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SBD/August 16, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
New Devils Owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer, who have "deeper coffers than previous" Owner Jeff Vanderbeek, pledged on Thursday to "make the financial commitment necessary" to help team President, CEO & GM Lou Lamoriello put together and maintain a winning team, according to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen RECORD. The Devils "spent close to the salary cap for much of Vanderbeek’s tenure," but "worked under a tighter budget the past two seasons" while burdened by a growing debt that reached approximately $200M. Harris and Blitzer, who also own a majority stake in the 76ers, should "alleviate the financial strain after buying the team and operating interest in Prudential Center and its related assets" for a little more than $320M. Harris said that they will give Lamoriello the "freedom to follow" his current plan as they get adjusted to the team, and added that they also will "try to utilize their vast financial resources to assist the hockey team in other ways." The "bigger changes in the organization and at Prudential Center will come on the business side." Those "already have begun," with 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil adding duties "as CEO for business operations of the team and Prudential Center." O’Neil "replaces Rich Krezwick as the head of Devils Arena Entertainment." The Devils also hired former Hornets President Hugh Weber to "serve as the president on the business side and help oversee things when he’s in Philadelphia." O’Neil and Weber "plan to be aggressive in trying to recruit new corporate sponsors for the team and Prudential Center, sell tickets and attract top non-hockey events to the arena" (Bergen RECORD, 8/16).
HIGH FINANCE: In N.Y., Michael de la Merced noted of Harris and Blitzer's purchase, "Private equity has struck another deal for yet another professional sports team." Both men are "part of the latest generation of financiers" (NYTIMES.com, 8/15). Also in N.Y., Klein & Belson report Lamoriello had been "conferring with Harris and Blitzer for the past 10 days." Lamoriello said, "There’s no change in what I’m going to do. Every time I spoke with them, I came back more and more impressed with who they are, what they’ve accomplished and what their vision is." Harris and Blitzer "seem intent on making changes on the business side, while letting Lamoriello be Lamoriello." Devils fans will be "relieved that Lamoriello remains in charge of the team" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/16). In New Jersey, Tara Sullivan notes Harris and Blitzer on Thursday made it "clear very quickly they wanted Lamoriello to stay on." The owners with that "made an immediate step toward proving their wisdom." As first personnel moves go, "score this one a winner." Lamoriello "might be approaching his 71st birthday in a few months, but he is more invested in his career than ever." If it "hadn’t clicked with these guys, he would have moved on." Lamoriello: "I wanted to spend some time with them, see what their philosophy was, what direction they wanted to go, what they knew about the Devils, what they liked, what they didn’t like" (Bergen RECORD, 8/16).
THE 76ERS MOLD: In Newark, Steve Politi writes of Harris and Blitzer, "These guys mean business." They are "serious businessmen who plan to treat their newest asset as such." For those who have followed the Devils, "that has to be refreshing." Politi: "You always had the sense that the Devils’ marketing operations consisted of four guys fighting over a stapler. Underfunded. Overwhelmed." It is "hard to find a downside" to the new owners. O'Neil said, "I’m really bullish on the North Jersey market. You have 20 corporate headquarters here, the disposable income numbers are off the charts, and if you carved out North Jersey, it would be, what, the ninth largest market?" Blitzer added, "Our overall conclusions are that there’s a lot more that can be done on the business side of the equation" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 8/16). The Newark STAR-LEDGER wrote of Harris and Blitzer's stewardship of the 76ers, "In two years, under their watch, the 76ers have reversed their fortunes, at least on the bottom line." Harris "firmly turned back any idea that he might [be] considering relocating the NBA team to his Newark arena." Harris: "The Sixers are staying in Philly." He added that there "were no plans to bring an NBA team to Newark" (NJ.com, 8/15). O'Neil said, "The great thing about these guys is they say, ‘What resources do you need to make a world-class organization?' Then, we’ve got to get them and then we’ll test it. We’ll see very quickly what kind of difference we can make here. But we believe in the town, we believe in management and we believe in resources and with that the business gets better. So, that’s the exciting part" (NORTHJERSEY.com, 8/15).
