SBD/August 3, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
Pilot Travel Centers President & CEO and Steelers investor Jimmy Haslam III “reached an agreement with Randy Lerner to buy the Browns on Thursday,” according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Haslam will buy the Browns “for about $1 billion -- $700 million now and $300 million when he buys out Lerner's remaining 30 percent, which will take place on the fourth anniversary of the closing date.” Haslam, who was expected to “watch practice Friday morning and be introduced at a 1 p.m. press conference in Berea, wants to re-assure fans that the franchise isn't going anywhere.” Haslam said, "We're not moving the Cleveland Browns.” He added, “Randy had four things he wanted and I won't share all of them, but No. 1 was we keep them in Cleveland. Why would we move?" Haslam's “No. 1 promise is he's here to restore the Browns to its old championship luster.” Haslam: "I met Randy for the first time on Monday, July 2, that's how fast this has gone. We thought it was an unbelievable opportunity and we checked with four or five people that have been involved in the NFL for a long, long time and everybody told us -- it was our instinct anyway -- that if you have a chance to get the Cleveland Browns, jump all over it." Haslam said that his family will “maintain their primary residence in Knoxville.” But he added, "We're going to be in Cleveland frequently, and we're going to be active in the community” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/3). In Akron, Nate Ulich notes Lerner will “retain part of the team at the onset as a method to pay money owed to former coaches and executives of the franchise.” NFL ownership “could vote on Haslam’s purchase during its next scheduled meeting in October, or Commissioner Roger Goodell could call for a special meeting to be held as early as this month to push the deal through sooner.” NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello in an e-mail said, “No special meeting has been scheduled. It’s possible but too early in the process to determine” (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 8/3).
ON THE AGENDA: Haslam added, “We're very excited to be in Cleveland because we know [how] important football is here and how serious they take football. This is a great football city. That's what excites us about this opportunity" (ESPN.com, 8/2). The PLAIN DEALER’s Cabot in a separate piece cited league sources as saying that former Eagles President Joe Banner “will join Jimmy Haslam in Cleveland once the sale is approved.” Banner resigned as Eagles President “on June 7th to pursue the challenge of part-ownership in an NFL team.” If Banner assumes the title of President, “it most likely spells the end of Mike Holmgren in Cleveland.” Holmgren is in the “third year of a five-year deal with the Browns that pays him $8 million a year.” He said Thursday that he would “like to stay on, and feels the Browns are on the verge of becoming a winning team” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/3). Holmgren said that he “spoke with Haslam by phone on Wednesday night.” Holmgren said that he has also “known Banner for a long time.” Asked if he felt he could work with Banner, Holmgren said, "You know what, I'm not going to go there right now." He said that he had “no assurances" from Lerner (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/3).
FAIR DEAL: ESPN.com’s Kristi Dosh cited experts as saying that the sale is “a fair deal for all involved, with room for Haslam to get a good return on his investment in the future.” The sale is “on par with the Jacksonville Jaguars’ purchase earlier this year for $760 million.” Forbes lists the Jaguars as the NFL’s “lowest-valued team at $725 million,” while the Browns “come in at $977 million, good enough for 20th in the league” (ESPN.com, 8/2). ESPN’s Andrew Brandt said NFL owners "across the league are smiling” over the $1B sale price. Brandt: “It’s a good time to sell a franchise. Record TV contracts hit in next year, there’s a labor agreement in place for the next nine years (and) player costs are at an all-time low.” ESPN’s Adam Schefter said if an NFL team with multiple Super Bowl championships, like the Cowboys, 49ers, Steelers or Patriots, would be sold, “you’d be talking Los Angeles Dodgers territory” in terms of the sale price. ESPN’s Trey Wingo: “Remember the fighting we had last summer between the players and the owners and the lockout, tough economic times for the NFL and all that. Yeah, not so much" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 8/2).
The Jets’ Green and White scrimmage normally is played on the natural grass practice field at SUNY-Cortland, but “small stands” and the expectation of a large crowd to watch QB Tim Tebow is “forcing the Jets to move” Saturday’s scrimmage to Cortland's football stadium, according to ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio. Jets coach Rex Ryan “normally wouldn’t like” to play on the synthetic turf because he “doesn’t want to be susceptible to extra injury.” However, because of “Tebowmania” the Jets have "got to have it." Sixty-five hundred fans can “fit into that stadium and they’re expecting big, big crowds” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 8/2). In Syracuse, Sean Grogan noted “admission is free” for the scrimmage and parking “is $5.” Ryan said that he expects a “large turnout and that he likes the turf on the stadium field.” Ryan said, “This turf is brand new. It’s in great condition. Will it be more accommodating for the fans? Absolutely” (SYRACUSE.com, 8/2). ESPN’s Paolantonio said of "Tebowmania" at Jets camp, “It is like going to a Grateful Dead concert. The crowds have been enormous. The faithful have been ravenous to get any kind of Tim Tebow action they can get. It’s a fascinating thing to watch. It’s a fascinating dynamic on so many different levels” (“Mike & Mike in the Morning,” ESPN Radio, 8/3).
