SBD/May 1, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson yesterday said that the group bidding to keep the NBA Kings in the city “will push to put a finalized sales deal in front of” the NBA BOG when it meets in mid-May, according to a front-page piece by Bizjak, Lillis & Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Johnson said that he and the group “think the path is now clear for them to negotiate a deal” with Kings Owner the Maloof family, which “wants to sell its majority stake in the team.” The Seattle group, led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, has “vowed to continue the fight and plans to take its case” to the BOG at its meeting. The Maloof family has “refused to make any comment this week on whether they are willing to sell to the Sacramento group, whose bid they’ve repeatedly dismissed as inferior.” The NBA finance committee under league rules “retains the right to vote on its recommendation on the Seattle sale at some point before May 15, but no vote has been scheduled.” Sources this week said that the Sacramento group has “agreed to put 50 percent of the $341 million it’s offering for the Maloofs’ controlling interest in the team into an escrow account by Friday.” The idea is to “show that the group has the money to seal the deal, and convince the Maloofs that its bid is serious.” The Sacramento bid is “estimated at” $341M, or $16M “less than the Seattle offer” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/1).
HANSEN'S OPTIONS: In Seattle, Bob Condotta cites a source as saying that Hansen “might try to convince the league to let him buy the Kings and operate them in Sacramento while the city gets its arena proposal settled.” If it “ran into problems, he could then try to relocate the team to Seattle.” Sources said that Hansen “at the least” would “want to make the league publicly deny him the right to buy the team.” A source said that the Maloof family “would still push the league to approve the sale to Hansen’s group.” Approval would “require yes votes from 23 of 30 owners.” A source said that Hansen was “still trying to determine exactly what happened Monday.” One thing that “apparently caught him by surprise was the fact that only the Relocation Committee voted -- a committee that is chaired by former Sonics owner Clay Bennett -- and not the 12-member Finance/Relocation Committee, as had been expected.” A source said that Hansen “could also just be attempting to stay in the game should something happen to throw the Sacramento bid off-course from now until the BOG vote” (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/1). Also in Seattle, Danny Westneat writes Seattle “finds itself scorned by the NBA a second time in five years.” The question “now is: How should we respond?” Hansen “seems to realize that just being cooperative and well-financed is a snoozer to the NBA.” In a “snake pit, you don’t get noticed unless you bare some fangs of your own.” Westneat: “The nicey-nice is over. It feels like this is about to get uglier. As it usually must in the National Blackmail Association” (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/1).
A BOW TO THE CROWD: In Salt Lake City, Gordon Monson wrote “champions of a free market” might “have some problems with the greater relocation committee’s vote.” But sports “is -- should be -- a little different than other realms of business.” It is “still business, at times cold and cruel, about tall stacks of cash, but customers of more routine businesses don’t cheer their guts out for the success of the product line, don’t wave pennants or buy and wear gear with company logos on it.” They do not “fill arenas flowing with emotion and community pride, or get daily coverage of their successes and failures splashed all over pages of sports sections.” A lack of enthusiasm for the Kings “shouldn’t be held against the fans, who have shown in the past they will support a competitive franchise.” They are “fans, not fools.” The relocation committee’s vote was “simply the right thing to do” (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 4/30).
THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN: SI's Lee Jenkins writes, "What separates the NBA from the NFL and MLB is its commitment to mid-sized cities that otherwise could never have attracted franchises." The NBA "went to San Antonio and Salt Lake City, Portland and Orlando, Memphis and Oklahoma City, and thrived in each as the only show in town." Seattle is "bigger than Sacramento," so it "might seem a better market." But the NBA "challenges such assumptions." From '85-86 to '07-08, when Seattle and Sacramento "both had teams, the Kings sold out 19 seasons even though they had winning records in only nine of them." The SuperSonics "sold out six seasons even though they were .500 or better in 16." Over 23 seasons, Sacramento "outdrew Seattle 20 times" (SI, 5/6 issue).
