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SBD/May 20, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
The Astros on Friday named Reid Ryan as the club's new President of Business Operations, and Ryan "vows to focus on the business side and leave the baseball decisions" to GM Jeff Luhnow, according to Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Ryan said, “I kind of look at what my vision is. It’s really two things. It’s one, putting the fans first in everything we do. We’ve got to make sure we’re taking care of their best interests. If we take care of their best interests, they’ll take care of us." He added, "We also have to take care of the players." Ryan's father and Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan said, "He likes people, and he understands customer service. I think he brings a dynamic to this position that the fans are going to appreciate.” Ortiz wrote Reid Ryan is a "more charismatic leader" than his predecessor, George Postolos. Astros Owner Jim Crane said, "I think he’s a natural in front of the camera interviewing. He’s got a lot of experience at it. And quite frankly I’m new at it, and I’ve made a few mistakes and I’m going to continue to try to improve" (CHRON.com, 5/17).
CARRIAGE ISSUES: In Houston, David Barron noted Comcast SportsNet Houston is approaching its "ninth month without full distribution," and Crane said that the Astros/Rockets/NBC Sports Group partnership is "low on funds and faces 'tough decisions' about its future." Crane said that the net does "not face irreparable financial damage and will remain on the air, but the partners might have to make financial decisions if NBC is unable to increase revenue by closing carriage deals with national carriers such as DirecTV, Dish Network and AT&T U-verse or regional carriers such as Suddenlink and Time Warner Cable." Crane said, "Without coverage, the network is not making money." The Astros own 46.4% of the net while the Rockets own 30.9% and NBC 22.7%. Crane said that "all options are on the table" for the net and he will "assume the Astros' position on the four-member CSN Houston board that was held" by Postolos before his resignation last week (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/18). The HOUSTON CHRONICLE noted the Astros Foundation on Saturday partnered with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas for the "opening of three refurbished baseball fields at Ingranado Park" in southeast Houston (CHRON.com, 5/18).
FACE OF THE FRANCHISE: In N.Y., Bill Madden wrote the hiring of Reid Ryan is Crane's "effort to put a kinder, more human face on the organization." Ryan "figures to be a much more engaging front man for the Astros." But on the "other hand, Crane is said be one of the least liked owners in baseball and is only there because commissioner Bud Selig wanted to take care of his friend," former Owner Drayton McLane, by "getting him a record price for the Astros, and at the same time getting a new owner who, as part of the deal, had to agree to move the team to the American League." There was a "reason Selig rejected three previous Crane bids to buy a team" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/18).
The NBA Kings' sale to the Sacramento-based group led by Warriors Vice Chair Vivek Ranadive "won’t close for two more weeks," but the team still “effectively reopened for business” on Friday, according to Kasler, Lillis & Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Team employees "geared up to begin taking deposits for season tickets" tomorrow, and "put out a help-wanted notice for sales reps." Ranadive, who will become the Kings’ Managing Partner, plans to be in Sacramento this week to "promote ticket sales." He said that the NBA will "send out a temporary SWAT team of marketing executives to help." Ranadive said that his investor group was "already scrambling to make up for lost time." Other teams have "already launched season ticket drives." He said, "The (player) draft is coming up, we haven't sold any tickets, the arena needs to be repaired. We'll just have to move on multiple fronts simultaneously." He added that he will "proceed swiftly but cautiously on personnel decisions, on the basketball and business sides of the shop." Ranadive: "This is literally hours old. We're going to go and talk to everybody. Many of the people (working for the Kings) have great reputations." Kings co-Owner George Maloof said of selling the team, "It's a difficult day for us, but it's time for a new chapter." Maloof added that investing in the Kings was "profitable overall for the family." The Maloofs "paid about $66 million for their initial investment in the Kings in 1997." He said, "We had a couple of years, we lost our ass. But at the end of the day, we were a very profitable operation." Meanwhile, a new marketing slogan, "Long Live the Kings," is "expected to roll out" this week (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/18).
