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SBD/January 22, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
There was a “celebratory feel in the statements from those involved” in the sale of the NBA Kings to a Seattle group headed by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, but there also was “caution that a few significant hurdles remain,” according to a front-page piece by Condotta & Miletich of the SEATTLE TIMES. The sale of the team by Kings Owner the Maloof family "still must be approved in April” by the NBA BOG, which could also “hear a counteroffer” from Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. Johnson is “attempting to put an ownership group together to keep the team in Sacramento.” The team to relocate for next season must “file notice to do so” by March 1. In addition, an environmental-impact study on the proposed new arena “must be completed, and there are two lawsuits attempting to block the arena.” However, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn “sounded confident none of that would get in the way of the eventual return of the NBA.” Condotta & Miletich note Hansen reportedly “bought a 65 percent share of the team, with the team valued” at $525M. That would put the Hansen group’s purchase “at roughly” $340M. But Johnson is “thought likely to unveil details of a new ownership group that could match the Seattle offer and also build an arena in Sacramento that could allow the team to stay where it has played” since ‘85. Johnson will be “hoping to repeat what he did in 2011, when he was able to help convince the NBA not to let the Maloofs relocate the team to Anaheim, Calif.” But many national NBA analysts “portrayed those efforts as a longshot” (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/22). NBA TV's David Aldridge notes it is "conceivable" that Hansen could buy the team, and "if the league decides that they want him to stay there and get an arena built in Sacramento it could happen." Aldridge: "But I think that’s a long shot” (“NBA GameTime,” NBA TV, 1/21). USA TODAY’s Roger Yu reports if the deal is completed, Ballmer would be “the richest owner in the NBA,” with a reported net worth of $15.9B (USA TODAY, 1/22).
SACTO NOT DONE YET: In Seattle, Bob Condotta writes Sacramento's "hopes lie now" with the battle that Johnson “promises to continue to keep the Kings.” Johnson has “vowed that he will succeed in putting together an ownership group that can match Hansen's offer and also get an arena deal on track.” One potential member of the ownership group is 24-Hour Fitness co-Founder Mark Mastrov. AEG yesterday reiterated that it “would again take a role in helping build and run the arena, as had been agreed in the plan scuttled last year by the Maloofs.” Johnson late yesterday afternoon wrote on his Twitter account, "I keep getting asked do we still have a shot? You better believe it." But Condotta notes several media reports “indicated that shot is a half-court heave at the buzzer, at best” (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/22). In Sacramento, Bizjak, Kasler & Lillis note by “announcing a binding agreement” yesterday to sell its controlling interest in the Kings, the Maloofs have “forced Johnson to quickly pull together a bid to keep the team in Sacramento.” Johnson and his advisers said that they have been “approached by at least three ultrawealthy investors." But it is “questionable whether the league would reject the Seattle deal, which puts a record price tag on an NBA team.” Kings limited partner John Kehriotis, who owns 12% of the team, said the potential record-setting price for the team is “probably the only reason” the Maloofs are selling (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/22). But CSNBayArea.com's Ray Ratto said, "Kevin Johnson can give the speech of his life and it’s going to make zero difference.” Stern is allowing Johnson to speak to the NBA BOG because Stern “doesn’t want to have his fingerprints on another team leaving." Ratto: "He wants to appear to be the guy who says, ‘Look, I’ll give you anything you want but I can’t control what the Maloofs want to do with this and I can’t control what the other 29 owners want to do’" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 1/21).
UNDER REVIEW: USA TODAY’s Sam Amick reports NBA Commissioner David Stern “could grant an extension on the relocation deadline if necessary as a way of allowing more time to have the board review the proposed sale.” It is “unknown if the review and likely approval would be at the board’s annual mid-April meeting or at another earlier time” (USA TODAY, 1/22). In N.Y., Belson & Beck report it is “unclear” whether the $340M purchase price “includes Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento or the money needed to pay off the Maloofs’ loans” from Sacramento and the NBA. The NBA BOG “would also need to set a relocation fee, which can be any number it chooses” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/22).