VANDERBEEK'S LEGACY: In Newark, Michael Fensom writes, "As Vanderbeek’s nine-year tenure ends, he departs the owner’s box with a complicated legacy." His "persistence and vision helped the Devils escape the decaying Izod Center," and Prudential Center now is "among the most profitable" facilities in the world. However, the arena became a "constant point of contention between Vanderbeek and Newark, whose housing authority leases the venue to the Devils." Vanderbeek "squabbled publicly" with Newark Mayor Cory Booker and the city "accused Vanderbeek of skirting conditions in their lease agreement." Vanderbeek "secured two loans over the past several months" to keep the team afloat. Vanderbeek on Thursday "did not say whether his financial situation forced a sale" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 8/16). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts writes it has "been quite a couple of weeks" for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. He oversaw the Coyotes' sale and "managed to accomplish the same for the NHL’s other big financial headache" in the Devils. Bettman is to be "congratulated for pulling Harris and Blitzer out of his hat" just weeks after a deal with Philadelphia attorney Anthony Barroway fell through. The "only major financial headache remaining for Bettman" at this point is the Panthers (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/16).
The challenge facing Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss and Exec VP/Player Personnel Jim Buss "is not merely to see the world" as their late father did, "but to act on that vision with equal success," according to Ric Bucher of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. The club's allure has "been defined by a peculiar mix of success on the court and Hollywood flash among its fan base." It "remains to be seen whether this Buss generation can keep Tobey Maguire, Ari Emanuel and Jack Nicholson dropping $100,000 apiece for courtside season tickets." The Buss siblings in many ways "represent opposing sides of their father's personality -- and the conflict is evident in how the team is run." Jeanie "leads the business operation" and now is the Lakers' rep on the league's BOG, which means the NBA "views her as being at the helm." Jeanie said, "My brother ultimately makes the (basketball) decisions. I defer and will continue to defer because that's what my dad believed would be successful." However, Bucher noted deferring "clearly is different from agreeing, and while Jeanie is supportive of her brother, she barely hides her frustration at not being included in major team moves." She said, "To be held accountable by the league and not have a seat at the table when decisions are made is hard." Jim "denies he wields unilateral authority," and "insists the Lakers are a democracy that includes GM Mitch Kupchak, to whom Jim says he often defers." Jim Buss: "I don't run the franchise. We run it as a family. I'm just a figurehead." Bucher noted the L.A. sports media "sometimes portrays Jim as a slacker who inherited his father's tastes but not his business savvy." However, he said that those characterizations are "outdated." An unnamed NBA exec said, "Jim is an easy target. But he's smart, no question about it. He's smarter than Jeanie" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 8/23 issue).
The Sabres have "had a small drop in season ticket renewals" for the '13-14 season, according to Mike Harrington of the BUFFALO NEWS. The team yesterday announced that 97% of their season subscribers "renewed their seats, which is a small drop" from the 99% that stood pat heading into the '12-13 lockout-shortened season." The team has "increased the cap of season ticket-holders from 15,400 to 16,000, which means it will have less work to do to get to the 19,070 capacity each night in First Niagara Center." This is the "third straight year the cap has been increased." The new 600 season seats "came from members of the Blue & Gold club waiting list, which now has more than 2,500 names." The Sabres also announced that mini-packs will go on sale Sept. 5, allowing fans to purchase from 5-40 games at up to 10% percent off box office prices (BUFFALONEWS.com, 8/15).
The Redskins consider the club's three-week stay at their new training camp home at Bon Secours Training Center in Richmond “a success, with the large and enthusiastic crowds that regularly circled the practice fields signaling that the Redskins achieved their goal of making themselves readily accessible to a different segment of their fan base,” according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. However, it “wasn’t all positive, as some fans continue to complain about the crowded conditions on fan appreciation day.” But most fans “described their overall experience as pleasant and worthwhile.” Total attendance for the camp has “surpassed 155,000, including a crowd of more than 25,000 for fan appreciation day Aug. 3.” The Redskins said that average daily attendance “has been more than 10,000.” On most days, there has been “a long line of fans waiting when the gates were opened to the team’s facility.” The franchise “wanted to attract and cultivate fans from areas of Virginia and further south who are too far from the D.C. area to make a training-camp visit there convenient.” They appear to have “succeeded in that regard.” Redskins officials “seem to regard the camp as a major success, but appear to believe it’s too soon to know whether the increased exposure to this portion of the franchise’s fan base will result in significantly bolstered ticket and merchandise sales among followers" further from the DC area (WASHINGTON POST, 8/16).
NFL teams are worth an average of $1.17B heading into the '13 season, up 5% from last year, with the Cowboys ranking as the "most valuable NFL team for the seventh consecutive year," according to Mike Ozanian of FORBES. The Cowboys' estimated value of $2.3B is far above the Patriots, who rank second with a value of $1.8B. The Cowboys and Patriots join the Texans, Falcons and Rams is posting "double-digit gains in value." The gains for the Patriots and Texans "are the result of stadiums that generate a lot of cash and converting success on the gridiron into more local media and sponsorship revenue." The Lions were the only team "to post an operating loss," marking the fourth straight year the club has lost money (FORBES.com, 8/14).
