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Volume 24 No. 115

Franchises

     Despite saying he is the front-runner to buy the Buccaneers,
Orioles Owner Peter Angelos would still "have a major hurdle to
clear" if he wants to buy the team and move it to Baltimore.  The
Bucs three-man trust told Angelos that they would not accept an
offer for the team that was "conditional on the NFL allowing the
team to relocate."  Because of that, Angelos could face millions
of dollars in "additional costs in attempting to buy and move the
Bucs."  Angelos would have to pay roughly $9.5M to buy the team
out of its current lease at Tampa Stadium, but he also could be
assessed $15M by the NFL in relocation fees and face millions
more in legal fees if the league seeks a court-ordered injunction
to block the move.  Bucs trustee Steve Story said Angelos could
buy the Bucs and operate the team in Tampa while trying to seek
league approval for the franchise to be moved.  Story: "That's a
possibility.  Clearly, that is not his preference" (Rick Stroud,
ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 12/21).  Angelos: "We don't know what kind
of fight the NFL might put up to keep the team from moving.  At
this point, making the deal is not the tough part" (Henderson &
Stebbins, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/21).
     WILL HE OR WON'T HE?  ESPN's Chris Mortensen said Angelos is
"confident" he can buy the Bucs.  Mortensen: "He is willing to
fight the NFL (about moving) and even consider selling the
Orioles if the cross-ownership issue gets too sticky."  The
"roadblock" is the "unconditional sale.  In other words if
Angelos fails legally to move the franchise, he'd still be stuck
with the team" ("SportsCenter," 12/20).  MD Gov. William Donald
Schaefer believes the NFL will block a move to Baltimore.
Schaefer put odds on the Bucs moving at "less than 50/50" (Jon
Morgan, Baltimore SUN, 12/21).
     TAXES GUARANTEES SEATS:  During a press conference today,
scheduled to be held at the 50-yard line in Tampa Stadium, local
leaders are expected to announce a proposal to have taxpayers and
businesses paying for unsold seats at home games.  The city of
Tampa, Hillsborough County, and Tampa Bay businesses would
"guarantee the sale of at least 55,000 tickets for each home game
for one or two years."  Enthusiasm for the idea by elected
officials who might be asked to vote on a ticket guarantee was
mixed.  Hillsborough County Commissioner Joe Chillura was not
"terribly excited" about public money being used to guarantee
sales, but he would favor guaranteeing public support if the Bucs
made the Super Bowl during the next five years.  Chillura: "If
you want to obligate the county to $150 million in debt, there
has to be more than just having an NFL team in town.  We want a
winning team" (Koehn & Kenyon, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/21).

     After months of waiting and wondering, it was official
yesterday -- the Grizzlies announced sales of 12,624 season-
tickets, meeting the NBA's requirement of 12,500 before the
December 31 deadline.  The Raptors hold a press conference today
at which they are expected to announce that they have also
surpassed the goal.  The key to both franchises was help from the
Shoppers Drug Mart chain.  Shoppers, which has 700 stores in
Canada, bought 2,500 of the 12,624 season tickets sold by the
Grizzlies, all in either the $21 or $28 range.  It is reported
that Shoppers purchased a "whopping" 4,500 for the Raptors, all
of them in the SkyDome cheap seats that won't be available when
the team moves into a new arena (Neil Campbell, Toronto GLOBE &
MAIL, 12/21).
     GRIZZLIES: Shoppers Drug "pumped about $1.4M into the
Grizzlies coffers for the bulk purchase."  They were given a 10%
discount on their order, and tickets will be sold at Shoppers
stores on a per-game basis.  Shoppers Drug VP Terry Morrison: "We
see this as good for our youth, good for our economy, and good
for our business. ... We will be offering the tickets for sale to
customers through special promotion in our 42 Lower Mainland
stores."  The team announced that the general public had
purchased over 8,000 tickets while 4,500 were sold to the
corporate community.  Grizzlies VP/GM Stu Jackson said the team
hit "every fan base.  We've hit the corporations, the general
public, and we've hit the casual game goer with the Shoppers Drug
Deal" (Howard Tsumura, Vancouver PROVINCE, 12/21).  Jackson:
"The dream is now a reality."  Owner Arthur Griffiths called the
ticket drive "a struggle," adding that "the league was very
careful to watch us, to make sure our numbers were real."
Jackson took a shot at the Raptors: "We've got the first victory.
We kicked Toronto's butt" (Gary Kingston, VANCOUVER SUN, 12/21).
NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik congratulated the team:
"This demonstrates great support on the part of the community and
it will help ensure a successful launch of the franchise" (Jim
Byers, TORONTO STAR, 12/21).
          RAPTORS:  The Raptors had hoped to make a simultaneous
     announcement on their ticket success and the finalization of
an arena deal, but the arena deal was still in doubt as of
yesterday.  The team has increased its offer for a Canada Post
building in downtown Toronto, but Andrew Gaddell, a spokesperson
for Canada Post, said "the situation is still pretty fluid, but
there will be no announcement today."  The team must have an
"agreement in principal" on an arena site by the end of the year,
and they are confident details can be worked out soon (Bill
Harrin, TORONTO SUN, 12/21).