RANADIVE'S REIGN: In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin wrote Ranadive should "take a pick and a shovel, perhaps borrow a battering ram and a bulldozer, and obliterate the section of Sleep Train Arena that houses the team's basketball operations." New bosses "tend to hire people they know, so keep an eye on current Warriors." Ranadive has "yet to even reveal the extent of the anticipated overhaul," but his "track record within the software industry suggests someone who moves swiftly." He said, "We had a playbook with the Warriors. I can promise you we're going to have very, very, very smart people. We like to be innovative, think outside the box. But we don't have any preconceived notions about who can do what. We have very open minds" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/18). Tibco VP/Dir of Business Development Roger Craig, whose software company is led by Ranadive, said that along with Ranadive's "drive," he "brings a hands-on leadership style." The SACRAMENTO BEE's Lillis, Kasler & Bizjak noted he has been "known to pitch in on sales calls at Tibco." Craig said, "He hates to lose. I don't care if someone's grandmother is on the tennis court, he's going to beat that person." Ranadive on Friday said that his "first order of business is to ensure the sale of large numbers of season tickets for Kings games." Ranadive said that Kings fans should "expect to see him at every home game." He added that he also "plans to attend team practices regularly, suggesting he will transfer his hands-on business philosophy to his new role as lead owner of the Kings." Ranadive: "I'd like to under-promise and over-deliver (on the team's success). We're building for the future." Investors partnering with Ranadive "have their own colorful backgrounds." The team "includes Katrina Garnett, founder of an online social network that allows wealthy families to share travel experiences," and Arjun Gupta, who founded a venture capital firm. The late addition to the team is Raj Bhathal, whose company RAJ Manufacturing is "one of the largest swimwear companies in the country, with such brands as Hurley and Nautica" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/19).
MAIN PLAYERS Warriors Vice Chair Vivek Ranadive Qualcomm founders the Jacobs brothers RAJ Manufacturing Owner Raj Bhathal INVESTORS Venture capitalist Arjun Gupta 24 Hour Fitness Founder Mark Mastrov Leap Motion President & COO Andy Miller Former Facebook Chief Privacy Officer & general counsel Chris Kelly Developer Mark Friedman Silicon Valley entrepreneur Katrina Garnett
SEATTLE SLEUTHS: In Seattle, Nick Eaton asked why did former Kings bidder Chris Hansen "reportedly decline a refund of the $30 million deposit" he made on the franchise? The denial on the surface "could suggest Hansen is setting the scene for legal action against the league for blocking his contractually binding purchase agreement with the Maloof family," which would have seen the team relocated to Seattle. But there have been "numerous reports that Hansen does not plan to file any lawsuits." Perhaps Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who bid with Hansen, "wanted to show their appreciation to the Maloofs for sticking with the Seattle agreement through Wednesday’s NBA vote" (SEATTLEPI.com, 5/17). Also in Seattle, Bob Condotta wrote last week's decision to block the Kings' relocation to Seattle brought "one ray of light -- an apparent softening of the league's stance on expansion." In that "might rest the best hope for the NBA returning to Seattle anytime soon" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/19). ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton wrote it was hard for those in Seattle to "interpret the rejection of the move as anything but a rejection of Seattle." What "really hurt was the NBA's unwillingness to seriously consider expansion as a win-win solution to the Sacramento-Seattle conundrum." Pelton: "Surely, part of the league's thinking is that by the time the next TV contract is wrapped up there may be more clarity about troubled franchises elsewhere." The "problem with this logic is that the clock is already ticking on Seattle's plan for a new arena." This fall's mayoral election in Seattle could "sharply change the political landscape" (ESPN.com, 5/17).
EXHORTING EXPANSION: In Boston, Gary Washburn wrote if there is "any consolation, Seattle has risen to potentially No. 1 on the NBA’s list of future locations." Yet the league "has no intention of expanding, so the wait could be extended." This likely was Seattle’s "last hope of regaining an NBA franchise during this decade." The "responsibility" of determining if Seattle should get a future franchise "may lie in the lap" of NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver, who will succeed Stern (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/19). Also in Boston, Mark Murphy wrote the final stages of Stern's 29-year tenure as NBA commissioner have "given way to an almost surreal arrogance." There is "no other way to translate the shot he took at Seattle last week" when he started off the post-vote press conference by noting he had to be quick because he had to catch a flight to Oklahoma City. Murphy wrote Stern was "reportedly angered by the overly-aggressive ways" of Ballmer, so he "unloaded" (BOSTON HERALD, 5/19).
