SBD/February 20, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak yesterday "provided immediate clarity" on how late Lakers Owner Jerry Buss' passing "will affect the ownership structure," according to Mark Medina of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. Exec VP/Player Personnel Jim Buss "will remain" in the title he has "had in eight of his 15 years with the organization." Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss also will "keep her title ... a role she's had for the past 14 seasons." But there is "one significant change on who's in charge." Kupchak said, "I report to Jimmy Buss" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/20). Lakers G Kobe Bryant said that he "is 'very confident' the Lakers can maintain the same success" headed by Jim and Jeanie Buss. Bryant: "It's like following the greatest owner in sports. To match that or equal that is an impossible task. But I think, in their own way, they'll have success" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/20). In California, Jeff Miller writes the Lakers are a franchise "facing an uncertain future." The health of the relationship between Jim and Jeanie, "never mind its strength, has been in question for months." Moving forward, that "strain could affect everything from the top of the front office to the end of the bench." Kupchak yesterday said, "We'll see. There will be an adjustment period, but I don't anticipate there being a problem" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 2/20).
TAKING ON NEW RESPONSIBILITIES: In L.A., David Wharton writes Lakers fans see Jim and Jeanie in control and "wonder if the kids can uphold a winning legacy." Jeanie already has "won respect with her intelligence and candor, but has previously focused on the business side of the franchise." Will she "exert more influence on basketball matters?" Jim has been a "constant lightning rod for criticism," and there remains questions about "what kind of leader" he will be. There is "no guarantee of success for an heir ascending to the throne, but there might be a few important checkpoints." No one can "deny that Jim and Jeanie have paid their dues, both working within the organization for more than a decade." But "adhering to an established script is only part of the deal, especially when the new owners follow a legend" (L.A. TIMES, 2/20). With Jim Buss running the basketball side of things, CBS Sports Network's Jim Rome said Lakers fans "better hope that he doesn’t run it right into the ground." Rome: "Based on what he’s done since taking over, there’s really no reason to think that he won’t” ("Rome," CBS Sports Network, 2/19).
FINDING THEIR VOICE: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes Jerry Buss' presence "was a good feeling for everyone, and the fact that he's gone now has instantly become the most frightening development of the modern Lakers era." He was the "Lakers' voice," and it is uncertain who will fill that void. Attention has "already been focused to the potential front-office mess in his wake." Where the Lakers were "once one kingdom led by a single benevolent leader, there are now two territories run by potentially feuding siblings." There will be "no problem if Jerry Buss left a clear succession plan that would delineate lines of power and allow the family to operate the team without constant controversy." But, until "then, there exists only a framework that doesn't seem workable." The "one-voice culture needs to continue." And, it is "clear, that voice needs to belong to Jeanie Buss." This is "not another rip job of Jimmy, a basketball novice." But Jim has "been around the team only for several years, and his relative inexperience is a poor complement to his stubbornness, which has led to several bad decisions." Plaschke: "This is, instead, about the coronation of Jeanie" (L.A. TIMES, 2/20).
BIG SHOES TO FILL: SI.com's Ian Thomsen wrote Jerry Buss was the "most important owner in the modern era of professional sports." Buss' leadership of the Lakers "set standards that exist to this day, and he did so in two bookending ways." Buss "demanded that his stars be held accountable for the team's results." He "defined the standards for the modern star," and he "understood how to promote them while encouraging their individuality." It is "not going to be easy for his family to uphold that dual standard." It requires a "kind of ruthless wisdom that Jim Buss ... has not had enough time to fulfill" (SI.com, 2/19). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jeremy Gordon wrote when Buss died Monday "there was a real sense that the NBA had lost a singular figure, one who helped shepherd the league through multiple incarnations and era toward the product it is today" (WSJ.com, 2/19). FORBES' Kurt Badenhausen wrote under the header, "Lakers' Jerry Buss Leaves Legacy As The NBA's Greatest Owner" (FORBES.com, 2/18).
BEST OF THE BEST? The Tribune Co. discussed who the best owner in professional sports is. The L.A. Times' Ben Bolch nominated Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban, as he "pampers his players, speaks his mind and is always looking for ways to improve and innovate." The Hartford Courant's Jeff Otterbein picked Patriots Owner Robert Kraft, as "year in and year out, the Patriots are a playoff team, so the fans get a winner." They also "get an experience when they go" to Gillette Stadium. Otterbein: "The Patriots, for so long so inept, are now an NFL brand, and Kraft has been the owner behind that." The Allentown Morning Call's Jeff Schuler picked Steelers Owner the Rooney family, as it is "tough to find anyone in Pittsburgh who complains about the management of the franchise on or off the field" (LATIMES.com, 2/19).
