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SBD/August 17, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
Rockets Owner Les Alexander is "in the final stages of negotiations to purchase the Dynamo and secure the 30-year lease and development agreement on BBVA Compass Stadium," according to sources cited by Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Sources said that the deal "is not complete, but the sides are close." AEG owns 50% of the Dynamo, while Golden Boy Promotions President Oscar de la Hoya and Brener Int'l Group Chair & CEO Gabriel Brener own 25% each. The sale price "is unknown." AEG, which "at one point owned six MLS teams," still owns the L.A. Galaxy. Since arriving in Houston from San Jose for the start of the '06 season, the Dynamo "are one of the most successful franchises in MLS." Dynamo games "could serve as more programming for the new television network formed by the Rockets, Astros and Comcast" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8/17). The CHRONICLE's de Jesus Ortiz in a separate piece noted AEG "did the heavy lifting, working hard to secure the East End site and then build beautiful BBVA Compass Stadium." Alexander "knows how to win" and he "understands international appeal." In Alexander, Dynamo "fans will know that they have a local owner whose MLS loyalty is with the Dynamo and no other MLS team." Rockets CEO Tad Brown also "loves soccer" (CHRON.com, 8/16).
MLB owners Thursday at league meetings in Denver took less than 10 minutes to formally approve the sale of the Padres to a group led by San Diego businessman and former minority owner Ron Fowler, who is now the designated control exec of the club. The approval sets up an expected closing of the estimated $800M sale from John Moores within the next 10-14 days. After the fractious collapse of a prior, Jeff Moorad-led bid to buy the club, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig hailed the Fowler group and the relative ease with which the transaction was done. Fowler, for his part, pledged to instill a sense of local pride in the incoming ownership group. "What we hope this means is that we're starting on a long, consistent ownership group," he said of his fellow investors, which include several members of the O'Malley family. Moores, meanwhile, departed Denver right after the vote. Selig said of Moores, "John did a lot of wonderful things for baseball. He was very helpful for me, particularly during a time (in the 1990s) when things weren't frankly as great as they are right now. I know it's the right thing for him to do. Believe me, I like John Moores a lot. He did a lot for this sport. A lot” (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). MLB.com’s Barry Bloom noted the new ownership group is the fifth for the Padres since the franchise was founded in ’69. Fowler is the “first locally-based control person of the Padres since founding owner C. Arnholdt Smith.” Ownership group member Peter Seidler said that “neither he nor any member of his family wanted an out-front role in the ownership group." So they "agreed to make Fowler the face of the franchise because of his standing in the community” (MLB.com, 8/16).
CHANGING OF THE GUARD: In San Diego, Bill Center notes MLB “identifies the new owners as the ‘Seidler/O’Malley families and Ron Fowler.” Seidler said, “However you describe us, let everyone in San Diego know that we are happy to be the owners of the Padres and excited to get going.” Center notes Fowler, the CEO of beer distributor Liquid Investments, has been “designated the ‘control person’ of the new ownership group and Thursday was identified by Seidler as the group’s ‘executive chairman.’” The ownership percentages were “not detailed," but more information “about the structure of the new ownership group and what its plans are will be made after the purchase” is completed on or before Aug. 31. Seidler reiterated that CEO Tom Garfinkel and GM Josh Byrnes will remain with the club. Center noted the meeting was “less than 10 minutes old” when Moores “opened the door to the meeting room, shook hands with members of the new ownership team and departed” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/17). Moores, on the end of his tenure, said, “I had blinders on. I didn't want anybody to think I was upset or anything.” MLB.com’s Bloom noted Selig and Moores “both have a soft spot for each other as this era in Padres history comes winding toward closure.” Moores said, “Our conversation was terrific. We had our ups and downs, but we obviously agreed more than we disagreed. On this last transaction, he did the best thing for me, my kids and San Diego. So what the heck, I’m grateful” (MLB.com, 8/16).