The Bobcats are in the "process of changing their name back to 'Hornets,'" including arranging digital assets that would "allow a return to their original nickname," according to a source cited by Will Brinson of CBSSPORTS.com. Still, there is "no timetable for the switch." A WhoIs.net search for the domain name NBAHornets.com shows that the URL was "created and registered very recently -- on May 15, 2013 to be exact -- by NBA Media Ventures, LLC." NBA Media Ventures, LLC, is the "media branch of the NBA and owns NBA.com, Hornets.com and CharlotteHornets.com" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/17). In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell in a front-page piece noted what is "still in question is when the name change could be implemented and how extensively the Bobcats would assume the Hornets’ old look." A source would "not comment on whether the popular teal-and-purple color scheme would return to Charlotte." Former Hornets G Muggsy Bogues said, "The buzz belongs back in Charlotte. That still resonates so much, not just in Charlotte, but the state of North Carolina." Bonnell noted a grassroots campaign known as "Bring Back The Buzz" has "several thousand followers on Facebook." A name change "probably couldn't be implemented before" the '14-15 season. NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver last month said that a change would "take a minimum of 18 months." The NBA on Saturday would "not comment on the possible change." Meanwhile, the Bobcats have "estimated it would cost them about" $3M to rebrand because "so much signage and other logo material would have to be replaced." Sources indicated that Owner Michael Jordan and NBA Commissioner David Stern "advocated a switch to the Hornets to better market Charlotte's team." The Bobcats, the league and adidas each will "have to sign off on how the new uniforms should look, and that will take numerous revisions" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/19).
MAKING THE RIGHT CALL: In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen wrote as "obvious as the move was, the Bobcats got one right." What it will do is "put the Bobcats in position to further their relationship with fans." A team can "only be new once," but if changing the name "makes fans feel as if it is, why not?" (CHARLOTTE OSERVER, 5/19). Also in Charlotte, Scott Fowler presented a 10-point plan as to what the Bobcats should "do next now that they have really decided to change their name to the Charlotte Hornets." This is "absolutely the right thing to do, but it’s like jumping into a swimming pool." There is "no way to halfway do it" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/19). In North Carolina, Richard Walker wrote based on the Bobcats’ "woeful nine-year history -- one winning season, one playoff appearance and zero postseason victories -- there’s little reason to believe just changing a name will do anything special." While a name change will "surely benefit the NBA’s marketing department with sales of updated Hornets’ gear, it’s far from certain that a name change means Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena will be filled with fans night after night" (GASTON GAZETTE, 5/19).
REASON TO BEE-LIEVE: In Charlotte, Jonathan Jones noted area resident John Morgan started the "We Beelieve" campaign three years ago. The campaign "grew from an internet petition to a Facebook page to television commercials broadcast in the Charlotte market." Morgan said, "I think we kind of brought the conversation into the public consciousness" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/19). The CHARLOTTE OBSERVER's Sorensen wrote the name change will "better enable the Bobcats" to become part the city. Fans who "cared not at all about the BobJohnsonCats will buy caps and jerseys and show up at Time Warner Cable Arena to watch their team play." If they "like what they see, and enjoy the experience, they'll return" (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 5/18).
