SBJ/November 23 - 29, 1998/No Topic Name

Predators start dialing for dollars

The 1998 Arena Football League champion Orlando Predators want to conquer another field: telemarketing.

The team launched an in-house telemarketing unit to support a season-ticket drive in June, but the unit branched out over the summer and fall to make calls on behalf of an employee leasing company owned by one of the Predators' largest shareholders.

In the future, the team anticipates the unit can grow substantially, reducing reliance on AFL income.

The stocks of public sports companies that are not diversified, such as the Cleveland Indians Baseball Co., the Boston Celtics LP and the Predators, have been hammered this year. The Predators' stock price is down 35 percent from its December 1997 initial public offering price. Observers argue that public teams need to diversify to reduce the reliance on income from one sport.

"Right now [the unit] is in the developmental stage," said Alex Narushka, the company's chief financial officer. "We are looking to grow the company in any way possible."

In the quarter ended Sept. 30, the company's calls on behalf of the leasing company, Sunwest P.E.O. of Florida Inc., earned the team more than $35,000 on revenue of $137,600. Telemarketing expenses were $102,191. By contrast, football operations lost more than half a million dollars on revenue of $1,234,674 in the quarter.

The telemarketing effort is also responsible for three-quarters of the 1,800 season-ticket holders the team added in June, Narushka said. The team now has 7,200 season-ticket holders.

Most teams contract for telemarketing, Narushka said, but the Predators decided to do it in-house.

According to the company's quarterly filing, selling and promotional expenses in the quarter were $479,901, an increase of $80,350, or 21 percent, compared to the year-ago period. This was primarily due to the season-ticket telemarketing effort, the report said.

Sunwest P.E.O., the leasing company, is owned by Monolith Ltd. Partnership, which owns more than 20 percent of Predators common shares.

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