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SBD/August 20, 2014/FranchisesPrint All
Islanders Owner Charles Wang has "agreed to sell a minority stake" in the team to former Capitals co-Owner Jonathan Ledecky and London-based investor Scott Malkin, who will "assume majority control of the Brooklyn-bound team in two years," according to Arthur Staple of NEWSDAY. Ledecky and Malkin have been "friends for more than 30 years and were roommates at Harvard." Financial terms were not disclosed, and the deal is "contingent on the approval" of the NHL's BOG. The team said that Wang will "remain the majority shareholder and represent the Islanders on the Board of Governors for the next two years." An Islanders spokesperson yesterday "confirmed that Wang will be a minority partner after two years." Wang has been "fielding offers for the team since February, when word leaked that Philadelphia-based hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway had significant interest in buying the Islanders, but talks broke off." Barroway filed a lawsuit against Wang earlier this month, alleging Wang "backed out of an agreement to sell the team to him" for $420M. The suit said that "after the initial agreement, Wang raised the asking price" to $548M because the Clippers had been sold for $2B to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (NEWSDAY, 8/20). In N.Y., Brett Cyrgalis cites a source as saying that terms of the deal are "in the ballpark" of $548M (N.Y. POST, 8/20). Also in N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes Wang did "not reveal how much of a stake he would retain after surrendering majority control of the team" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/20).
RISKY BUSINESS: On Long Island, Mark Herrmann writes it has "not worked out for Wang" with "reported losses" of $20M a year, and it "sure has not worked out for the team, with its embarrassing streak of not having won a playoff series since" '93. They have "flirted with the worst fate a pro team can have: appearing irrelevant in its own market." Herrmann: "Things can only get better. For once, they just might." The "one huge reason is that this time, the buyers know they are getting only a hockey team and not a real estate bonanza" (NEWSDAY, 8/20). Also on Long Island, Joe Ryan notes Ledecky and Malkin come to the Islanders with "starkly different business backgrounds." Ledecky "made his name as a corporate merger specialist who specialized in buying handfuls of small businesses and rolling them up into one big company." His "biggest success was U.S. Office Products, which he founded" in '94 and "built into a juggernaut by consolidating 260 other companies." Malkin is a "scion of one of New York's leading real estate families" but has "primarily focused on European retail." His grandfather, Lawrence Wien, "helped found what is now a sprawling property empire that includes millions of square feet of Manhattan apartments, retail and office space, including a controlling stake in the Empire State Building" (NEWSDAY, 8/20).
MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke "knocked down rumours on Tuesday that he is about to leave" the company, according to Cathal Kelly of the GLOBE & MAIL. Leiweke said, "It's not true. One-hundred per cent not true. I'm fully committed to the season at hand." Leiweke was referring to the Raptors season, as he is "in the midst of working" on a new $30M training facility for the club. That is expected to be announced "in the coming days." Some of Leiweke's other projects include the "renovation of BMO Field; the luring of the World Cup of Hockey to Toronto; the ongoing resuscitation of the Maple Leafs." He said, "Why in the hell would I take my eye off the ball now?" Kelly notes it is "an open secret within the organization" that Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan is "being groomed to take over Leiweke’s spot once he decides to leave." That is "why this denial rings true." It is "very difficult to believe the 45-year-old Shanahan would want that job only a few weeks into his first senior management position." What is "clear in talking to him is that while Leiweke has no current plans to leave, he isn’t envisioning a lifetime in Toronto" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/20). In Toronto, Lance Hornby notes a tweet from the CBC's Elliotte Friedman yesterday said that Leiweke "was looking at the door, perhaps not today, but long before anyone expected." Yet for those "wondering if Leiweke is having second thoughts about what he can accomplish here, Tuesday’s denial didn’t rule out his leaving before something truly meaningful, such as a Leaf Stanley Cup or an NBA championship or an MLS soccer title." Leiweke "never made a life-long commitment to this new job." He "takes special pride in the turnaround of TFC, which had fallen so far after its early successes." Leiweke said, "Tell (TFC) fans not to worry." A source said, "Tim is fully on the job. When it is time for him to go, he will have set up TFC for long-term success and all of Toronto’s sports scene will be better off for the time he spent here" (TORONTO SUN, 8/20). Also in Toronto, Kurtis Larson reports there were "fears" that Leiweke's reported early exit "might put Toronto FC's entire transformation into jeopardy." Just as he has "made Toronto FC fans feel special, Leiweke has a special soft spot for the world's greatest game" (TORONTO SUN, 8/20).