As Browns Owner and Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam III faces legal issues with the company, there is "no real sense the sky is falling in Cleveland and that Haslam's legal troubles will seriously imperil his ownership and completely snuff out the optimism his presence brought to town, almost before it has a chance to truly take root," according to Don Banks of SI.com. Sources said that when NFL team owners meet in Boston tomorrow, they "don't know whether" Haslam "plans on addressing the controversy in front of the entire group or in a series of individual meetings with his peers." Banks noted Haslam's legal issues have "everything to do with his ownership of the team, and thus his fellow owners will be eager to hear from him and where he perceives the case is headed." If there is a "temperature reading to be taken internally within the league regarding the status of Haslam and his ability to own and lead the Browns, it's a long way from the doomsday scenario that some early media reports portrayed, characterizing some team owners as 'absolutely terrified' and 'scared to death' at the potential damage the investigation could do to the Browns organization." Sources said that Haslam "has not yet been personally charged with any wrongdoing," and that he "remains a known quantity within the league who has both the trust of [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell and his fellow team owners." Haslam is "believed to have three or four family members with a stake in the team's ownership, and could deal with a suspension or a recusal by temporarily transferring the team to either one of his two grown daughters" (SI.com, 5/17). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote while there "likely won’t be an abundance of awkward moments" at the owners' meeting, it is "impossible to know how this will unfold until we know more about the evidence that the FBI and IRS were, or weren’t, able to develop" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 5/18).
Bills President & CEO Russ Brandon "holds the ultimate power" in the organization, but it is "in Brandon's interest to see" new GM Doug Whaley succeed, according to Mark Gaughan of the BUFFALO NEWS. Brandon "executed the transition of power from" former GM Buddy Nix to Whaley. Whaley is "going to have to be very good at selling his views to Brandon," who is a "forceful personality." Brandon said that he "takes pride in delegating power to his top lieutenants." Gaughan: "Is Whaley up to all that? Is he the total package as a leader? We're going to find out" (BUFFALO NEWS, 5/19). In Buffalo, Jerry Sullivan noted Whaley is African-American and wrote it is "not the color of his skin that defines him, but the quality of his character." Brandon said, "We have great respect for the Rooney Rule and the implementing of the process through the league. But when it comes to evaluating individuals and talent, Doug Whaley certainly was on top. He created a high-water mark." Sullivan noted the Bills' first-round draft pick, QB EJ Manuel, also is African American and wrote it is "for the rest of us to decide what it means for the Bills to have black men in two of football's most vital, cerebral positions." Brandon noted Bills Dir of College Scouting Kelvin Fisher "also is African-American." Brandon has "changed the essential makeup of the organization." The Bills are "younger, more vibrant and diverse." Brandon "promised he would take the franchise in a bold new direction when he took over" on Jan. 1 (BUFFALO NEWS, 5/19). In Boston, Shalise Manza Young wrote, "Whaley is Brandon's guy; Nix was not." Part of the problem was that Nix "still called Brandon 'sonny,' a sign of disrespect to a superior, even if Brandon is nearly 30 years younger than the 73-year-old Nix" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/19). The Bills on Saturday announced that their Sept. 8 home opener against the Patriots has sold out (BUFFALONEWS.com, 5/18).
Yankees Managing General Partner & co-Chair Hal Steinbrenner said in terms of attendance the Yankees are "definitely not the only team that is down," according to Andrew Marchand of ESPN N.Y. Steinbrenner said, "I think it is obvious by watching other games on TV. I think there are a lot of factors involved. I still think the economy is a big part of it. People are struggling out there -- and we understand. Summer is coming around, warmer weather, and we have a lot of half-price ticket days and $5 ticket days. Things we have done for years. I think the fans are going to take advantage of that. There are affordable good seats in the stadium every game. This team really deserves to be supported. I’m looking forward to summer when the weather is better. April was terrible, weather-wise. I think the fans are going to come out and are going to support these guys because they have earned it." Steinbrenner when asked about ticket prices said, "You hear about that in the media. You don’t hear that there are thousands and thousands of affordable seats in the $25 range for every game, not to mention the specials that we do, that we used to do at the old stadium. We have done every year. It is nothing new. We want to make sure that everyone that comes out here to see a Yankee game can get here and see one" (ESPNNY.com, 5/18). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Daniel Barbarisi noted average attendance at Yankee Stadium is "down roughly 6,000 fans per game" compared to '12 (WSJ.com, 5/18).