ONCE AND FUTURE HOMES: In Seattle, Nick Eaton wrote if the team moves, the newly renamed SuperSonics “will be playing for two to three years at KeyArena while a new venue is constructed.” KeyArena “needs to be updated so it can handle NBA games again.” Hansen said that KeyArena “needs refurbished locker rooms, better high-priced suites, an upgraded electronic ‘backbone’ for broadcast media, more TV camera positions, a refinished lower seating bowl and a number of other improvements.” McGinn said, “If the NBA approves it, I’m sure we will be able to figure out a way to make KeyArena ready for them.” Eaton noted Seattle “owns the old venue, and continues to be responsible for general upkeep” (SEATTLEPI.com, 1/21). In Seattle, Thompson & Heffter report two legal challenges “threaten construction of a new $490 million arena proposed for Sodo.” In addition, “potentially conflicting schedules” with current KeyArena tenants, including the Seattle Univ. men's basketball team, “have to be worked out.” Meanwhile, Seattle is “moving ahead with the environmental review and an area-wide freight-mobility study” for the new arena (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/22).
HOCKEY NEXT? The SEATTLE TIMES’ Condotta reports the acquisition of an NHL team -- which Hansen “has said throughout the process he would also like to have in Seattle -- remains uncertain.” AHL Chicago Wolves Owner Don Levin, who has said that he "would be interested in helping bring the NHL to Seattle,” said yesterday that he is “not currently involved in any efforts to procure a team to play in the new arena, or anywhere else.” Hansen has said that he "would not want to own an NHL team but would help facilitate efforts to bring one to Seattle” (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/22). ESPN.com’s Craig Custance asked what the Kings deal would “mean for the NHL’s future in Seattle?” A source said, “It’s really too early to say” (ESPN.com, 1/21).
SUPERSONICS RETURN: The SEATTLE TIMES reports SuperSonics “banners, trophies and retired jerseys remain in Seattle, and so will the team’s name.” Thunder Owner Clay Bennett “agreed not to use” the SuperSonics’ name and logos when he moved the franchise in '08 and to “turn over the rights to a new owner at no cost if the NBA approved a return to Seattle.” There is “no doubt Hansen, who grew up a Sonics fan in Seattle, will keep the name” (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/22). SI.com’s Ian Thomsen wrote under the header, “Return Of Sonics Good News For Everyone -- except Sacramento” (SI.com, 1/21).
BOON FOR WARRIORS? Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's Jim Kozimor said Warriors co-Owner Joe Lacob has to be “quietly pleased about this move,” because their “tentacles just spread out to the 916 area code.” Kozimor added, “You’ll now see Warriors games in Sacramento. There still is an appetite for the NBA and his piece of the pie just got a little bigger.” Ratto said a “little bigger but not a lot bigger.” Ratto: “This is not Golden State’s gain, this is Sacramento’s loss and Seattle’s big win” (“Chronicle Live,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 1/21).
The Brewers' payroll for the '13 season is "coming down for the first time" under Owner Mark Attanasio, and "by a significant amount," according to Tom Haudricourt of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. As it "stands now, the Brewers are projected to open the season with a payroll of just under" $80M, a decrease of more than 20% from a year ago. Multiple factors came "into play in reaching that reduced payroll level, including the desire of Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin to maintain financial flexibility for future personnel moves." Before Attanasio's group "bought the club, the Brewers were coming off a 2004 season in which budgetary cuts slashed payroll" to $27.6M. Since that season, the Brewers have "boosted their payroll annually." Those increases "finally pushed the Brewers' payroll to a record level at the start of the 2012 season." It is even "more important for teams in smaller markets such as Milwaukee to develop starting pitchers because the Brewers will never be able to match payrolls with the likes of the Dodgers, Phillies, Yankees, Tigers or Angels." And Attanasio, a "money manager and investor by profession, is not a believer in spending money just for show." He said, "A few seasons ago we learned that it is a mistake to set an off-season payroll number and then to spend the money simply because it was budgeted." Internally, the Brewers "have their 2013 payroll budgeted at" about $85M. Where it goes from "there remains to be seen." Attanasio's "modus operandi has been to reinvest money in the club in all areas, including personnel and improvements at Miller Park" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/22).