The Ravens will raise ticket prices at M&T Bank Stadium for the '13 season, their "first increase in four years and their sixth since their downtown stadium opened in 1998," according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore SUN. Ravens Senior VP/Public & Community Relations Kevin Byrne said that season-ticket holders will "see an average increase of 10 percent per ticket in the seating bowl area." That does "not include club or suite level seats, which will likely see a smaller increase from last season." Tickets will now "range from $62 to $140 for all seats not in the club or suite level." Gameday parking in the team’s 4,800 controlled spots "also will go up from $35 to $40 per car." Byrne said that the "revised prices will remain the same" through the '14 season, meaning there "will be no increase next year." Zrebiec reports the news comes at a time when the organization "is accelerating plans for improvements at M&T Bank Stadium." The plan will include "some changes to the stadium’s concession areas along with other renovations." They will be "done in two phases with the first phase being completed" prior to the start of the '13 preseason. Team and stadium officials will "unveil those plans later this week." The Ravens have "sold out every game at M&T Bank Stadium and they maintain a 3,000-person waiting list for season tickets" (Baltimore SUN, 2/20).
MORE CHEDDAR: In Green Bay, Richard Ryman noted the Packers are "raising ticket prices for the fourth consecutive year, keeping them in the middle of the NFL pack." The team yesterday said that it will "raise prices $2 to $5 for Lambeau Field bowl seating, depending on the section." Nearly "half of the seats will increase $2." The Packers "ranked 17th in the 32-team NFL last year in average ticket price." The average cost "for bowl seating in 2012 was $79.54." It will be $83.54 in '13, "including the new south end zone seats" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 2/19). In Milwaukee, Tom Silverstein noted the Packers are "close to completing" a $143M expansion of Lambeau Field, which includes "an additional 7,000 seats in the south end zone as well as space that will be used for premium seating." In addition, they have a $140.5M plan "to renovate the Atrium, which will be completed for the 2015 season." However, Packers Public Affairs Dir Aaron Popkey said that none of the ticket increases were made "with either renovation in mind because the cost is being covered in other ways" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 2/19).
The Cubs this season will slightly change the gameday presentation at Wrigley Field, including "more taped music, more stats on the LED board in right field and some tweaking of the seventh-inning stretch," according to Paul Sullivan of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Cubs Senior Dir of Marketing Alison Miller said that guest conductors will "continue to lead the seventh-inning stretch," a team tradition since Harry Caray's death in '98. However, Game & Event Production Manager Jim Oboikowitch said that the franchise will "try to make it Chicago-oriented with more former Cubs and celebrities who are Chicago-area natives and follow the team." He said, "I do think we want to get 'A listers,' so if there is that celebrity in a movie." Oboikowitch added, "But we want them to understand what they're coming to do -- not just come into the broadcast booth and (to promote something). They should know something about the Cubs." Sullivan notes organ music will still be utilized, but Oboikowitch said that the Cubs "will 'upgrade' the music with more modern, taped music, cutting down on the advertising announcements over the p.a. system." The Cubs are considering "having an introductory song at the start of games, as they did with Van Halen's 'Jump' in the '80s." Focus groups "showed fans liked the LED board in right field, though it seemed to be one non-stop display of ads." Oboikowitch said that the board will "feature 'new age' stats and more facts on players." Meanwhile, the Cubs have "chosen a local ad agency, after using one from Brooklyn" last season, and a new slogan "will be unveiled March 8" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/20).
PAYROLL GOING UP IN THE FUTURE? Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s David Kaplan noted Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts recently alluded to that fact the team "could not sustain the payroll that the Tribune Company used to operate under the current revenue models that the franchise has.” Kaplan asked Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein of the team's payroll, “Do you feel like ... you need more revenue to take it to where you think it's going to get to four years from now?” Epstein said, “I don't have much concern about where the payroll was in the past. My concern is building up the organization so we get healthier and healthier. We have that core of talent, so when we can justify when it's the right time putting the hammer down and getting the payroll to a level where we can keep all the players that we develop, we can add from the outside and we can look down on paper and have a team that should win 90-plus games every single year" (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 2/18).
Celtics F Kevin Garnett has been a top target of other teams as tomorrow's NBA trade deadline approaches, but any decisions by the Celtics regarding Garnett or F Paul Pierce “will transcend hoops strategy and take into account all the tickets, jerseys, and sponsorships they sell,” according to Callum Borchers of the BOSTON GLOBE. It is “impossible to fully quantify the business impact of a trade, but several economic indicators show just how lucrative the Pierce-Garnett pairing has been for the Celtics.” The current owners bought the team in ‘02 for $360M and by the ‘06-07 season, the team was “worth about” $367M. In the six years “since Garnett’s arrival, the Celtics have almost doubled in value” to $730M. In the six seasons “before Garnett started playing at the Garden, average attendance there was 16,554.” In the six seasons “since, it has been 18,541, a 12 percent increase.” The Celtics’ “popularity surge has enabled the club to command higher ticket prices.” The windfall “brought on largely by Garnett and Pierce only complicates the already knotty prospect of trading either one.” There is “no guarantee new players replacing Garnett, Pierce -- or both -- would deliver comparable financial rewards” for the Celtics ownership group. Clemson Univ. sports marketing professor Tom Baker said, “When you’ve got players who have been there as long as Pierce and, to some extent, Garnett, there’s certainly a negative impact from trading them” (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/20).