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SBD/July 9, 2014/FranchisesPrint All
Banned Clippers Owner Donald Sterling believes that his wife, Shelly, is only trying to sell the team for $2B to Steve Ballmer "because she is 'terrified and frightened of this NBA'," and if he were to sell the team, he could get $2.5-5B "because of a boom in media-rights fees," according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN L.A. Sterling spoke yesterday "during a contentious hourlong testimony" in an L.A. probate court, which is meeting over the prospective sale of the team. Sterling: "Do you think Microsoft is foolish? Do you think they don't think and wonder where they're going to get the money back?" At the end of this week's trial, judge Michael Levanas "will decide if Shelly Sterling was authorized to sell the franchise" to Ballmer. Her attorneys contend that she "followed all of the procedures outlined in the Sterling Family Trust ... when two neurologists examined her husband and determined he was mentally incapacitated and unfit to conduct his own legal and business affairs." Sterling's attorneys argued that the exams "were conducted under false pretenses." Sterling yesterday was called to the stand, questioned by "legendary entertainment attorney Bert Fields and seemed to relish the opportunity to spar with the man who has a reputation for making even the most powerful men in Hollywood squirm on the witness stand." Sterling "was combative and defensive," as at every turn, he "sought to spar with Fields, calling him a 'smart-ass' and belittling him with responses like, 'I'm talking about your questions. I'm sure they'll improve.'" Sterling said that he had "initially authorized his wife to negotiate with the NBA to sell the franchise because he believed she would keep a portion of the team." Sterling said of Ballmer's pending purchase of 100% of the team, "When I found out what was accurate, I didn't want to go through with the sale. Why is that so hard for you to understand?" Sterling said he can get $3B for the team's media rights. Sterling: "It's an economic reason. I'm trying to generate as much success as I can for the trust. ... My wife, she's beautiful, but she cannot run anything. ... All I ask is to be patient for another two years and see what this trust does" (ESPNLA.com, 7/8).
STERLING CITES LAKERS' PRECEDENT: Sterling believes that the team "can make a windfall on its next local media deal when the existing contract" with FS Prime Ticket expires following the '15-16 season. He said that the 20-year, $3B deal struck in '11 between the Lakers and Time Warner Cable "made him believe the Clippers could make much more on local cable rights" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/9). In N.Y., Billy Witz writes Sterling was "feisty, combative and occasionally charming" on the stand. The trial "appears to be a last-ditch opportunity for Sterling to prevent the sale of the team" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/9). In L.A., Rainey & Cook report Sterling "railed on the witness stand Tuesday against the doctors who deemed him mentally incompetent, the executives who bounced him out of the NBA and the opposing lawyer who struggled to get him to answer a question" (L.A. TIMES, 7/9). Also in L.A., Nathan Fenno reports Sterling "didn't deviate from his decades-long reputation as a difficult witness" (L.A. TIMES, 7/9). The L.A. TIMES' Rainey & Cook report Sterling "sarcastically referred to the NBA as 'this great, wonderful organization' and said the league had not followed through on one settlement offer" that came as a result of his lifetime ban. Sterling: "I remember thinking just to myself, 'I am not going to do it with them because they are not to be trusted.'" Many in the "packed courtroom ... alternatively laughed and shook their heads as Sterling unleashed his fury" (L.A. TIMES, 7/9). USA TODAY's Moore & Peter write Sterling's testimony "was not a pretty scene for the roughly one hour he was on the stand." He was "rambling" and "combative." Matters "were not helped by the fact Fields, 85, was difficult to hear, and Sterling, 80, is a little hard of hearing" (USA TODAY, 7/9).
A TIRADE FOR THE AGES: In California, Don Woike notes Sterling yesterday "disparaged, in no particular order, his wife, his wife’s lawyer ... his own lawyers, the NBA, the New York Times, CNN, NBC, the media as a whole and the medical experts who testified to his mental incompetence in a bizarre 57 minutes of testimony" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 7/9). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Siegemund-Broka & Emery reported Sterling "was extremely combative with Fields, and at times he became dramatic" with Levanas (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 7/8). FS1's Kevin Vaughan said Sterling was "at times charming, at times combative and at times it appeared to many observers to be confused." Vaughan: "He cried while describing his wife and he lectured the lawyer who questioned him" ("Fox Sports Live," FS1, 7/8). SI.com's Michael McCann reported Sterling "provided riveting, if at times hard-to-believe, commentary about a wide-range of subjects related to his pending ouster from the NBA." He "often seemed intent on advancing a legal strategy: undermine the credibility of the two physicians who concluded that he was incapacitated and, as a consequence, imply that Shelly Sterling failed to meet her fiduciary duties under the family trust" (SI.com, 7/8). ESPN L.A.'s Arash Markazi wrote Sterling's behavior "during his contentious testimony was both entertaining and sad." He was "defensive, combative and, at times, confused." Markazi: "Shelly saw the writing on the wall and made the best business decision either of them has ever made" (ESPNLA.com, 7/8).
