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SBD/January 10, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
The Maloofs reportedly have been "talking with a deep-pocketed Seattle investment group" about selling the NBA Kings for a league-record $500M and moving the team to the city, but "no deal is done and no formal offer has been made," according to sources cited in a front-page piece by Bizjak, Kasler & Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson “reacted late in the day, holding a news conference to say he is trying to recruit local buyers for the Kings.” Johnson declined to identify potential local bidders, but said that he "has been hearing from people since plans for a new arena downtown fell apart last spring.” A source said that discussions between the Kings and Seattle hedge fund manager Chris Hansen are “only ‘conceptual’ at this point.” Another source said media reports yesterday of a potential sale were "premature." The source added that the Seattle group “has not made a formal offer.” Bizjak, Kasler & Lillis note the news “reflects a dramatic shift by the Maloof family.” The team's two most active owners, Joe and Gavin Maloof, previously said that they “would never repeat the mistake their family made” in selling the Rockets in ’82. A source said that the Maloofs “may have been forced into the decision to consider a sale.” The Kings are $200M in debt and “could lose between" $6-7M this season. The source added that the Maloofs “intend to make a capital call to the minority owners of the Kings, seeking contributions to help cover the projected loss.” The source said that the call is a “potential ‘triggering event’ for a sale of the Kings” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/10).
THE INITIAL REPORT: YAHOO SPORTS’ Adrian Wojnarowski cited sources as saying that the Maloof family was “finalizing an agreement” to sell the Kings to a group that “hopes to move the franchise to Seattle for the 2013-14 season.” The deal “will sell the Kings for approximately" $500M to a group led by Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Sources said that the Seattle group's plans, with “support of the NBA, is to play two seasons in KeyArena before moving into a new Seattle arena.” Sources added that the Maloofs are “expected to keep an extremely small percentage of the team, but will have no real input or say in the franchise.” One source said that the prospective ownership group plans “to change the Kings’ name and logos back to the original proprietors of the city's NBA history: the Sonics.” The source said, "Same name and logos” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/9). USA TODAY’s Amick & Zillgitt cite a source as saying that the Seattle group has “made significant progress in negotiations” to buy the Kings and is “confident a deal will get done.” The NBA’s deadline by which teams "must file for relocation” is March 1, and any move “must be approved” by the NBA BOG (USA TODAY, 1/10).
FALK TALK: In Seattle, Nick Provenza noted a rumor of the deal “originated in a Tweet from Daina Falk, a food blogger ... and also the daughter of longtime NBA agent David Falk." Daina Falk on Tuesday wrote on her Twitter feed, “So I hear that the Seattle Kings is officially a done deal! The Maloofs (the family that owns the Kings) finally sold the ailing Sacramento team." Falk when questioned about the Tweet said that she had “heard it from someone who would know.” She also “referred to the Tweet on her Facebook page saying to wait and see what happens over the next few days” (SEATTLETIMES.com, 1/9). David Falk said that he “wasn’t the source" for his daughter’s tweet. In Seattle, Scott Sunde reported David Falk has “apologized to the Maloofs for 'any inconvenience' the rumor caused the Kings.” Daina Falk’s tweet has since “been removed” (SEATTLEPI.com, 1/9).
TOP DOLLAR: In Seattle, Bob Condotta notes the $500M price would be “the most ever paid for an NBA team,” with the high to date the $450M paid for the Warriors in July ‘10. The Seattle group also “would have to pay an NBA relocation fee, which would be at least" $30M. It is “unclear” whether the reported $500M "would include paying back" $77M the Maloofs owe on a loan made through the city of Sacramento. The Maloofs "also owe the NBA" about $75M (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/10). A SACRAMENTO BEE editorial states if reports of the negotiations are “true, the very least the Maloofs can do is allow time for a bid from ownership groups who would keep the team in Sacramento.” The other Kings owners, who control 47% of the team, “need to push in that direction.” It also is “way past time for the Maloofs, who previously insisted they had no plans to sell the team, to make a clear statement of their intentions.” Their “stock answer to any question -- their PR people say the team won't comment on ‘rumors or speculation’ -- is disrespectful to city leaders and long-suffering fans, who deserve far better” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/10). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes under the header, “Maloofs Owe Sacramento A Chance To Keep The Kings” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/10).
