SBJ/October 5 - 11, 1998/No Topic Name

L.A. sports teams eye plan for retail stores

The Los Angeles Lakers, Kings and Dodgers, in partnership with Fox Group Inc., have hired a research consultant to study the potential of opening retail stores throughout Southern California to sell team merchandise, said Tim Leiweke, Kings president.

Leiweke indicated that if a decision is made to go ahead with the project, the stores would be similar to the ESPN retail stores.

"ESPN has a series of retail stores, and I'm sure part of the magic here is twofold," Leiweke said. "From Fox's standpoint, they are probably looking at those [ESPN stores]. From our standpoint, this marketplace doesn't really have an overabundance of team-driven stores, unlike a Detroit, a Utah, a Colorado or a San Francisco."

Los Angeles Kings owners Philip Anschutz and Ed Roski "have a strategic alliance with the Dodgers," which are 100 percent owned by Fox, Leiweke said.

In April, Fox and the Kings' owners signed a deal that gave Fox a 40 percent interest in the Staples Center, which the Kings' owners are building in downtown Los Angeles. Under that agreement, Fox also has the option to buy a 40 percent stake in the Kings and, through the Kings, a 10 percent interest in the Lakers.

Under an earlier agreement the Kings' owners signed with Lakers owner Jerry Buss to agree to move that NBA team to the new Staples Center, "the Lakers have an option to participate on an ownership basis on any retail operations we get involved with," Leiweke said.

Leiweke said research on the Los Angeles sports team stores has continued for several months, but he did not know when a decision might be reached. A decision will be made based on the projected profitability of the stores by the research firm.

The research firm's task is to answer the questions of "if there is a demand for retail stores and, if so, where would we open them," Leiweke said. One retail store is already planned as part of the Staples Center.

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