     ITT "insisted" that displeasure from the NHL and NBA over
the company's acquisition of Caesars World would not prevent them
from closing the $1.08B deal for Madison Square Garden.  ITT and
Cablevision are partners in a pending deal for the the Knicks and
Rangers.  Each league expressed concern over ITT's $1.7B offer
for Caesars World yesterday, as both bar team owners from owning
businesses that take bets on sporting events.  ITT spokesperson
James Gallagher said the company has discussed the issue with the
commissioners of both leagues.  Gallagher:  "We are confident
that we are going to be able to do the deals" (BLOOMBERG BUSINESS
NEWS/N.Y. POST, 12/21).  ESPN's Steve Levy:  "ITT is feverishly
working on concessions to O.K. the MSG purchase which could
include separating its holdings and not taking action on games in
either the NBA or NHL" ("SportsCenter," 12/20).  Sources say ITT
could drop hockey and basketball betting, if necessary, but the
company "didn't plan on selling either of the sports teams."
Caesars' sports book is estimated to generate less than 5% of the
company's total gambling revenue.  John Rochs, an analyst with
Wertheim Schroder & Co., says a settlement restricting sports
gambling would have a "minuscule impact" on profits (Eben
Shapiro, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/21).  However, Ron Pearlstein,
an analyst at Loomis Sayles & Co., says "sport-betting salons are
much too profitable":  "My guess is the Knicks and the Rangers
have got to go. ... The leagues might insist on it"
(BLOOMBERG/N.Y. POST, 12/21).  Both analysts agree that
eliminating some sports betting could hurt overall profits.
Rochs:  "There is an unquantifiable aspect to it:  How many
people won't walk in the door in the first place?" (WALL STREET
JOURNAL, 12/21).

     ESPN's Mark Schwarz examined the Rams' troubles in Orange
County as well as their declining popularity among fans.  L.A.
TIMES reporter T.J. Simers: "It's a bad team, it's not attracting
anybody, there's no excitement.  What do you get excited about
with this team? -- Which quarter Chris Miller is going to get his
concussion in?"  Leigh Steinberg, who has organized a group to
keep the Rams in Anaheim, said rumors of a move has exaggerated
the team's lack of appeal:  "The worst thing to do in Southern
California, which is an area that appreciates the concept of
something is hot, exciting, and the place to be, is to do what
the Rams have done for the last two years, which is to say we
really, probably won't be here."  Another issue discussed was the
declining amount of Rams merchandise being sold.  Rams safety
Anthony Newman spoke of how he once needed a couple of Rams caps
for his football camp:  "I went to every mall in Orange County
almost, and I couldn't find a Rams hat.  I couldn't believe it.
I think you have to take some responsibility to do something like
to market the Los Angeles Rams" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 12/20).
     SHAW PROFILED:  Rams President John Shaw, the architect of
the Rams move, is the focus of an extensive profile in this
morning's ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH.  Shaw, who was put in charge
of the organization at the age 31, is praised for "his shrewd,
indefatigable negotiating skills" (Bernie Miklasz, ST. LOUIS
POST-DISPATCH, 12/21).