IN THE CARDS: In St. Louis, Derrick Goold notes MLB Cardinals ownership "acknowledges keeping its core together will be costly" and in the coming years "expects the payroll to rise accordingly." Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III said, "I do think our payroll will go up in the next couple years. I do. To maintain the club that we have and do what we think we need to do there is a good chance." The Cardinals had a payroll "near $115 million last season and expect about the same for this season with the increase." DeWitt left open the "possibility that the increase in payroll might be necessary to address a need from outside the organization" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/22).
The start of Spring Training is less than a month away, and the Marlins are “trying to persuade fans to come back and support a team that features one marquee star” in RF Giancarlo Stanton following the team's offseason payroll purge, according to Joe Capozzi of the PALM BEACH POST. Z Sports & Entertainment Managing Dir Scott Becher said that this year’s marketing efforts "might be a tougher challenge than the team had after dramatic roster changes that followed” the ‘97 and ‘05 seasons. The difference “now is that many longtime fans feel lied to and misled” by Owner Jeffrey Loria. Marlins Senior VP/Marketing & Event Booking Sean Flynn said, “Believe me, the team understands what the tone and the attitude of the market is." Flynn said that it is “too early to determine how the sour public reaction will affect regular-season ticket sales.” He added that he “didn’t have figures yet to indicate how many season ticket holders might not renew.” The Marlins will “roll out a 2013 marketing slogan in early February.” But Flynn said that the “overall approach won’t differ too much from previous campaigns” and that the marketing message “will not include ‘a direct response to’ the fans’ anger.” Flynn said that this year for the first time the team “will offer at every home game ‘a value-added component,’ which might include a ticket promotion or a giveaway.” Sports marketing experts said that given the “bad feelings toward the team in the community,” the Marlins would be “smart to focus their campaign on the experience of Marlins Park and on advertisements with individual players offering messages to fans.” The Marlins are “hoping fans will embrace their latest crop of young players." However, it “might take more than a year for the Marlins to make an impact on their attendance, which marketing experts predict will decrease from last year when they drew 2,219,444 total fans, an average of 27,400 per game, 18th in the majors” (PALM BEACH POST, 1/20).
BONE TO PICK: In Miami, Barry Jackson reported the Marlins' payroll “projects to” $32.5M, but the total is $45M “counting money they owe other teams from salary-dumping trades.” A source said that if Loria “doesn’t increase” the Marlins’ payroll in the coming months, MLBPA execs “plan to pursue the issue” with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. But the Marlins “privately believe MLB won’t force them to increase payroll” during ’13 or before ’14 “for a couple of reasons: They assert they lost $40 million last season and won’t make much, if anything, this season, because they expect attendance and associated ballpark revenue to plummet” (MIAMIHERALD.com, 1/20). CBSSPORTS.com's Dayn Perry wrote, "Normally, one would be foolish to imagine Bud Selig's siding against an owner, but -- as was the case last time -- he's also sensitive to the many team owners who are miffed by Loria's skinflint ways." While it is "nice to see that the MLBPA won't stand idly by while Loria and company rip off fans and the remainder of MLB, this kind of thing is likely to continue until he's drummed out of organized baseball" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/21).