REACHING OUT: In Oakland, Jerry McDonald notes over the next three days the Raiders will “welcome more than 3,000 fans onto the grounds of Redwood Middle School to watch practice.” McDonald writes, “Except for an annual meet-and-greet that was discontinued in 2001, this is the Raiders' only major interaction with the public during training camp since the team returned from Los Angeles in 1995. The open sessions are representative of an organizational transformation that began with the death of Al Davis last October.” In past years, the “only fans at practice were sponsors or special invitees, and they were directed to refrain from cheering.” Even a “smattering of applause would draw a reprimand from the Raiders security staff.” More than 1,000 “free tickets were distributed at Raider Image stores” for this weekend’s practices. The team’s “change in public relations has extended to the media.” McDonald added, “Columnists who for years were blacklisted suddenly are receiving team emails again.” On the business side, Chief Exec Amy Trask was “able to put ticket plans in place to sell out all eight games last season and was gaining ground in terms of community outreach.” There is “more freedom to generate new ideas and the Raiders website has evolved into something more than a promotional arm of the club” (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 8/3).
A group of Chinese investors is set to become Serie A club Inter Milan’s "second-biggest shareholder following the Italian football club’s agreement to sell a block of shares in line with its attempt to raise its profile among Asian fans of the sport," according to Coleman, Hille & Sylvers of the FINANCIAL TIMES. One of the investors, a company controlled by China Railway Construction, will also “develop a new football stadium" with the football club's parent company. The stadium is set to be completed in '17. The club announced it would "add three new directors" as a result of the investment: Kamchi Li, Kenneth Huang and Fabrizio Rindi. The Moratti family "will retain control of the club." While terms of the deal "were not disclosed," Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera revealed that the new investors would pay US$85.3M for a 15% stake, which would value the club at US$568.8M. Four Partners Advisory SIM, Lazard & Co and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton advised Inter Milan on the sale. China Railway and the investment group “were advised by UBS, Gallipos and Studio Legale Associato Negri-Clementi” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 8/3).
ASIAN SWING: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Isabella Steger notes the “move is the latest by well-funded Asian investors into Europe's soccer leagues.” Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung bought English soccer club Birmingham City in ‘09, while AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes bought EPL club Queens Park Rangers last year. It also marks China's “latest step to win construction projects in the West, broadening from the country's sizable role in big-ticket projects in Africa and other parts of the developing world.” Inter Milan said that Huang “will be named to the club's board of directors effective in October.” Huang leads QSL Sports Ltd., an “investment firm based in Hong Kong.” QSL brokered a deal in ‘09 “for a group of Chinese investors to buy a 15% stake” in the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena, but he said that he “didn't invest in the Cavaliers himself” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/3).
New MLS DC United investors Jason Levien and Erick Thohir represent “the last best chance for United … to stake its claim” in the market, according to Brian Straus of SPORTING NEWS. MLS Commissioner Don Garber played “a significant role in facilitating their investment, and now he’ll be counting on them, along with United’s fans, to find a solution to a problem that has vexed everyone for years.” The experience Levien and “financial heft” of Thohir can help the team “focus once again on the city with more optimism than ever." Attending his first match since becoming an investor in the team, Levien “was presented with a gift by fans in the RFK Stadium parking lot on Saturday evening.” He said, “They gave me a machete. They handed me a real machete.” Levien’s sports acumen “is just part of the reason he’ll be wielding that machete.” He also spent time “in the Clinton White House and has the personable, smooth demeanor of someone accustomed to making his case, making new friends and forging consensus.” These attributes will help the team on their quest for the “construction of a permanent home.” DC United currently plays in MLS’ oldest facility, and that has left the team “frustrated and floundering as rival clubs have successfully constructed modern soccer-specific stadiums.” The quest has “become a source of exasperation for MLS executives” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 8/1).
THE QUEST CONTINUES: DC United President & CEO Kevin Payne on Thursday said of the team’s quest for a new stadium, “It has to happen. We are not a sustainable business at RFK, but it will happen.” Payne said of the search process, “We are talking to Baltimore and we are talking to D.C. … We are having very good conversations with the District now and I feel very encouraged. At the same time, we have been treated very respectfully by Baltimore and the Maryland Stadium Authority, and we’re having serious conversations with them as well” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/2).