Hurricanes Owner Peter Karmanos yesterday said that the fact he has put the ECHL Florida Everblades and Germain Arena "on the market should not be interpreted as an indication he wants or has plans to divest all of his hockey interests," according to Chip Alexander of the Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER. Karmanos said, "I like owning the Hurricanes." He added, "I keep saying we have one of the best arena deals in the league. We have one of the best facilities. We’re in one of the fastest-growing markets in the country. Why would we ever move?” The sale of the Everblades, the ECHL affiliate for the Hurricanes, was "announced late Monday." The 7,000-seat multi-purpose arena in which the Everblades play "also is being sold." When the deal is "completed, it will end Karmanos’ 15-year ownership of the team." Karmanos: “It was fun winning the championship last year. I just couldn’t get down to Florida as much as I would have liked. ... I’m 70 years old. I’d like to focus most of my energy on the Hurricanes.” Alexander notes Karmanos retains "majority ownership of the Hurricanes but has sold off a percentage of the team to investors" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 5/1). In Raleigh, Luke DeCock writes after winning the Stanley Cup in '06, Hurricanes President & GM Jim Rutherford has "earned the right to call his shot." The decision to leave his position "should be his -- and it will be." Karmanos is "never going to fire Rutherford." But after the Hurricanes have missed the playoffs six times in seven seasons since winning the Cup, Rutherford "has to ask himself: Is he still the right man for the job?" While he "operates under the considerable financial constraints imposed by Karmanos," Rutherford "bears ultimate responsibility for several persistent and perennial failures" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 5/1).
Prospective Coyotes Owner Renaissance Sports & Entertainment's "sole focus is on turning the team around financially and keeping it in Glendale for the long term," according to a source cited by Craig Morgan of FOXSPORTSARIZONA.com. The source said that the business plan by RSE is "extensive and focuses on increasing ticket sales, season tickets, corporate sponsorships, suites, realigned partnerships and proper expense management to achieve break-even status within the early years of ownership." A source said that the Coyotes "lost between" $10-15M last season. The group also would be "aided by added provisions in the league’s new collective bargaining agreement that help teams in emerging markets by removing some of the revenue sharing restrictions placed on them in the previous plans." It is "difficult to gauge how real the possibility" of an announcement of a purchase agreement next week is, "especially since at least two other ownership groups still believe they are in the running," including the groups led by Capstone Affluent Strategies Founder & CEO Darin Pastor and former Sharks CEO Greg Jamison (FOXSPORTSARIZONA.com, 4/29).
NO GUARANTEE: NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly on Monday said that there is "basically no guarantee for either the short- or long-term future of the Coyotes." He said that he "thinks it’s 'better than 50-50' that the Coyotes will be playing in Phoenix next season." However, Daly said, "It’s not set in stone.” THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell noted Daly also "acknowledged the league is aware of the alternatives it has at its disposal and realizes it may have to consider them at some point in the near future." Daly: “I think you get to a point. ... Look, we’ve tried really hard to keep this franchise here and there is a reason we do that, because we think this club could be successful given the right circumstances. So far we haven’t been successful in finding a buyer and at some point you have to make tough decisions. Are we getting to that point? If this doesn’t play out the way we’d like it to play out, maybe" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 4/30).
Stars Owner Tom Gaglardi this week "made the right decision to clean house" when he fired GM Joe Nieuwendyk and hired Red Wings Assistant GM Jim Nill to fill the position, according to Tim Cowlishaw of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Gaglardi was "quiet for most of his first 18 months as owner, but as he watched with patience, he didn’t see a management team in place with the experience and the determination to make all the right moves." The fact that Gaglardi did "not hire his friend," former Maple Leafs President & GM Brian Burke, "says something." The hiring of Burke "would have made much bigger headlines nationally and in Canada." Gaglardi is "well aware his team needs to create a buzz." But he was "convinced there is not a harder worker in the game with greater knowledge of players at all levels than Nill." Gaglardi "wanted him to bring a sense of what works in Detroit to Dallas" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/1). Nill said that he "expects to interview key people in the organization before making any official announcements." He said, "Everything has happened very quick here, and I’m going sit down with all of the staff and we’re going to go through everything. It’s going to be about a two-week process, and we’ll make decisions from there. But right now, we’re going to be very patient with decisions, we’re not going to rush through anything. I’ve been sitting on the outside. I need to get on the inside, and we’ll go from there" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/30).
CHANGING STRATEGY: Nill said that he received "numerous offers from other teams throughout his career in Detroit", but it was Gaglardi and Stars President & CEO Jim Lites’ "pitch that sold him on leaving for Dallas." In Ft. Worth, Travis Brown noted operating under a new CBA, Nill "believes solid drafting and player development are the only ways to stay competitive in the continually changing NHL." Over the next two weeks, Nill will "get to know all of the current Stars staff and said that only after that would he begin to make decisions on who will remain next season, most notably head coach Glen Gulutzan." Before the '13-14 season starts, there "undoubtedly will be change in and around the Stars’ organization, 'cultural' or otherwise" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/30). Also in Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote Nill has to "change what has troubled this team for so long few can remember -- no one pays enough attention to put pressure on this team to win." No one is "calling anybody out." The Stars' "core fan base is so small and loyal that it’s not big enough to make a dent, and the members of the media that say a word make even less of an impression." This "problem is not specific" to the Stars. Engel: "A lot of teams in non-traditional markets fight it. People don't care enough to be mad." Gaglardi "realizes a malaise is draped over the team." Gaglardi: "The bar has to be higher. ... The danger is if you don't win and let it go on for too long it can get tougher. You have to raise the bar" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 4/29).