Terry Francona's book about his time in Boston, titled "Francona: The Red Sox Years,” goes on sale today and it is “essentially a biography” of the manager with an emphasis on his time with the Sox, according to Peter Abraham of the BOSTON GLOBE. It is “not unexpected” that Fenway Sports Group co-Chair John Henry, Red Sox Chair Tom Werner and President & CEO Larry Lucchino are “targets for his ire.” Henry “comes across as cold and distant, refusing to acknowledge email from Francona in 2012 despite their close ties for eight years.” Lucchino is “cast as a bully who refuses to call Francona by his first name.” Werner is “painted as being hungry for attention to escape Henry’s shadow” (BOSTON.com, 1/21). In Boston, Chad Finn writes, "Much of the book’s advance buzz has focused on management’s backward emphasis on sizzle.” There are “other groan-inducing moments with his bosses.” When the Red Sox “balk at playing a makeup game during a grueling stretch in 2005, chairman Tom Werner, who is described as ‘constantly trying to assert his importance,’ inadvertently confirms that gate receipts are prioritized over what’s best for the team when he suggests to Francona, ‘Just play the backup guys.’” If there is a “recurring antagonist to Francona, it’s … Lucchino.” He “gets angry before the 2004 parade because the official championship sweat shirts have not-so-mysteriously disappeared.” At one point, Lucchino tells Francona, “I’ve been around a lot of baseball managers. You, by far, make me the most uncomfortable” (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/22).
FRANCONA DEFENDS BOOK: Francona appeared on ESPN's "SportsCenter" as he begins making the media round to promote the release. ESPN’s Hannah Storm said the book “is a real indictment of Red Sox ownership, that’s what is taking the headlines there, and I see you frowning a bit at my characterization so let's get into this.” Storm said Francona writes how Red Sox ownership’s “approach to putting a team together in later years had more to do with marketing and less to do with actual baseball and that mistakes were made that hurt the team.” Francona: “I don't know that I would ever say 'more.' The way my tenure there ended was very public and hurtful, and I think probably some of that comes out. If you read the whole book, I think it’s mostly meant to be kind of a lot of funny, touching stories about the eight years there. We also had to deal with the end because it was very public and kind of hurtful and I was disappointed on a lot of fronts. But it’s not meant to be just a poke at ownership. I think I actually said in there they’re good owners.” Francona said of ownership’s efforts to market the team, “I don't blame them for wanting to market the Red Sox. That’s their right and, shoot, I don’t blame them. I just always wanted to make sure they understood that when they asked me a question it was about baseball because that’s what I concerned myself with. If we didn't win I felt like all the other stuff was going to not be there, all the interesting Red Sox things on the periphery. My job was to try to win as many games as we could and I never wanted to forget that” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 1/22). SI last week ran an excerpt of the book, but Francona said that the magazine "selected owner-specific passages from different chapters in the book and strung them together, as if Francona has a chapter devoted to attacking the owners." He noted that the book is not set up that was and it "was not at all its point, or even its main point." Francona: "I’m guessing the publisher probably loved that Sports Illustrated chose the, I don’t know, ‘saucy’ part or ‘whatever sells’ part, but that’s not exactly what the book’s about and I think the people who read it will know that” (BOSTON HERALD, 1/20).
BALANCED OFFERING: In Boston, Colin Fleming writes while the book is “tough on team management, it manages to avoid reading like ax-grinding.” Francona “offers readers much about the team and the organization but he also shows us plenty about himself.” Perhaps “surprisingly to some,” the union between former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and Francona was “strong right up until the end, and Epstein’s voice is crucial to this narrative, especially as we come to see that here were two men on the side of a team, and a region, having to figure things out in spite of their bosses.” The bosses “will not like that revelation” (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/22).