MALOOFS DESERVE BLAME: Also in Sacramento, Marcus Breton writes, “None of the turmoil surrounding the team is the fault of this community.” It is “all on the owners.” It is “their doing, their failures, their dysfunction and their unbelievable gall.” If the Kings had “committed owners, their old barn of a home would sell out nightly.” It is “disgraceful that the league has allowed the Maloofs to mismanage the Kings for as long as they have through their absentee ownership.” The Maloofs “all but commission signs that say ‘Go away, fans.’” Breton: “All roads lead back to the same reason the Kings are an ever-churning rumor mill of imminent departure, playing in a faded building for six straight losing seasons: The Maloofs are the worst owners in the NBA” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/10). CBSSPORTS.com’s Ken Berger offered “some tough-love advice" for Sacramento. Berger: "Give up. Bid the Kings and the Maloofs and the NBA good riddance." Berger: "Do not invest another dime of your money or ounce of your passion in a team that is, at the end of the day, little more than a dilapidated storefront for owners who could not get out of their own way. ... If and when this deal to send the Kings to Seattle is finalized, the people of Sacramento should consider the Kings extinct as of today. Enough money and loyalty and sweat and emotion have been invested, spent and lost. No more” (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/9).
CHANCE FOR STERN TO RIGHT A WRONG: SPORTING NEWS’ Sean Deveney wrote it would be “easy to say that the Maloofs have turned the Kings into a circus, but the circus probably attracts a bigger crowd.” News that a deal to move to Seattle is close “could be a serious relief” for NBA Commissioner David Stern. Stern “knows full well” that the potential Seattle deal “offers the best chance to erase one of the black marks on his legacy as commissioner.” He “can’t let it pass” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 1/9). CBS Sports Network’s Roger Lodge said, "The city of Seattle deserves a team since (Clay) Bennett swiped the Thunder -- the Sonics -- and moved them to Oklahoma City, which we all know was going to happen” ("Lead Off," CBS Sports Network, 1/9).
The Maple Leafs' new ownership conglomerate of Bell Media, Rogers Communications and MLSE Chair Larry Tanenbaum yesterday "pulled the plug" on team President & GM Brian Burke, "shocking the hockey world," according to James Mirtle of the GLOBE & MAIL. The "curious timing of the decision came after months of soul searching by new ownership." MLSE President & COO Tom Anselmi said that ownership came to a "conclusion that Burke’s bombastic leadership style was no longer a good fit." Anselmi then "officially appointed" Senior VP/Hockey Operations Dave Nonis the 14th GM of the franchise. Burke "will be kept in an advisory position for the time being, but Anselmi made clear he will have no role in hockey operations." It is "widely expected Burke will only hold such a role until he found another job with either the NHL’s head office or another franchise." In explaining the timing of the decision, Anselmi said that the ownership change and lockout "complicated matters." He said, "There's no good time to do this. Once you get to a decision on something like this, it’s really only fair to act upon it. ... You can’t fake it" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/10). Anselmi: "I don’t think the decision has happened overnight. I think this is a conversation that the board and myself have been having for several months that ultimately came to a decision recently. ... It was really looking for a different voice and a different leadership approach." The GLOBE & MAIL's Mirtle & Robertson in a front-page piece note despite the Leafs' "poor record" under Burke, the firing "caught the players and staff by surprise." That shock "played out at the afternoon press conference at the Air Canada Centre." A "subdued" Nonis appeared to be "emotional after he was introduced as GM and sat next to Mr. Anselmi" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/10). Nonis said that he was "shocked by the decision to fire Burke." He "thanked Burke for 'everything he has done for this organization.'" Nonis said, "We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go" (TORONTO STAR, 1/10).
NONIS SHAKEN? Nonis admitted that his style "will likely be much different than Burke's." Nonis: "If there’s one difference (between us) it’s I would say I’m a little more patient in how I approach things." The GLOBE & MAIL's Mirtle in a separate piece writes, "The plus side of Nonis taking over is that he was already intimately involved in hockey operations." He has the "reputation of being bright and well reasoned" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/10). TSN's Jonas Siegel wrote Nonis was "clearly shaken and worn sitting beside Anselmi at the incredibly awkward news conference" (TSN.ca, 1/9). YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote Nonis "looked as grim as imaginable during the Wednesday presser," like he had "lost a mentor, a friend, a father" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/9).