The Rockies enter today's game against the Padres with a 38-53 record, and team Owner Dick Monfort said he will "look at" making changes to the club's front office if the on-field results do not improve, according to Patrick Saunders of the DENVER POST. Monfort prior to last night's game said, "We are a draft-and-development organization, so we've got to make sure we have the right people doing that. We've got to make sure we are getting the right personnel for the major-league level. I think we all think we are. But something isn't equating. It's not adding up, so we will look at it, but we look at it every year." Monfort noted he has "stuck behind" both VP/Chief Baseball Officer & GM Dan O'Dowd and Senior VP/Major League Operations & Assistant GM Bill Geivett, as he thinks they are "really good baseball people." Monfort: "I think, if you are looking to make a change, there has got to be a better option. ... I think Dan does a good job. I like the team we have out here. I liked the team in spring training. Why it's not performing? I don't have the answers." Saunders noted the D-Backs hired Tony La Russa as Chief Baseball Officer in May and asked if the Rockies would consider "doing something like that to bring a fresh perspective to this organization." Monfort: "If there was someone there that I thought could really give us a good evaluation, I would sure sit down and talk to them. ... I will probably reach out to the Diamondbacks and see how that's working. Maybe (La Russa) is just getting the lay of the land and there is more to come later" (DENVER POST, 7/9).
IN OVER HIS HEAD? In Denver, Mark Kiszla writes Monfort is "in way over his head, drowning slowly in all the frustration of a season gone horribly wrong." Monfort yesterday said, "Awful. Just awful. It's the worst I've ever been in my life." He added, "I don't sleep at night. ... I live in fear all the time. ... Fear of losing." Kiszla writes Dick and Charlie Monfort "are good men," but they "don't know how to win." They "don't have the baseball expertise." Kiszla: "I don't believe the Monforts are cheap. I believe they are in over their heads." Kiszla's advice to Monfort is to "get some help" (DENVER POST, 7/9).
The Rams during the '14 season will use a new mobile app called Cast to "make adjustments or changes to enhance the fan experience" during games at Edward Jones Dome, according to Brian Feldt of the ST. LOUIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. Cast, which this week was released in the Apple App Store, allows users to "create and answer micro polls through existing social networks such as Facebook and Twitter." App creator Matt Sebek said that the Rams will "use the app throughout the 2014 season ... but the app is available for anyone -- or brand -- to use." Sebek: "The Rams are interested in asking fans about things such as jersey colors and stadium music. These are things fans are discussing every Sunday. Now, fans will have an opportunity to decide." Rams VP/Marketing & Brand Strategy Brian Killingsworth said that other poll questions "could include testing out various concession items, deciding on the touchdown celebration song or voting on which player should be featured as an exclusive interview on the Rams' website" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 7/8).
The Wild on Monday announced that digital ticketing will replace paper tickets for season-ticket holders starting this season. Season-ticket holders will receive a smart card, the size of a credit card, that contains all of their account information. The card will be scanned upon entry to the Xcel Energy Center (Wild). The Wild said that about "half of the teams in the NHL and some in other leagues in North America offer a form of digital ticketing." Wild COO Matt Majka: "The time is right to make this transition. Our fans have become accustomed to using the convenience of online and mobile technology in many other areas of their lives.” In Minneapolis, Paul Walsh noted the ticket-printing option can be "forwarded to others in an e-mail or downloaded to their smartphone" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 7/8).
INTO THE WILD: In St. Paul, Charley Walters noted Wild Owner Craig Leipold is "excited about the gigantic new video scoreboard that will be in place in Xcel Energy Center for next season." Leipold: "We're in the entertainment business; we need to keep up with other teams, and our fans are going to love the scoreboard. This is the newest generation. It's not only going to be bigger and clearer, but the uniqueness is that it's still going to have the characteristic of the culture of the Minnesota Wild." He added, "It's not just lights and metal. There's going to be some wood and our trees are going to be up there. It's going to be iconic; everybody will know that they're in the Minnesota Wild arena." Leipold revealed that within the next 12 months, "probably every seat in the Xcel Energy Center will have been replaced with new ones" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 7/6).
JUST IN TIME? MLB.com's Mark Bowman noted because Braves LF Justin Upton is "often seen blowing bubbles on the field, the Braves are making bubble gum a significant part of their campaign" for the Final Vote. The team has "designed bubble gum-themed T-shirts that their players will wear in the clubhouse this week." The T-shirts, gum and other merchandise also will be "distributed around Atlanta" (MLB.com, 7/7). Meanwhile, model Kate Upton is "asking her 1.45 million Twitter followers to vote" for Justin Upton. The model last October appeared on the cover of SI with Justin and Braves CF B.J. Upton (BIZJOURNALS.com, 7/9).