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SBD/December 17, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
Bucks Owner Herb Kohl yesterday said that he is "seeking additional ownership partners who are strongly committed to keeping the team in Milwaukee for the long term," and added that he has retained Allen & Co. Managing Dir Steve Greenberg to "advise him on the search," according to Charles Gardner of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. Kohl: "We want to have as broad an interest as there is. But there are these conditions. Anybody who is brought into ownership, if and when it happens, has to be committed fully to keeping the team here." He said that no negotiations "are underway with any parties at this time and he is just beginning the process." Kohl: "I'm a single individual and I've had the team now for almost 29 years. And I'm not going to live forever. I believe that adding to ownership provides more strength, more stability, more certainty." Kohl, who has owned the team since March '85, said that he "could not say whether the search for investors might lead to him giving up majority ownership of the team," and added that he "doesn't have a projected number of partners in mind." He said that the team's future "without doubt is tied to having a new arena to play in and any new investors must be committed to that." A source said that Kohl's primary goal is "not just to bring in new ownership partners, but perhaps people with the financial means to contribute financing for a new arena" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 12/17). Kohl said that there "was no urgent need at this point to add the investors, but said it made sense for the long-term future of the team." Kohl: "I want to be as clear as I can be -- this team is going to stay in Milwaukee. I'm just making sure it stays strong. I'm not going anywhere" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 12/16).
HALTING RELOCATION RUMORS: The MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL's Gardner notes Kohl "knows other cities would line up for the Bucks if a facility is not built." The city of Seattle "made a strong bid" to lure away the Kings last year before an agreement was reached to build a new arena in downtown Sacramento. Kohl: "If we want to keep it here, we have to do good work to keep it here. We will be successful. And I think adding additional investors of the right kind adds strength and ability to that equation." Meanwhile, Kohl has "forged a personal relationship" with NBA Commissioner David Stern and Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver, who will succeed Stern next year. Kohl said of Stern and Silver, "They want to see us succeed. When Adam Silver was in town this summer, he said it on record. 'I want to see Milwaukee succeed. I think Milwaukee can succeed. I'm a friend of Milwaukee'" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 12/17). Stern said of Kohl's announcement, "With this announcement, Sen. Kohl continues his mission: to assure continuity of Bucks ownership by broadening its ownership base, and assuring that the fans of Wisconsin will enjoy NBA basketball and other events in a new state-of-the-art facility" (AP, 12/16).
A GOOD MOVE FOR THE CITY: In Milwaukee, Michael Hunt writes, "As regressive and stagnant as things have been for far too long with the Bucks, credit Kohl for the effort to keep his legacy of an NBA franchise, which never would have been possible had he not intervened almost 30 years ago, alive in a city that deserves its place at an exclusive 30-seat table." By allowing the "right kind of outside investors into what has been a stale, closed society, Kohl is being proactive and progressive in the nick of time." Hunt: "Should this have happened sooner? Of course. But it is a very good thing that it is happening now, before it is really too late. ... Ask me if the Bucks will still be around in five or six years and I'd say yes because Kohl, if he gets the right kind of support, is determined to build an arena with a lot of his own money as a gift to his hometown" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 12/17).
Bills Owner Ralph Wilson twice this season agreed to purchase the remaining tickets for a home game to avoid a local TV blackout, but there "apparently will be no such holiday gift" for Sunday’s Dolphins-Bills game, according to Gene Warner of the BUFFALO NEWS. Bills President & CEO Russ Brandon yesterday in an e-mail wrote, "The game will be blacked out." Sunday’s blackout will be "only the second of the season" among all NFL teams, "unless there are others this weekend." The only other blackout was for Bengals-Chargers on Dec. 1. Brandon wrote in the e-mail that the Bills have "some 16,000 tickets remaining for the Dolphins game, a tough sell in late December with the Bills already out of the playoff hunt." Teams have the option "to buy up any remaining tickets, at 34 cents on the dollar, enough to pay the visiting team’s share of the gate receipts," which is "exactly what Wilson did" for the Bengals game on Oct. 13 (BUFFALO NEWS, 12/17). Meanwhile, a Chargers spokesperson said that the team has "about 3,000 general tickets" available for Sunday's game against the Raiders. In San Diego, Michael Gehlken noted the season finale against the Chiefs "is in more danger of going unseen on local television, as nearly 8,000 general tickets are unsold" (UTSANDIEGO.com, 12/14).
