SBD/November 5, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
New Grizzlies Owner Robert Pera yesterday announced former 76ers minority shareholder Jason Levien is “joining the Grizzlies as the club's new CEO and managing partner,” according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Levien, who “recently sold his stake in the Sixers to join Pera's ownership group, will be in charge of Memphis Basketball, LLC, which operates the Grizzlies and the FedExForum.” Levien will “oversee the NBA team while acting as the ownership group's managing partner and an alternate NBA governor.” Levien was part of the “Joshua Harris-led group that purchased the 76ers leading into the 2011-12 season.” He will “continue in his role as general partner of DC United in Major League Soccer, which he assumed in July when he and fellow Sixers minority owner Erick Thohir purchased the MLS club.” Sources said that Levien “took a lead role in assembling a star-studded ownership consortium which includes" entertainer Justin Timberlake, Broncos QB Peyton Manning and wife Ashley, former NBAer Penny Hardaway and former Congressman Harold Ford Jr. (ESPN.com, 11/4). In Memphis, Ronald Tillery writes there “no longer is any question as to who will take charge of drafts, trades or other important matters regarding every aspect” of the Grizzlies, as Levien “immediately supersedes general manager Chris Wallace's authority.” It is Levien who “decides what, if any role, Wallace will have with the team going forward” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 11/5).
ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF: In Memphis, Kyle Veazey noted Pera yesterday gave his “first public comments since agreeing earlier this year to buy” the Grizzlies. He and Levien “visited Memphis on March 27, when the Griz played the Timberwolves, and Pera said he sensed the ‘energy’ and the team's meaning to the city.” He said that the feeling “helped sell him not just on the team, but on its potential to make more of a connection.” Pera said, "I have a passion for marketing and branding, but I'm OK if I'm behind the scenes. I'll work on it, but I want to push Memphis, the team, the community and empower Jason to make the decision." He added, "I want to make this the highest-tech stadium in the NBA.” Levien “acknowledged a ‘task’ ahead of ensuring that a wide range of limited partners feel involved in the ownership group, but didn't think it was an unwieldy size.” He will be the “largest shareholder of the group but owns less than 50 percent of the team.” Pera and Levien “sidestepped a question asking for more details of the ownership group, including its size.” Pera said of his commitment to Memphis, "I consider myself a citizen of the world. … I don't really have strong ties to San Jose. What I do have is strong ties to the NBA. I'm really passionate about the NBA and I'm really passionate about changing the world, improving the world.” He added, “I'm passionate about Memphis because it seems like a really cool opportunity for the team to really influence the community, right? And that's up my alley" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 11/4). Also in Memphis, Geoff Calkins writes under the header, “So Far, The Kid Is All Right.” Youth did not stop the 34-year-old Pera from “stacking up enough money to buy an NBA team in the first place.” And youth “hasn't stopped him from doing a lot of smart things since he entered into the deal.” Calkins: “This could work out beautifully. Young and committed owner, young and committed franchise” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 11/5).
WINS TAKE CARE OF A LOT: SMC Entertainment President Fred Jones, who was a part of the original ownership group that brought the Grizzlies to Memphis, said that Pera’s ownership has “created a buzz in the community, but fans still care most about the success of the team on the court.” Jones noted that the team “simply needs to stay the course of what it has done with sponsorships and ticket sales.” Jones: “You can’t go wrong with stars like Justin, Penny and Peyton, but at the end of the day, what really excites the city is how the team performs on the floor. Ownership is good, but it’s about the product.” In Memphis, Michael Sheffield notes the Grizzlies have sold around 1,200 new season-tickets this season and have an “estimated 90 percent renewal rate for existing season tickets” (MEMPHIS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/2 issue).