RANK TEAMCURRENT VALUE1-YEAR
1) Cowboys$2.3B10%12%$539M$250.7M 2) Patriots$1.8B10%14%$408M$139.2M 3) Redskins$1.7B6%26%$381M$104.3M 4) Giants$1.55B6%42%$338M$64.4M 5) Texans$1.45B11%13%$320M$81.5M 6) Jets$1.38B7%54%$321M$52.8M 7) Eagles$1.314B4%15%$306M$47.8M 8) Bears$1.252B5%9%$298M$63.2M 9) Ravens$1.227B6%22%$292M$48.3M 10) 49ers$1.224B4%11%$255M$10.2M 11) Colts$1.2B4%4%$276M$65M 12) Packers$1.183B2%2%$282M$54.3M 13) Broncos$1.161B3%12%$283M$31.7M 14) Steelers$1.118B2%18%$266M$28.3M 15) Seahawks$1.081B4%11%$270M$28.2M 16) Dolphins$1.074B1%36%$268M$24.8M 17) Buccaneers$1.067B3%17%$267M$2.2M 18) Panthers$1.057B1%6%$271M$28.9M 19) Titans$1.055B4%12%$270M$40M 20) Chiefs$1.009B-7%$245M$15M 21) Vikings$1.007B3%33%$234M$28M 22) Browns$1.005B2%20%$264M$17.1M 23) Saints$1.004B3%7%$276M$22.2M 24) Cardinals$961M4%16%$253M$9.7M 25) Chargers$949M1%11%$250M$30.4M 26) Falcons$933M11%29%$252M$18.5M 27) Bengals$924M6%11%$250M$37.3M 28) Lions$900M5%31%$248M-$3.5M 29) Rams$875M12%13%$239M$21.1M 30) Bills$870M8%14%$256M$12.6M 31) Jaguars$840M9%24%$260M$15.5M 32) Raiders$825M5%24%$229M$19.1M
The Suns on Thursday night unveiled three new uniforms, all of them with "more minimalist designs and more high-tech fabrics and one with sleeves," according to Megan Finnerty of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Suns President Jason Rowley said, "We wanted to update the look, modernize the look, but also tie it back to the past and the legacy of the team." adidas Creative Dir of Content & Identity Leon Imas noted the new look is called "Speed of Light" and moves the "focus away from the 'Phoenix' element of the team's identity." It refocuses the look "on the actual sun." Finnerty reports the "color-blocking, oversized graphics and blocky text" have been replaced in favor of a look that is "essentially monotone." The Suns will wear "white tank-style uniforms at home and purple on the road." The team beginning in January for Friday home games will wear orange-sleeved jerseys. All of the jerseys include a "nod to the Charles Barkley-era speeding sun concept, and a stylized return to the Dick Van Arsdale-era sun on the bottom outside of the shorts." The basketball logo is "on the waistband of the purple shorts and the sleeve of the orange uniform," while the "gradient colors in the word 'Suns' symbolize the rising and setting sun." The nine "speed rays coming off the numbers symbolize the nine former players in the team's Ring of Honor" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/16).
The AFL has partnered with rock band Kiss and former AFL team owner Brett Bouchy to bring an expansion team to Southern California for the '14 season. The L.A. Kiss will play at Honda Center, and all inaugural season-ticket holders will be invited to a free Kiss concert at some point during the year (AFL). USA TODAY's Ted Berg reports the band's logo "will be incorporated into the team uniforms," and the band will "run the team in conjunction" with Bouchy. Kiss' Paul Stanley said, "We don't want to wear too many hats. When it's appropriate, we will defer to the people who have experience with this. We're bringing something new to the party." Kiss' Gene Simmons: "We're not going to be passive players in this. We're really going to be part of this thing. ... There's been a lot of attention to detail, to nuances, so that people don't think this is a rock band in football helmets. This is real football, and this is good for the game." Berg notes Kiss will "perform at halftime of the league's championship game, ArenaBowl XXVI, in Orlando on Saturday" (USA TODAY, 8/16). In California, Jeff Miller reports Stanley "designed the team's logo, which, though yet to be revealed, almost certainly will incorporate flames in some way." Bouchy said, "This isn't just another licensing deal for KISS. We are joint partners in the venture. They all have ownership. They are going to be very involved and active with the team" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 8/16).