In London, Ian Herbert reports EPL club Manchester City "will use a new Abu Dhabi-owned" MLS franchise in N.Y. to "nurture future Premier League stars, after struggling to develop home-grown talent through their own academy in the past five years." Gaining a foothold in the U.S. is "seen as a solution to the problem of finding a strong level of competition" for Man City's "promising reserve players." One of the "major obstacles to developing young players that City are experiencing is the struggle to get those youngsters out on loan to lower division English sides for competitive play, because those sides can no longer afford to pay them" (London INDEPENDENT, 5/1).
LOW-RENT DISTRICT? DC United Managing Partner Jason Levien said that "despite a 'deep level of disappointment' about a league-worst start," the club "does not plan to make a coaching or a management change but is prepared to upgrade the roster." Levien said, "It's been painful. However, we are also cognizant we are only eight games into the season. It does force you to re-evaluate your personnel and your plan, and part of that may mean making moves. But we don't want to make knee-jerk decisions either" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 4/29).
THROWBACK LOOK: In K.C., Tod Palmer reported MLS Sporting KC on Saturday "debuted a new uniform, the long-rumored third kit." The alternate jersey "features a black top with an argyle pattern -- using the club's primary colors, Sporting blue and dark indigo -- across the front and black shorts, which pays homage to the club's first four [seasons] when the then-Wiz/Wizards" wore black uniforms from '96-99. The logo of the club's jersey sponsor, Ivy Funds, "runs underneath the patterned diamonds" (K.C. STAR, 4/28).
DOUBLING UP: In Philadelphia, John George reported fans are "spending more money at Philadelphia Union home matches this season," more than "double from last year, thanks in large part to the introduction of a third kit." The team has "sold more than 500 of the third kits since the start of the season, and sales of Bethlehem Steel FC merchandise -- which also includes scarves, T-shirts and hats -- represents about 20 of the [club's] total merchandise sales." Those sales helped the team record "an average per capita spending of $6.47" for its home opener in March, the "highest" among MLS clubs (PHILADELPHIA BUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/26 issue).
NFL Panthers Ticket Sales & Operations Dir Phil Youtsey said that a “new line of permanent seat licenses, or PSLs, has been introduced for the upcoming season.” In Charlotte, Erik Spanberg noted the new PSLs “sell for $1,000 each for 500 seats located in the upper-level corners of the stadium.” The cheapest seat licenses previously available “sold for $2,000; prices go as high as $20,000 per seat.” Accompanying season tickets “cost $390 annually, or $39 for eight regular-season games and two exhibitions.” Youtsey said that more than “half of the new seat licenses have sold, chiefly through online campaigns and billboards.” The Panthers “kept ticket prices the same for 2013, the third year in a row they weren’t increased” (BIZJOURNALS.com, 4/30). The Panthers continue to run ads offering PSLs and season tickets for $21 per month (THE DAILY).
HELLO, MY NAME IS...: In DC, Tim Craig noted City Council member David Grosso is “preparing to introduce a resolution calling on the Washington Redskins to change its name, perhaps to the Washington Redtails.” Grosso said that he “plans to pursue his non-binding resolution because the current name is ‘a derogatory, racist name.’” Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder and team officials have “largely avoided the debate, giving no indications that they are seriously considering such a change.” Grosso said that he “plans to formally introduce” the resolution in “a few weeks” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 4/30).
I NOMINATE: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes former Lakers coach Phil Jackson “should be” the team's president. Jackson “wouldn't draft the players or work the contracts,” as that is Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak's “expertise, but he could certainly recruit the best talent and motivate it once it arrived.” Even when Jackson “was on the bench, his best attribute was not calling plays, but establishing a championship culture.” After three consecutive early exits from the playoffs, “that culture could require some tweaking” (L.A. TIMES, 5/1).
RUSHING TO JUDGMENT? The NLL Edmonton Rush yesterday announced that it “has had preliminary discussions with the City of Saskatoon to relocate there.” But the team added, “No discussions have taken place for the past 30 days” (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 5/1).