The Astros on Friday night "unveiled their new look on the floor of Minute Maid Park to rave reviews in a raucous party that had almost everyone wishing Spring Training was just around the corner," according to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. Team Owner Jim Crane said, "I like the look of the new uniforms. I think they're clean and it has a little bit of history in them. I think the fans will enjoy them." McTaggart wrote of the crowd of more than 5,000 on hand, "If fan reaction was any indication, orange-and-blue Astros gear is going to be popular on the streets of Houston." This represents the team's first "major uniform change" since moving into Minute Maid Park in '00. The Astros now have "two logos, four uniforms and three hats that will be worn in the 2013 season -- Houston's first in the AL." The four uniforms "include home whites with orange piping and road grays with blue piping." The club also will wear "an alternate orange jersey with blue piping in home or road games." Additionally, the Astros will "wear a blue batting-practice top with rainbow print down the side of the jersey" as a tribute to the rainbow jerseys the team wore from '75-79 and for home games from '80-'86. The team's new hats "feature the full star logo with the block letter 'H' in the middle." The orange cap "will be worn at home, the blue cap with the orange bill will be worn on the road and with the alternate/batting-practice jerseys, and the blue cap will be donned with the home orange top" (MLB.com, 11/2).
CAPTAIN'S LOG: In Houston, Brian Smith wrote of Crane's first year as Astros Owner, "This is known ... and it says much about the Astros' immediate future: Crane's not an absentee owner." New uniforms, an updated logo and "the revival of an old mascot only hint at the massive change that’s occurred since Crane withstood an extended vetting process by Major League Baseball and agreed to move the Astros to the American League just so he could finally own a ballclub." The team's front office and on-field staff "have been overhauled," and portions of Minute Maid Park "soon will be repainted to match the new look." Crane has "enough of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in him to keep the struggling Astros in the news." Crane said, "We're not afraid to take some risks. People who know my history, if you give me some good information, we'll sit down and study it, we'll make good decisions and we'll take a calculated risk" (CHRON.com, 11/3).
SINGING A DIFFERENT TUNE: In N.Y., Stuart Elliott noted the song "Deep in the Heart of Texas" will be "providing inspiration for the Astros' advertising." The team is "repurposing the lyric 'The stars at night are big and bright' as 'The star is big and bright and back for good' and as 'Big and bright. Back for good.'" The modified lyrics reference "the star that appeared in the team's logo for decades." The two "big and bright" phrases will be used during the '13 campaign along with the "Root. Root. Root." promos the Astros used in '12. Some ads will "urge fans to 'Get Ready to Root. Root. Root.' and will include a familiar expression addressing the coming season: 'It's a Whole New Ballgame.'" Astros VP/Marketing & Strategy Kathleen Harrington Clark said that the team spent about $100,000 during the '12 season on advertising "in addition to commercial time and ad space obtained through deals with Fox Sports Houston and The Houston Chronicle." She added that the team's budget "would increase next season, 'but not to a large degree'" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/5).
Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones said that he would have fired himself as GM based on how the team has performed over the last few seasons. Jones sat down with NBC’s Bob Costas prior to last night’s Cowboys-Falcons game and Costas noted that since ’97, the Cowboys are 123-124 in the regular season and 1-6 in the playoffs. Costas: “Players have come and gone, coaches have come and gone. The constant is Jerry Jones. What’s your self-critique?” Jones: “We’ve had four division titles since we won our last Super Bowl. We’ve basically have had six losing seasons since we won our last Super Bowl. That’s not acceptable.” Costas asked, “Would Owner Jerry Jones have by now dismissed GM Jerry Jones?” Jones said, “Well, I think so because he was there to dismiss. I’ve always worked for myself and you can’t do that. You basically have to straighten that guy out in the mirror when you work for yourself. But certainly if I had had the discretion -- I’ve done it with coaches -- certainly I would have changed general managers” (“FNIA,” NBC, 11/4). YAHOO SPORTS' Doug Farrar writes Jones has been GM "since he bought the team in 1989, though it's well-known that Jimmy Johnson assembled the teams that won three Super Bowls in the early 1990s, and Bill Parcells had more to do with the teams that showed a lot of talent in recent years than the owner did" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/5).