GUTKOWSKI'S OUSTING IS NOT TAKEN WELL BY NEW YORK PRESS
Bob Gutkowski was "forced out" yesterday as president of
Madison Square Garden, "becoming the first casualty of the sports
and entertainment complex's proposed" $1.075B acquisition by ITT
and Cablevision Systems. Officially, Gutkowski said he resigned,
but according to one person familiar with the situation, "he was
dismissed" Monday at the request of the new owners by Viacom
President Frank Biondi. Biondi: "It was evident that Bob and
[the new owners] were not in sync." Viacom named Knicks
President Dave Checketts as Gutkowski's interim replacement, and
President of the newly created MSG Sports Group, directly in
charge of the Rangers and Knicks. Rangers President Neil Smith
will report to Checketts (Richard Sandomir, N.Y. TIMES, 9/21).
Several MSG sources claim Gutkowski was "devastated" by the
timing of the upheaval (Fred Kerber, N.Y. POST, 9/21). TEAMS
FOR SALE? Frank Brown notes that if the Knicks and Rangers are
sold, Checketts' current position could mean "one fewer firing by
incoming owners who may want somebody else. Nike often has been
mentioned as a prospective buyer of the Knicks; while no names of
potential purchasers have surfaced on the Rangers' front" (N.Y.
DAILY NEWS, 9/21).
BIG APPLE REAX: Headline over Phil Mushnick's column:
"Garden Plot Sickens -- More bad moves to follow Gutkowski
firing." Without Gutkowski, Mushnick predicts the quality of MSG
Network will go down. "Gutkowski assiduously protected the
separation of church and state; i.e., the right of MSG Network
personnel to serve the interests of viewers before the interests
of the Garden's teams." Mushnick also notes the possibility of
the Devils and Nets leaving. The Devils' and Nets' contracts
with Cablevision's SportsChannel expire in '98 & '96
respectively. "SC and MSG Network, once the only real
competitors for local teams' sports rights, will be controlled by
the same company. Therefore, the only existing company that
would bid for TV rights to the Devils and Nets owns the teams/or
the TV rights of clubs that compete against them in the same
market" (N.Y. POST, 9/21). George Vecsey writes, "Time moves
fast in corporate America" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/21). Bob Raissman
notes the contract dispute between the Rangers and Mark Messier:
"If Messier is not in uniform soon, there will hell to pay.
ITT/Cablevision will be cast in the role of villains. No spin-
doctoring by Checketts can erase that" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/21).