SBJ/June 1 - 7, 1998/No Topic Name

No name deal in Oakland

Just how bad is the relationship between the Oakland Raiders and the city and county that lured them back to the Bay Area after a hiatus in Los Angeles?

So bad that the two sides are missing out on nearly $9 million each over the next decade because they can't agree to a naming-rights deal for Oakland Alameda County Coliseum.

The standoff between the Raiders and municipal officials is "one of the most dysfunctional situations in sports today, if not the most dysfunctional," said Dean Bonham, president and CEO of the Bonham Group, a Denver sports and entertainment consulting firm.

The naming-rights situation is hurting both the Raiders and community leaders, who forked over $200 million to bring the team back to Oakland in 1995, Bonham said.

Nine months ago, the Coliseum board approved a $17.5 million, 10-year deal to name the facility the UMAX Coliseum, after UMAX Inc., a Taiwanese computer-hardware manufacturer. The Raiders and the Coliseum were to split those proceeds.

But before the deal was final, the Raiders "interfered" by demanding additional funds and no contract was ever signed, said Deena McClain, general counsel for the Coliseum Authority, which is engaged in a bitter court battle with the Raiders to enforce its contract with the team. For their part, the Raiders are threatening to leave Oakland, saying the city reneged on a promise of a sold-out stadium.

"I think Al Davis should be out in front doing everything he can to get the naming-rights deal signed and encourage the city and the taxpayers to come out and support the franchise," Bonham said. The best thing for all parties, he added, would be to settle the lawsuit and to present "a united front."

But the Coliseum Authority and the Raiders appear to be working separately.

After the initial deal with UMAX fell through, the Coliseum Authority tried to work out a new naming-rights arrangement with company officials, but they have not been able to reach an agreement without the participation of the Raiders, McClain said.

That's because UMAX does not want just to put its name on a building. Rather, McClain said, company executives seek a relationship with the Raiders that includes traveling with the team, marketing partnerships and other perks that only the Raiders could provide.

"We made an offer to UMAX to give them everything we could give them," McClain said, but company officials refused. "We are looking for other sponsors at this point."

A spokesman for UMAX said the company is still hopeful it will receive the naming rights and has had ongoing discussions with the Raiders about marketing partnerships, including building a technology center at the Oakland Coliseum.

McClain said she was not aware of the talks between the Raiders and UMAX, adding that only the Coliseum can award the naming rights.

Kenneth G. Hausman, attorney for the Raiders, noted that the Raiders can reject up to three names proposed by the Coliseum Authority.

As for the possibility of the team and the authority working together in the future, Hausman said, "The Raiders tried to work cooperatively with the Coliseum Authority but were sued during the middle of the football season by the city, the county and the Coliseum Authority."

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