised the fans in Sacramento for being 'great partners' of the NBA," however that "doesn't guarantee the Kings staying in Sacramento." One scenario is "for Hansen's group to buy the Kings from Joe and Gavin Maloof." Condotta: "Some believe the Maloofs have long wanted to move the team to Anaheim but don't want to keep it in Sacramento or move it elsewhere. Being denied the chance to go to Anaheim could cause the Maloofs to sell" (SEATTLE TIMES, 6/14).
JET CITY CHATTER: Before things became heated between NBA Commissioner David Stern and Jim Rome yesterday during their on-air interview, Stern said he met this week with Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn. Stern said, "They have plans for a new building, so we’ll see where that goes.” Stern said the idea of a new building in Seattle “sounds like it is” going to move forward but “it always takes a process [of] permitting and negotiations and actually finding a team, if there is one. But at least they understand the issue" (“The Jim Rome Show,” 6/13).
Phoenix-based conservative watchdog group the Goldwater Institute is “suing Glendale in an attempt to invalidate last week's City Council approval of a $324 million lease deal with a likely Phoenix Coyotes buyer,” according to Lisa Halverstadt of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Goldwater filed a complaint in Maricopa County Superior Court yesterday “on behalf of two Glendale residents.” Goldwater notes that the Glendale city charter “requires five of seven council members to approve emergency measures like the Coyotes deal, which was effective immediately.” Four council members “approved the deal with Coyotes suitor Greg Jamison, with one councilwoman absent.” The group also cites the city's mandate that any service "of more than $50,000 include a written request for proposals or an invitation for businesses to place bids.” The charter “does include exceptions, such as one that allows the city manager to bypass the bid process when it's unlikely to reduce expenses or could cause delays or unnecessary spending.” Goldwater in a separate filing yesterday claimed that Glendale “should be held in contempt of court and its vote invalidated because of a failure to release two exhibits to the 20-year lease with Jamison before the council vote.” Goldwater President Darcy Olsen said, "All of these issues are related to the single point of having Glendale follow the law and give taxpayers the information they need and the time to be heard." Glendale and NHL officials have said that they “believe the lease agreement with Jamison is likely to go forward despite any lawsuit because it does not require a bond sale as the previous deal did.” The lease agreement “calls for all parties to bear the costs of contesting any court challenges" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 6/14).
The Red Sox visit Wrigley Field this weekend for a three-game series, and Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein yesterday in a wide-ranging 90-minute interview "reflected on his decade with the Red Sox," according to John Tomase of the BOSTON HERALD. On Epstein's watch, the Red Sox became "a baseball beast with an insatiable appetite for wins, fans, money, ratings, fame." Tomase notes the "Monster" Epstein helped create "eventually got the best of him." He holds himself "accountable for the moves that helped hamstring the team this winter, when a payroll" pushing $200M left new GM Ben Cherington "little flexibility to do anything major." And that is "where The Monster comes in." As the Red Sox’ popularity grew with World Series titles in '04 and '07, "so did the pressure to generate more revenue and advance the brand." It "wasn’t just ownership, or just marketing, or just the limited partners, but a culture permeating the business as a whole." Epstein said, “There are always going to be pressures and tensions, and it was a real palpable thing that we talked about, where there was a natural tendency to look at the successes and the spikes that came with the World Series championships and assume that’s the new baseline." He added, "How do we maintain this and be true to ourselves? How do we fight the natural tendency and desire, especially in some of the revenue-generating parts of any business, to be bigger and do more? How do we fight the natural tendency that comes after winning to not be arrogant as an organization." Epstein: "There was a danger of the tone of the organization becoming too self-important, like, ‘Red Sox Nation is this.’ You can’t even say that sentence without risking sounding overly self-important." Now, Epstein "likes where the organization is positioned." He said, "The organization's actually in really good long-term shape" (BOSTON HERALD, 6/14).
BACK TO BASICS: In an in-depth interview with Dan Shaughnessy of the BOSTON GLOBE, Epstein said, "We joked about it all the time in the front office. We’d say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could just say, screw free agency altogether. We’re going with a purely home-grown lineup. We’re going with old-school, Branch Rickey-style, pre-free agency, pre-draft whatever?’" He added, "We kind of clung to that in the back of our minds, knowing it was impossible, recognizing that there was an inherent tension between that approach and bigger business. I kind of kick myself for letting my guard down and giving into it, because that might be a better team in some ways and resonate more with the fans than what we ended up with" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/14). In Boston, Eric Wilbur writes Epstein "gets it." Epstein "gets it more than anyone at the top of the Red Sox food chain will ever understand." Wilbur writes, "To the 'Fenway Sports Group' or whatever they call themselves now, they're part of a package that includes, of all things, LeBron James." Wilbur adds, "Today the Red Sox are terribly frightened about TV ratings and that stupid, idiotic, farcical, two-bit lie of a sellout streak, so they panicked and tossed money around" (BOSTON.com, 6/14).