WHAT'S NEXT FOR BURKE? ESPN.com's Craig Custance looked at "Four Possibilities For Brian Burke's Future," two of which are to "join the league offices" or "run another team." Yesterday's news "may have been a stunner for Burke, but there are certainly plenty of good options for him going forward" (ESPN.com, 1/9). The GLOBE & MAIL's MacDonald & Blair write to his critics, especially those of his tenure in Toronto, Burke "is the guy who talked a good game but failed to deliver." But outside of hockey, in Toronto -- and other cities like Vancouver -- a "legion of fans applaud his work in countless charities, where they say he is a tireless supporter of gay/lesbian rights, soldiers fighting overseas, hospital boards, and rink construction in his Leaside neighbourhood, not to mention a staunch critic of bullying among youth" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/10). The header of an online TORONTO STAR story read, "Fired Brian Burke Cheered By Fans For Gay Rights Support" (THESTAR.com, 1/9).
HOW IT'S PLAYING: TSN's Bob McKenzie said, "Not very often I'm at a loss for words, but today I am." ESPN/TSN's Pierre LeBrun said, "For him to be fired before a single game played is nothing short of shocking, especially given his role in the CBA negotiations" (TSN.ca, 1/9). Leafs RW Mike Brown said, "It's definitely weird timing." In Toronto, Brendan Kennedy writes the team's execs "appear to have lost their appetite for Burke’s bluster, especially as the team’s on-ice fortunes continued to sag." Anselmi said, "The news is coming as a shock but the decision didn't happen overnight" (TORONTO STAR, 1/10). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts writes Burke's "abrasive and loud public style long rubbed BCE and Rogers suits the wrong way." Tanenbaum, who informed Burke of the decision yesterday morning, "seemed as gobsmacked as everyone else." Burke "deserved better than this" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/10). The CBC's Elliotte Friedman wrote he had never seen Tanenbaum "try to avoid talking to the media like he did" yesterday in N.Y. at the BOG meetings. He "looked more uncomfortable than ever." Tanenbaum: "This was the decision of the (MLSE) board. And I'm on the board." Friedman: "But his heart wasn't in it with his friend fired hours earlier" (CBC.ca, 1/9).
THE HISTORY: The GLOBE & MAIL's Mirtle & Robertson report days after acquiring the team, the new owners met with Burke "to hear his plans for revitalizing the losing franchise." The first impression "did not go well." Sources said that execs of Bell and Rogers found Burke "defensive and brusque -- difficult to work with" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/10). In Toronto, Damien Cox reported at least half of the new MLSE ownership team in Bell "was seemingly prepared to fire Burke during the summer." Bell President & CEO George Cope "reportedly disliked Burke's management style and brash public comments, and thought he was 'bad for the brand'" (THESTAR.com, 1/9). The NATIONAL POST's Bruce Arthur cites sources who said that the decision to fire Burke "was made months ago." It was a "clinical corporate bloodletting, not a moment of fury." The new owners essentially "didn't trust Burke" and sources said that at least one board member "complained when Burke used profanity in a board meeting" (NATIONAL POST, 1/10).
WHY IT HAPPENED: In Toronto, Rob Longley wrote it was Burke's "style without substance that likely forced his new employers" to make the move. By the end, the team's new owners, with "their many platforms to amplify Burke's message -- had tuned out" (TORONTO SUN, 1/10). The CBC’s Tim Wharnsby wrote owners “learned over this time they needed somebody willing to work with them” (CBC.ca, 1/9). Anselmi: “This has nothing to do with Brian’s personal life.” In Toronto, Steve Simmons writes the move “does come back to image as much as it comes back to hockey.” And the image is one Leafs ownership “was uncomfortable with.” Ownership in the end “didn’t want Brian Burke as the face or the voice of their franchise anymore” (TORONTO SUN, 1/10). The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin writes the move to dismiss Burke might be "remembered as the requiem for an old school style of hockey executive being squeezed out by the billion-dollar demands of running a modern team." Dowbiggin: "The NHL has changed." With $100M contracts, owners no longer can "stand back and let their managers handle the money." GMs now manage "up." It has "become a buttoned-down corporate job more than ever in the NHL" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/10). Former MLSE President & CEO Richard Peddie, who hired Burke, said, “I think Brian is still the best general manager in the NHL. ... I’m disappointed for him. I wish he had more time” (NATIONAL POST, 1/10). Peddie: “There were times I did suggest that (Burke tone it down). ... He‘s pulled in his horns a lot lately. He hasn’t been as combative publicly. I think he was listening to people” (TORONTO STAR, 1/10).