WORK TO DO: In San Diego, Chris Jenkins writes, “There were no champagne corks flying around the visiting clubhouse at Turner Field, even though it’s generally believed that the new ownership is expected to improve the financial commitment to the lowest-salaried team in the majors leagues. If anything, the players were just relieved to know that people would stop asking for their thoughts on something they try not to think about.” Padres 3B Chase Headley said, “I don’t know necessarily what it means. It’s a positive step that it’s been resolved. It’s been a long time coming.” Padres VP & Assistant GM A.J. Hinch said, “The resolution is good for everybody, great for everybody. The guys in here are focused on today’s game. … They don’t need to concern themselves too much with stuff outside the lines” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/17). SI.com’s Jay Jaffe noted because FS San Diego has been unable to come to an agreement with Time Warner Cable and various satellite providers in order to “carry the Padres locally; only Cox Cable and DirecTV viewers have been able to watch, leaving some 40 percent of San Diego County in the dark.” The team “needs to step in and make sure that fans have access to their team in order to rebuild interest” (SI.com, 8/16). MLB Network’s John Hart said, "It’s always a good sign for a smaller market, for a franchise and an organization to have local ownership.” Hart: “As the price escalates in some of these clubs, they really have a TV package that’s going to work for them now. … What this does for the club when you look at your revenue coming in, instead of $12-14 million on a TV contract, it’s going to be $60 million-plus a year, which I think is going to allow that franchise to operate a little stronger” (“MLB Tonight,” MLB Network, 8/16).
MIXED FEELINGS: In California, Jay Paris writes, “Let confetti rain from the sunny summer skies. That those pieces of paper contain so many broken promises, and have a Dodger Blue hue to them, doesn't matter.” Moores "is gone, and while his stay came with pluses, it's addition by subtraction” (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 8/17). In L.A., Steve Dilbeck wrote it is “one of those times for putting the hands together in polite applause while fighting back a tear.” It is “not difficult to argue that O’Malley was more the Los Angeles Dodgers than Sandy Koufax or Vin Scully,” and now “he owns” the Padres. Despite “how good it is for baseball and the Padres, it feels wrong on multiple levels, or at least unnatural.” You “think O’Malley and you think Dodger blue, not whatever color scheme the Padres have this season” (L.A. TIMES, 8/16).
EXPECT THE BOLD: In San Diego, Jenkins wrote, “San Diego doesn’t need to be told that getting new ownership can mean one thing or quite another. If there’s a franchise that turned things around quickly -- then saw the situation almost immediately change -- it’s the Padres.” Moores and former President & CEO Larry Lucchino “did a masterful job of resuscitating local support from the start in San Diego.” What the O’Malley family brings is “instant credibility as baseball people.” Padres fans “can see the ratification of the new ownership group as a quantum leap toward the improvement of the baseball environment in San Diego” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/16).
If there is "one characterization Red Sox ownership resents, it's that they're absentee overseers who'd rather wear scarves to soccer matches than engage in running their biggest investment," according to John Tomase of the BOSTON HERALD. Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino and Fenway Sports Group co-Chairs Tom Werner and John Henry on Thursday "suddenly appeared on the field during batting practice" before the team's game against the Orioles in Baltimore. Lucchino "recognizes that the brand isn’t what it was two years ago," as ticket demand "is down." Tomase writes, "The stench of last September permeates every level of the club." The team is "two further years removed from success." Lucchino said, "The brand, a significant component of it is on-field success. We’ve taken a few hits, but there are still passionate Red Sox fans everywhere." He added, "We have to be sure we remember the cynical jaded media does not speak for . . . they don’t necessarily capture the voice of the fanbase." Lucchino: "Every franchise, every brand goes through rough times. ... If it’s broke, we’ll fix it" (BOSTON HERALD, 8/17). Lucchino yesterday on WEEI radio added, "We’ve had a long run of success. We’ve created very high expectations for the franchise. Sometimes those high expectations are not met, and the result is a reduction, a hit to the brand and to the team and to the fan base" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 8/17).