New NHL Panthers Owner Vincent Viola is "determined to have an impact on the South Florida landscape that goes well beyond hockey," according to a Q&A with Craig Davis of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Viola "aims to work with Broward County to expand the economic and cultural impact of BB&T Center, mainly through development of the surrounding area, and expand his philanthropic efforts to South Florida." Below are excerpts from the Q&A.
Q: What is your assessment of your first few months as owner?
Viola: We have been learning an awful lot. It's kind of like drinking out of a fire hose. If I had to sum it up in a couple of sentences: We're more committed now to the principles that we believe in that produce long-term excellence in organizations. The team is, I think, staring to understand that everyone must work and everyone has to be absolutely committed to excellence.
Q: Do you find it more challenging, maybe at times frustrating, to get the results you want with a sports franchise as opposed to other business you have run?
Viola: It's a real-time business. You cannot take time to deeply re-evaluate in the middle of a season. So you've got to get it right, and you basically earn the validation of your strategy on a nightly basis in hockey. Although, having come from the trading side of Wall Street, that is also a real-time business. So I'm comfortable with that. There are a lot of similarities. So I'm sort of emotionally prepared for that kind of dynamic.
Q: What plans do you have beyond hockey?
Viola: We have a family foundation, and it has a strategy to its philanthropy. Its principal focus is in support of our national defense, particularly in support of the United States Army and its mission, and that takes various forms. Second is our focus on education and educating those that might not in the normal course get exposed to the highest level of education from the primary grades up. The third is support of the church. We're going to try to serve the county of Broward in that same focus.
Q: Are there things you want to do to expand the potential of the BB&T Center, including developing around it?
Viola: We are definitely going to develop around the arena. We just want to study and make sure that we develop it with the most efficient -- from a commercial perspective -- and impactful way to the original vision. ... I think the land around the arena can clearly be the western anchor and focal point of the county's economic and cultural structure. ... It could be an entertainment-based development. It could be a science focal point of an education-based development. It's a pretty big piece of land, and it could have more than one sort of development in it. It's pretty exciting. We're very committed to that (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 12/15).
ON THE PROWL: The SUN-SENTINEL's Davis notes Viola "reiterated his spend-to-win vow," and said that the effort "will be evident in his first full offseason next year." Viola: "We intend on being in the free-agent market in a significant way." Viola said that he has had "numerous conversations" with Panthers fans and is "impressed by the passion of the loyal core that has stuck with the team through the lean years" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 12/17).
In Toronto, Jane Gerster noted more fans are "scooping up tickets to the Maple Leafs’ road games than they are for any other team." Resale figures from StubHub show that the Leafs overtook the Penguins, who "held the top spot for two years, to become the biggest road draw in the NHL this year." The Leafs "went from eighth biggest in 2012 and seventh in 2011, to first." Last year was the "first time the Leafs made it to the playoffs in almost a decade" (TORONTO STAR, 12/14).
JOB HUNT: In Boston, Fluto Shinzawa noted Jay Feaster’s exit as Flames GM "could force Buffalo to accelerate its search for GM Darcy Regier’s replacement." The Sabres since firing Regier on Nov. 13 have been "identifying and interviewing candidates," including Bruins Assistant GM Jim Benning. Overlap between the Flames and Sabres could include Predators Assistant GM Paul Fenton, Penguins Assistant GM Jason Botterill and Kings co-Dir of Amateur Scouting Michael Futa (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/15). ESPN.com's Craig Custance wrote once Flames President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke came to the conclusion that Feaster "had to go, he couldn't wait." Not if it meant "another team might end up with the best candidate for the job." Feaster is as "classy as they come and will likely never say so publicly, but you can't help but wonder just how tied his hands were during his tenure" with the Flames (ESPN.com, 12/13).
MONEY BACK GUARANTEE: In Philadelphia, John George reported Comcast-Spectacor has "agreed to pay $625,500 in vouchers" to Flyers season-ticket holders. The agreement "settles a class-action lawsuit filed against the company by the ticket holders who said the team improperly excluded tickets from the 2012 Winter Classic from season ticket packages and required fans to pay more for the outdoor hockey game." Under the terms of the settlement, the class members "will have the option of receiving a $45 concession voucher or an alternative voucher, valued at $75, that will enable them to get an on-ice holiday photo or a personalized message on the scoreboard during a Flyers game at the Wells Fargo Center and on the Xfinity Live board after the game" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 12/13).