WHAT IT MEANS ABOUT MLSE: The GLOBE & MAIL’s Jeff Blair writes MLSE is “no longer run by a benign pension plan; it is controlled by two media conglomerates that have signalled they intend to play an activist role on the MLSE board, with a clear sense of image and product.” Still, it is “hard not to see Wednesday’s move as a positive sign.” The “simple fact is the people who own MLSE thought they deserved better than what Burke had delivered” (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/10). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek writes Burke's removal is "further proof that the corporate image makers hold sway" at MLSE. Burke "was loud and brash and unkempt and opinionated." Under the new corporate umbrella, which features a marriage of "curious partners" -- Rogers, Bell and Tanenbaum -- it "wasn't going to work" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/10). In Toronto, Joe Warmington writes there is “no reason Burke had to lose his dream job like this,” but that he did “was his own doing.” As the pressure of “this very difficult job of being the Maple Leafs’ GM mounted, it seemed as if he melted down” (TORONTO SUN, 1/10). But ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside wrote the “fact that it took from the time the ownership group took over in August to four days before the start of a post-lockout training camp illustrates in many ways why MLSE has such a track record of making money but apparently knows nothing about putting a winning organization on the ice.” Burnside: “Disgraceful. Too many suits and not enough hockey sense” (ESPN.com, 1/9). In Vancouver, Cole & Pap write the move is “a piece of lunacy entirely consistent with the standard established long ago by the tall foreheads" at MLSE. Burke was “not the corporate type,” as he was “too blustery, too blunt” (VANCOUVER SUN, 1/10). YAHOO SPORTS’ Nicholas Cotsonika wrote this is “another corporate ownership group giving another example of how to do hockey business backward” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/9). SI.com’s Stu Hackel wrote in the NHL’s “biggest hockey-oriented market, the Leafs -- the league’s most lucrative franchise -- continue to be an embarrassment, now having missed the playoffs seven straight seasons” (SI.com, 1/9).
The Chargers yesterday signed Tom Telesco to a four-year deal to serve as GM, making the 40-year-old former Colts VP/Football Operations the "youngest to assume the position in Chargers history," according to Michael Gehlken of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Telesco said, "We will get to work right now. I’m probably going to stay in town and have my wife send some clothes so we can get this ... underway." Gehlken notes the team's "four-man interview committee was said to have walked away talking amongst themselves about how impressive he was." Chargers President & Chair Dean Spanos was "head of the selection group and had authoritative say in adding Telesco." Former Packers GM Ron Wolf was retained as a consultant with Chargers Exec VP/Football Operations and Assistant GM Ed McGuire and Dir of College Scouting John Spanos "rounding out the team." Telesco will lead them in the "search to find Norv Turner's replacement as coach." Telesco recently "finished his 15th season with the Colts and first in the VP position." He "previously served" as Dir of Player Personnel for six years before a '12 promotion. He was the "top adviser" to GM Ryan Grigson (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/10). In San Diego, Kevin Acee writes Chargers Dir of Player Personnel Jimmy Raye was the "favorite" to fill the GM vacancy. However, the first interview stop "for Spanos & Co. was Indianapolis, and that is where the thinking began to shift." Telesco "blew the Chargers search team away that first meeting and continued to do so right through his second interview on Tuesday night." Telesco got his "start as an intern" in Buffalo when former Bills, Panthers and Colts GM Bill Polian was running that organization's football operations. Telesco said, "Everything I’ve learned in how to build a football roster and a football organization is from Bill" (SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE, 1/10).
NEW KID IN TOWN: ESPN.com's Bill Williamson wrote the Chargers "badly need an influx of outside perspective." Had Raye been hired, the front office would have "largely remained the same outside of the firing" of former GM A.J. Smith. The Chargers "need a new set of eyes. ... They need a new philosophy." With new ideas and experience from another franchise, Telesco can "breathe new life into this program" (ESPN.com, 1/9). In San Diego, Nick Canepa writes there is a "sea change coming to this organization." Maybe not "much change in basic philosophy, but in how football business perhaps all business is run." Telesco is "qualified, at least on paper, and certainly by reputation as a football man." But there are "smart people who interview poorly and unqualified candidates who interview brilliantly" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/10).
