SBD/March 25, 2014/Franchises

Goodell Says Irsay Will Face Discipline; Daughter Pens Letter To Reassure Colts Fans

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Any punishment Irsay may face from the NFL is unknown
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday at the NFL's owners meetings said that Colts Owner Jim Irsay is "unlikely to be spared league discipline" after his arrest for DUI, according to Stephen Holder of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. Goodell said, "Obviously any policies or any laws that are broken, whether you're commissioner, owner, player or coach, those are subject to discipline." But Goodell, like "so many owners and league officials, balanced any disappointment in Irsay with sincere hope that he's on the road to recovery." Meanwhile, Colts co-Owner & Vice Chair Carlie Irsay-Gordon yesterday "offered her sentiments for the first time" in a letter e-mailed to season-ticket holders. She "offered thanks and addressed potential concerns." Irsay-Gordon wrote, "The outpouring of support and expressions of love and concern for my father have been overwhelming. ... In the meantime, I want to assure you that all the important work at our training facility will continue, without interruption. We have a strong, talented group of football professionals and an experienced and loyal front office team." Giants President & CEO John Mara said of Irsay, "He's been a very good owner for a long time. People listen to him when he gets up to speak. That's why we look forward to having him back" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/25). Goodell said that he would wait "to understand the facts" before a decision is made on Irsay's discipline. He added, "I think that is the first priority, that he is seeking help. He's done that voluntarily, that's, I think, the most important step at least initially. To my knowledge ... there are no formal charges at this point" (ESPN.com, 3/24).

HELD TO HIGHER STANDARDS: ESPN.com's Mike Wells wrote, "Don't expect Goodell's punishment to be light on Irsay. It really shouldn't be that way for Irsay, who has a history battling pain killer addiction." Goodell "can't afford to go lightly on Irsay," particularly with the "players around the league keeping a close eye on what happens." Wells: "Don't be shocked if the NFL is harsher on him than it was" on late Titans Owner Bud Adams for using an obscene gesture in '09 and Lions President Tom Lewand after pleading guilty to driving while impaired in '10 (ESPN.com, 3/24). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes if NFL players "are subjected to drug testing, why not mandate testing for every non-playing member of the NFL community -- including team owners?" Patriots Owner Robert Kraft said, "I wouldn't be against it." Bell notes it would "send a major message." Two other owners said that they "would agree to testing." Goodell previously stated "he subjects himself to testing" (USA TODAY, 3/25).

PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE: In Indianapolis, Anthony Schoettle notes Irsay's arrest "gave a clear signal" about the long-term succession plan for the Colts and "might hasten the launch of that plan, or at the very least give Colts fans a glimpse of what it will look like." Irsay's uncertain future "will almost certainly give team executives and attorneys pause about serious tax hurdles that must be cleared if the team is to stay in the Irsay family -- challenges that could require the family to secure a massive loan or bring in investors to offset the mountainous tax bill the Irsays might face when transferring ownership." But financial planners said that Irsay's "legal trouble and ongoing problems with addiction mean the team needs a solid succession plan now to protect ownership." Kaufman Financial Corp. Chair & CEO Bart Kaufman said, "This is a very, very large problem for the Irsay family and the Colts. It's a major and complex problem." Schoettle notes passing the team "to the next generation is also compounded by the fact that Irsay -- and his daughters -- appear to have few substantial assets outside the team that they could leverage to pay a hefty tax bill." Some owners address the problem "by buying a sizable life insurance policy, but that could be difficult for someone with Irsay's drug-use history." Kaufman estimated that, by "today's valuation of the team, Jim's three daughters will owe" at least $400M in taxes when they inherit the team (INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/24 issue).
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