MEET & GREET: In N.Y., John Harper wrote the Yankees "don’t have quite the same allure as they did for 10 to 15 years when they were winning championships and featuring a roster of All-Stars." The stadium "isn’t full for every game as it was during that time, and the YES TV ratings are down significantly despite the fact that this team of fill-ins is thriving in something of an underdog capacity -- the rarest of roles for a Yankee ballclub." A "sign of the times" was "on display in the hours before Saturday’s game [against the Blue Jays], when the Yankees made nice to several hundred of their most senior season ticket-holders." Steinbrenner, GM Brian Cashman and all of the Yankee players "walked the line of fans spread out on the warning track from foul line to foul line, shaking hands, posing for pictures, signing autographs." In other stadiums "it’s common to see fans on the field before games as part of one promotion or another." With tickets "no longer in such huge demand -- partly because of higher ticket prices in the new stadium -- management held the first of these days last year, the idea being to reward the loyalty of long-time fans." Harper, comparing Steinbrenner to his father, wrote Hal "may not be George, but as he publicly embraces the role of owner at such a pivotal time for the franchise, it matters when he's in the house" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/19).
In Oakland, Monte Poole wrote prior to Warriors co-Owner Joe Lacob's arrival, the franchise was "globally insignificant and, on the whole, an object of civic ridicule." But a "mere 30 months after the Lacob-Warriors marriage was consummated with a solemn vow of superior quality and eternal commitment, we can see it and feel it." Warriors C Andrew Bogut said, "I've been impressed with the organization since I got here. It's been sensational. Everything's first-class here." Poole wrote Lacob and his partners, "notably the signifying" co-Owner Peter Guber, have fixed the Warriors about as much as anyone could in 2 1/2 years." Bay Area streets suddenly are "filled with T-shirts and caps worn by previously inconspicuous fans now tumbling out into the open." The franchise is now "alive and vibrant." The Warriors under Lacob and Guber "have been repackaged and impressively rebranded" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 5/18).
GOING TO GRACELAND: In Memphis, Geoff Calkins wrote Grizzlies CEO & Managing Partner Jason Levien is a guy "trying to establish his credibility in a new market," so the team's playoff run "has been a happy turn of events." Levien said, "Was there pressure? I guess there was. Up to the point of that [Rudy Gay] trade, everything we had done had been puppy dogs and ice cream. ‘We’re staying in Memphis.’ ‘We’re making a commitment to the city.’ ‘We’re bringing in local partners.’ It was all very popular.” He added, "You know what’s gratifying? The process worked. It reaffirmed our commitment to the process we implemented. ... We will do things that are unpopular. That’s unavoidable in this business. But it’s not as important to win the press conference as it is to do the right thing for the franchise over the long run" (MEMPHIS COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 5/18).
FLIP-ADELPHIA: In Philadelphia, Keith Pompey asks of recently hired 76ers President of Basketball Operations & GM Sam Hinkie, "Will Hinkie use the same methods he employed as executive vice president of basketball operations for the Rockets? Or will he do things his way, emphasizing some stuff the Rockets did and ignoring others?" Hinkie said, "I think here there's a lot to be determined before we decide exactly how we will attack it. But I think whatever we decide, I would hope -- if not every move -- almost every move is consistent with that." Pompey writes the Rockets "thrived under the statistical analysis approach Hinkie is bringing to the Sixers" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/20).
STORM CHASERS: Thunder GM Sam Presti said of whether the team is prepared to go into the luxury tax this offseason, "As a result of our commitments to our core players, the organization will ultimately end up as tax payers. However, given that our goal is to have a team capable of contention for a sustained period of years, when to proactively enter the tax and how realistic it is for a team in Oklahoma City to sustain successive taxable seasons will have to be carefully examined." He added, "The amnesty clause is not something we have deeply considered as an organization" (OKLAHOMAN, 5/19).
PANNING FOR GOLD: In Denver, Mark Kiszla wrote Nuggets Exec VP/Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri, who is reportedly drawing interest from the Raptors,"rescued the Nuggets from the chaos caused by Carmelo Anthony's trade demand." Ujiri "would be far harder to replace in the front office" than coach George Karl "would be on the bench." Kiszla: "Ujiri deserves a big raise from the Nuggets. Pronto" (DENVER POST, 5/19).