A QUICK TURNAROUND: Friedman yesterday reported via Twitter that Leiweke will be leaving the company "soon." In Toronto, Bruce Arthur in a front-page piece notes an MLSE source "indicated that 'soon' encompassed the upcoming season, at least." So Leiweke is "probably in for one year, and that seems about right." Leiweke's sometimes "blundering words can overshadow the fact that he's done quite a lot, and on balance, it's positive" (TORONTO STAR, 8/20). The TORONTO SUN's Steve Simmons notes the "one thing Leiweke has established here, as he did with [GM] Dean Lombardi with the L.A. Kings, is he lets his sports people run their teams" (TORONTO SUN, 8/20). In Toronto, Mark Zwolinski notes there are "arguments that not enough has been done," but there is "no doubting the 57-year-old has brought in what can be considered sweeping changes." The Leiweke storyline in Toronto "will not quiet down regardless of his statements about remaining on as head of MLSE." Speculation yesterday "ran rampant regarding a potential post" with the Clippers, and there also is talk of a Leiweke "interest in the David Beckham led attempt" to bring an MLS franchise to Miami (TORONTO STAR, 8/20).
The sale of the Bills is "entering its final stage with prospective buyers asked to submit their formal bids in about two weeks," according to a source cited by John Wawrow of the AP. The timetable was "pushed back about a week" because Morgan Stanley "extended a deadline last month in an attempt to increase the number of prospective bidders." A new owner is "still expected to be identified by October, but it’s not certain whether it will be in time to be approved by NFL owners at league meetings in early October." That approval would "come only after the prospective candidate’s background and finances are vetted and approved by the league’s finance committee." Sources said that former Sabres Owner Tom Golisano has "not yet met" with late Owner Ralph Wilson’s estate. Sources added that a group headed by Pro Football HOFer Jim Kelly "turned down" Jon Bon Jovi’s "request to join forces last week" (AP, 8/19). QMI AGENCY's John Kryk cited a source as saying that Bon Jovi reached out to Kelly "at the suggestion" of Morgan Stanley as a "means of making their bid 'more Buffalo friendly.'" Kelly already has "a prospective bid partner -- bond investor Jeffrey Gundlach, who would provide all of the duo's financing." But Gundlach is "not wealthy enough to bid alone so he and Kelly are hoping to obtain an ownership share either with an existing bidder or in a yet-to-be-formed bid group." The source said that fans should "not interpret Morgan Stanley's match-making attempt with Kelly as any expression of favouritism toward the Bon Jovi/Toronto bid" (QMI AGENCY, 8/19). Meanwhile, the Bills have chosen VITEC to supply their HDTV delivery to over 920 displays throughout Ralph Wilson Stadium (VITEC).
The Coyotes' recent long-term partnership agreements and "increased revenue from suite sales and tickets" have allowed co-Owner & Exec Chair George Gosbee to "pull back a bit from his involvement with the operations of the club during Year 1 of IceArizona's ownership," according to Craig Morgan of FOX SPORTS ARIZONA. The deals have also allowed Coyotes CFO Avik Dey to "pull back from his day-to-day duties entirely." Gosbee said, "As an ownership group, we're really comfortable with how the club is working on financial platforms. We've always had a three-year plan for achieving profitability here, but with how well the NHL is doing, we think that could fast-track our plan and we could get there even earlier." He added, "The goal is to become more competitive on the ice, and that comes partly with more dollars. The key is to get the franchise profitable, and that's not going to happen overnight. ... If it happens faster than we thought it would, great, but if it doesn't that doesn't concern us." The club last week signed a naming-rights "hybrid partnership" with Arizona-based Gila River Casinos. The Coyotes also have "signed a number of other long-term agreements, including a television rights agreement" with FS Arizona last year. Other deals "include City of Glendale (arena lease, 15 years), Levy Restaurants (food and beverage, 15 years) and Ticketmaster (10 years)" (FOXSPORTSARIZONA.com, 8/18).
Hockey analytics site ExtraSkater.com Founder Darryl Metcalf "is one of three advanced stats analysts that are in the process of joining" the Maple Leafs to "work in newly created positions dedicated to hockey metrics," according to sources cited by Greg Wyshynski of YAHOO SPORTS. Cam Charron, a blogger that "most recently worked with Yahoo Sports Canada, is among that group, as is Rob Pettapiece, a blogger who worked with Yahoo Sports' Buzzing The Net junior hockey blog." However, the hiring of Metcalf "would be a coup for the Leafs." Not only is his site "one of the most respected in the hockey world, it’s also one of the most popular" for other NHL teams (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/19). In Toronto, Lance Hornby notes Charron's work "was based with fan site theleafsnation.com, which often features biting commentary about how the team conducts itself at large." Purists "will insist hockey moves too fast with too little puck possession to truly measure a player or team, or that bad ice, lively boards and other variables render the data less useful" (TORONTO SUN, 8/20).