The NFL Panthers yesterday named Giants Senior Personnel Analyst Dave Gettleman "as the third general manager in the team's history," according to Joseph Person of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and a team spokesperson said that it "might be next week before Gettleman is formally introduced in Charlotte." Gettleman is one of four "known external candidates to interview for the post, all of whom had extensive scouting experience." He "inherits a Panthers' team" that is $16M over next year's projected salary cap. Giants President & CEO John Mara said that he had "mixed emotions about Gettleman's news." Mara said, "Dave certainly deserves to be a general manager, but I am very sorry to lose him." Former Bills, Panthers and Colts GM Bill Polian "gave Gettleman his start as a scout" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/10). The AP's Steve Reed noted Gettleman "spent 13 seasons with the Giants as their director of pro personnel prior to taking over last year" as Senior Personnel Analyst (AP, 1/9).
GETTING THEIR MAN: ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas noted Gettleman might be "wise to learn from the mistakes" of former Panthers GM Marty Hurney, who was fired in October. The Panthers are in a "brutal salary-cap situation," so Gettleman is going to have to become a "salary-cap wizard in a hurry because he’s going to have to trim" about $15M between now and the start of free agency in March. He is going to "have to be a jack-of-all trades and pull things together quickly because this team hasn't won since 2008 and patience is wearing very thin" (ESPN.com, 1/9). In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen writes Gettleman is a "worker, a grinder and an NFL lifer" who fits the "Panthers prototype." The team's "trajectory needs to be changed." The Panthers entered the NFL in '95 and have "yet to have consecutive winning seasons." This is why Gettleman is "one of the most essential hires" Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson has made (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/10).
The MLB Rangers announced higher ticket prices for the '13 season, and team COO Rick George said that the increases “will allow the Rangers to cover a club payroll that has exceeded $120 million and improvements that have been made" to Rangers Ballpark of Arlington, according to Jeff Wilson of the FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM. Most of the Rangers' "price hikes for non-premier games were for $4 or less,” and cash parking “also jumped from $12 to $15.” George said, “When we look at increasing any ticket prices, we do it carefully and with a lot of consideration and with a lot of internal discussion.” Wilson noted the Rangers also "introduced dynamic pricing for Upper Reserved seats.” Ticket prices for each game will be “based on supply and demand, and the Rangers are hopeful that more fans will show up for games that are typically box-office duds.” George said that “more than half of the 30 MLB teams use dynamic pricing” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/9).
IMPROVEMENTS ON TRACK: Rangers Exec VP/Ballpark Operations Rob Matwick said that Rangers Ballpark improvements are “on track for a March 22 completion, though none of the changes had been completed Tuesday.” He added that work crews have been “maintaining a six-day work week" to get the $12M project completed before the team's April 5 home opener (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/9).
In Baltimore, Kevin Cowherd writes from a “PR standpoint, the Orioles are blowing it big-time with their fans.” If the Orioles “basically sit on their hands” while other teams in their division “make themselves better, well, what kind of message does that send to the fans?” Cowherd: “Where are the significant upgrades to make this team even better in 2013? … What are they doing with all that MASN money?” If the Orioles “stand pat, they're only fooling themselves” (Baltimore SUN, 1/10).
RISING PHOENIX: BLOOMBERG NEWS’ Scott Soshnick reported the Suns “received 365 refund demands, about 2 percent” of the attendance in the team’s Dec. 6 game against the Mavericks. Suns PR Manager Casey Taggatz said the number is “well below” what management had built in as an estimate. Taggatz said, “As a whole, the results have been overwhelmingly successful.” The Suns drew 17,517 fans to the game and Taggatz said that concession revenue that night was “up 21 percent over the average of previous games” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 1/7).
CARING FOR A ROSE: In Portland, Jason Quick noted the Trail Blazers’ sellout streak “ended at 195 this season, but that hasn’t stopped the Rose Garden from maintaining its homecourt advantage.” The team has “sold out nine of their 16 home games" and average attendance of 19,759 ranks fourth in the NBA behind the Bulls, Mavericks and Heat. Attendance has been “encouraging considering what appeared to be a downward trend early in the season.” The end to the streak was also the “start of the Blazers’ eight-game winning streak.” Since then, they have “sold out three games, and had 19,000-plus in all but one game” (OREGONLIVE.com, 1/8).
MAKING THE GRADE: In Miami, Greg Cote conducted a poll to grade South Florida’s sports ownership and found the Heat’s Micky Arison received an “A” from 90% of the voters, with Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria receiving an “F” from 84% and Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross receiving an “C” from 43% of the voters (MIAMIHERALD.com, 1/9).