The "anticipated backlash and fan resistance to hockey's return has been muffled at best" in the Twin Cities, as the Wild "welcomed the sixth-largest crowd in its history for the season opener Saturday," according to Chip Scoggins of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. An overflow crowd of 18,000-plus returned for Sunday's 1-0 victory against the Stars, and any "residual anger seems to have been washed away in the current of excitement over this team's star power and potential." Any lockout or work stoppage "stirs emotions, and the default setting for many fans is to threaten abandonment." But many more "return once the games begin again because deep down, they love the sport or their team." The Wild's cause is "helped by a few critical components." The excitement over this summer's signings of LW Zach Parise and D Ryan Suter "returned and the curiosity factor provided a boost at the box office." Hockey "matters in this market and hockey fans generally are a loyal bunch so getting them re-engaged didn't require as much effort as some other places." But the Wild "must continue to make amends and show fans that the team's remorse is authentic" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/22). In St. Paul, Tom Powers wrote if the first game "is any indication, this abbreviated season promises to be as unpredictable as it is frenetic." The Wild had season-ticket holders "all over the ice, like practice pucks, during the pregame ceremonies." Others were "featured on the video screen, and a bunch of them were even introduced individually." It all was "part of 'honoring' the fans for being there for the much-delayed opening faceoff" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 1/20).
ZACH ATTACK: In North Dakota, Brad Schlossman noted the Wild “introduced a new superstar this weekend” with Parise, and he has been “much easier for fans to love” than other stars who have played for the team. Marian Gaborik, who played for the Wild from '01-09, was the "only superstar" the team ever had, but fans were "never able to fully embrace" him. Meanwhile, there are “many factors that make Parise easy for fans to love.” He is a “native Minnesotan” and played college hockey “in front of many Wild fans” while at the Univ. of North Dakota. Parise “chose to return home during the offseason, despite the fact that other teams reportedly offered more money.” Fans also “enjoy players who aren’t afraid to mix it up or get their nose dirty, and Parise’s game is anything but perimeter.” He received a “huge ovation when he was announced” as the game’s No. 2 star after Sunday's win (GRAND FORKS HERALD, 1/21).
In Toronto, Joe Warmington writes the Maple Leafs "may not always have the best hockey team around," but as "proved over and over -- and once again Monday night -- we do have the best fans." The '13 version of team ownership and management "seem to really appreciate it." Last night's home-opener against the Sabres was "not about business or profit," it was about "apologies and forgiveness." The Maple Leafs "have said they are sorry and the fans have accepted." Last night was "for the fans -- free of charge." There were "free hot dogs ... free drinks and free tickets" (TORONTO SUN, 1/22). The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair writes it is "far too early to get a read on the post-lockout temperature of Leafs fans," but give "full credit to the organization: it struck an appropriate tone in the days leading up to the home opener" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/22).
PICK YOUR PRIZE: The EDMONTON SUN noted for the Oilers' home opener tonight against the Sharks, fans who win a drawing "will be able to select the jersey of an Oiler from any era and it will be signed for the fan by that player." If it is a current Oiler, the player also will "present the jersey to the fan." In addition, fans can win "one of 64 pictures with players, one of 4 sets of gold season seats for this season, one of 83 pairs of tickets for individual games, one of 2 pairs of tickets on the team charter for a road game and one of 14 locker room tours." Fans also will "get 55% discounts on food and 40% discounts on merchandise" (EDMONTONSUN.com, 1/21).
SIMPLE STATEMENT: In Columbus, Aaron Portzline notes the Blue Jackets "took the ice for pregame warm-ups last night wearing 'THANK YOU FANS' across the backs of their jerseys" before a standing-room-only crowd of 19,206 at Nationwide Arena (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 1/22).
NEW LEADERSHIP, NEW ATTITUDE: In Phoenix, Mike Sunnucks wrote new Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers and the City Council "are not as friendly as the city's previous leadership toward the big Phoenix Coyotes arena deal that was passed in November." It "doesn't look like" Weiers and the council will "try to rescind or change the $308 million arena deal that is waiting for prospective team buyer Greg Jamison." Glendale officials "do not have plans to rework the arena deal before Jan. 31 and are waiting to see if a sale of the team can be consummated." If Jamison "can't buy the Coyotes, it will be back to the drawing board for Glendale -- and it will renew the possibility of the hockey team relocating to a new market" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/18).