ANALYZE THIS: The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle writes, "Almost overnight, the Leafs will go from one of the league’s least progressive teams in this area to one of the most, dedicating considerable time and energy to numbers-based analysis of the team’s roster, acquisitions and style of play." How that will mesh with the "more old-school staff -- led by head coach Randy Carlyle -- and how it will affect the team’s fortunes on the ice will be a storyline to follow all season" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/20). The NATIONAL POST's Michael Traikos writes, "Call it Moneypuck or the Summer of Analytics. Whatever it is, the National Hockey League is changing." This summer "has already been a big one for the stats-based movement," as the Oilers hired lawyer-turned-analytics pioneer Tyler Dellow (author of the MC79hockey blog), the Devils hired former pro poker player and amateur statistician Sunny Mehta, while an undisclosed team "hired former Harvard graduate and SB Nation writer Eric Tulsky." But it is the Leafs who "are making the boldest play by compiling what is being described as an all-star analytics department" (NATIONAL POST, 8/20).
The NFL Giants "expect some significant changes for training camp" next year, according to Jordan Raanan of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. Among the possibilities include "open practices at MetLife Stadium and improved sightlines and fan interaction when workouts are held at the facility." Giants President & CEO John Mara said, "We have to do a better job of making it more fan-friendly because I don't think we're doing a good enough job. We're trying, but we can do better." The Giants had an "estimated 21,464 fans attend 13 open practices this summer" at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center, an "average of 1,651 per practice." The Giants "averaged 33,000 per summer" while training at the Univ. at Albany and were "reaching a different fan base than they are now." The team is "still trying to figure this out." They "know holding camp at home doesn't provide the same intimate setting that fans enjoyed at Albany," as the "makeshift stands at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center are set back and behind a fence." Sightlines are "often difficult, especially when the Giants practice on the field closest to their indoor facility." Mara said that the Giants have "discussed things like having children carry the players' helmets inside after practice." The Giants this year already "added post-practice autograph signings and had entertainment behind the fences, including a balloon-twister on Monday." But Mara "wants more, and for it to be more intimate" (NJ.com, 8/19).
QUEEN'S FEAST: In Cincinnati, Paul Dehner Jr. noted the Bengals "logged about 37,000 fans" overall for their 16 open training camp practices, which "averages out to 2,313 per practice." That includes the two "Family Day" Saturday practices inside Paul Brown Stadium where they "welcomed in about 15,000 between the two days." It also "includes 7,000 that showed up at West Carrollton High School in Dayton earlier this week." Take those two away and "you have about 15,000 over 13 sessions for an average of 1,150 for every practice on the fields West of PBS." That is "not a bad number and they stayed between 1,000 and 1,500 for about every practice" (CINCINNATI.com, 8/15).
COWBOY UP: In Dallas, Rainer Sabin noted the Cowboys' training camp in Oxnard, Calif., "attracted 50,591 people," which was "down from last year," when it drew 58,522. This year marked the final year of the team's contract with Oxnard, and while an extension "hasn't been finalized," the city and team "are working towards that end" (DALLASNEWS.com, 8/15).
The Buccaneers this season are "using just about every strategy in the NFL marketing playbook to get fans to Raymond James Stadium," according to Ashley Gurbal Kritzer of the TAMPA BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL. The team is "pouring millions of dollars into getting fans off their couch," spending $7M this year "upgrading the concessions area." Players will be "decked out in new uniforms, and the marketing and guest relations departments work year-round with season ticket holders to ensure renewals." Bucs CMO Ailey Penningroth and her team "created an advertising campaign showcasing some of the most diehard fans in Raymond James Stadium, as well as the city." She said, “I don’t want our campaign to be something you could transplant to New York or San Francisco or Arizona. I really want to celebrate Tampa and everything there is wonderful to do in the area.” The Bucs' marketing efforts also "include personalizing their roster -- adding a human element to the players on the field." At a photo shoot over the summer, Penningroth "requested some shots with the players’ helmets off." The result is advertising that she "hopes will make fans see players as 'not just a guy who throws touchdowns,' but as a person." Meanwhile, the Bucs' upgrades include an "overhaul of the 14 main concourse concession locations and the addition of four new 'larger and better-equipped' beverage stands at the stadium." Also, new express lanes to "get into the building will expedite entry for fans without bags that security needs to investigate" (TAMPA BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/15 issue).