MEDIA'S ROLE: ESPN BOSTON writes Lucchino wants to dispel the notion that ownership is "not fully invested in the Red Sox." Lucchino said, "These guys are present. They are involved in the governance of the club and to suggest otherwise, as many people have done with this notion they're more focused on other things besides the Red Sox, is just misleading the public." Lucchino also said that he "blames the media 'a little bit' for exaggerating the drama surrounding the Red Sox this season," and added that the "notion that intense coverage of the team might play a factor in making Boston an undesirable destination for players is not a new one." Lucchino: "My sense is that has been the conventional wisdom for a long time, that certainly years before we got here and it was something we were determined to change." He added that the team "also has tried to make it more attractive to players by upgrading the training facilities at Fenway Park." But he said, "What we haven't had much luck at is improving the media coverage" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 8/17).
MOVING FORWARD: In Boston, Nick Cafardo writes the Red Sox owners "have been accused of being disengaged and aloof," but on Thursday they "were very much interested in the current state of the team and disappointed with the way things have gone." It "seemed as though they wanted to show their critics that they do care, as they engaged with their employees during batting practice, around the cage, and in the dugout." Cafardo: "Some will think it’s too little too late. Others will simply wait to see what they do about this 2012 failure after the 2011 failure and the 2010 failure." If the owners are "disengaged, as some charge, they do not act that way." In fact, they have been "far more visible than ever the last few weeks." Cafardo: "Now, it appears, with the team at a low point in this 10-year ownership, they realize they need to be more interested and more hands-on" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/17). In Florida, David Moulton writes under the header, "Will The Real John Henry Please Stand Up (And Fix This Fenway Mess)." Moulton asks, "Did someone kidnap Boston Red Sox owner John Henry?" The Henry "that owns the Red Sox would never agree" to the meeting with the players that took place (NAPLES DAILY NEWS, 8/17).
The Vikings will have home games “blacked out on television this season evaporated when the team announced Thursday that it will reduce its blackout threshold to 90 percent of capacity,” according to the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. That means it will “have to sell around 6,000 fewer seats at home games to avoid a blackout” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/17). In St. Paul, Brian Murphy notes despite a “144-game sellout streak dating to 1997, the Vikings reduced sellout capacity by 6,000 seats." The team joins the Raiders, Dolphins and Buccaneers "in lowering benchmarks" to avoid blackouts this season." More important to co-Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, the move “most likely assures their team will be on television all season as it prepares to sell premium seating at a new stadium to be built with $500 million in public subsidies” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 8/17). PRO FOOTBALL TALK’s Mike Florio wrote while only four teams so far have “embraced the changes to the blackout rule,” several other teams “potentially falling within the blackout red zone have said they won’t be reducing their sales targets, including the Chargers, Bengals, Jaguars, and Colts.” The Rams are “one of the few remaining teams that have had trouble moving tickets.” It is “unclear whether the Rams will be able to keep their secret, if they indeed have embraced a reduced sales minimum” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 8/16).
After a N.Y. POST report that Devils Owner Jeff Vanderbeek is close to a deal to maintain hold on the franchise, sources said that a "significant deal is moving forward but they were skeptical” about the deal moving forward, according to Giambusso & Chere of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. The sources also said that while “something may emerge within the week, the team has been negotiating similar settlements for over a year and nothing has materialized” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 8/17). Meanwhile, SI.com’s Stu Hackel wrote Vanderbeek “has the escape ability of Houdini.” Despite missing numerous deadlines to pay debts, it appears “he’ll keep control of his team, get more time to refinance his club and seek new partners.” When you owe “massive amounts of money, allowances are made.” Those to whom Vanderbeek is “indebted recognize that if they declared him in default and set the wheels in motion to force him into bankruptcy, they might end up with lots of pennies instead of lots of dollars.” Hackel: “The man is dogged, resourceful and, ultimately, successful. When it comes to those qualities, the Devils have a good role model in the owner’s suite" (SI.com, 8/16).