SBJ/March 28-April 3, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Owners discuss easing equity rule for heirs

From the NFL owners meetings, New Orleans

The NFL discussed lowering the amount of equity an heir of a team must control when assuming ownership of the club, sources said, a change that would be the latest league policy shift to reflect the hurdles posed by estate planning.

Currently, a family must own at least 30 percent of a team, with the lead owner having in some circumstances as little as 10 percent. Under the policy being discussed, the overall percentage of a team that is passing to an heir that the family must own would be about 25 percent. The issue did not come up for a vote.

The NFL has many teams, including the Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots, with heirs standing in the wings to take over their respective franchises, but at the same time, values of clubs have risen steadily in recent years. That poses estate-planning challenges, as the heirs must pay estate taxes on the slice of the team they inherit.

The proposed policy change has not been voted on by the finance committee, but the sources said it is not unusual for a matter not voted on at committee to be brought up for discussion, and possibly even a vote, before full ownership.

The league at one time required the control owner to have 51 percent of the team. That percentage fell to 30 percent, and in 2004, the number was changed to 20 percent for family-owned teams, with the family needing to cumulatively stay at 30 percent. In the wake of the difficulties of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ keeping the team in the Rooney family, the control portion percentage in 2009 was dropped to 10 percent. For non-family situations, the control portion remains at 30 percent.

OTHER LEGAL NEWS: In all the legal rush during the last month there still exists the collusion case the former union filed against the league. The NFL Players Association in January filed a complaint with the special master who oversees such disputes, alleging that teams conspired in 2010 to limit restricted free agent signings.
League sources said the case is at a hold, pending the NFLPA filing motions for discovery with the special master. George Atallah, spokesman for the now decertified NFLPA, declined to comment. The league sources said the earliest the collusion case could be heard by the special master would be the fall.

MICHAEL GOOD PHOTOGRAPHY
Tisch said L.A. came up at the meeting.
L.A. VIEWING: New York Giants co-owner Steve Tisch said the long-debated return of the NFL to Los Angeles came up during the meeting, but owners were told a proposal by AEG to build a stadium could take more than a year to overcome procedural hurdles like an environmental impact statement. Neil Glat, the NFL’s senior vice president, corporate development, made the presentation, Tisch said. Ed Roski, who has a competing proposal for a stadium in City of Industry, Calif., is waiting in the wings, Tisch added.

SEEING GREEN: The NFL passed a rule that teams must have green fields. Jacksonville’s Wayne Weaver, chairman of the business ventures committee, and Atlanta’s Arthur Blank said the rule was designed to head off a sponsor that might want to pay a team to shade a field its corporate color. They said they knew of no such proposal that elicited the rule. “The league was just trying to anticipate a sponsor going to one of the teams,” Blank said.

EXTRA POINTS: The NFL has a new advisory committee on NFL giving, staffed by Charlotte Jones Anderson, Dallas executive vice president and daughter of owner Jerry Jones; Michael Bidwill, Arizona Cardinals president; Green Bay Packers President Mark Murphy; Mary Owen, executive vice president of the Buffalo Bills; and Delores Weaver, wife of Jacksonville owner Wayne Weaver.

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