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Volume 24 No. 156

Franchises

     Celtics Chair Paul Gaston backed away from a comment made
during a Thursday press conference that the Wall Street Journal
article on Reggie Lewis' death was racist.  Gaston told WEEI's
Dale Arnold:  "It was not necessarily a racist issue.  That part
was hotheaded."  Gaston also addressed the issue of whether the
team would have suffered financially if it was found that drugs
caused Lewis' heart ailment.  Gaston said the team actually would
have made more money, since the team and the insurer would have
been freed from fulfilling Lewis' contract (Jack Craig, BOSTON
GLOBE, 3/11).  In other news, Celtics CFO Joseph DiLorenzo said
he believes Lewis would have provided blood and urine samples as
part of the insurance application, and that they would have been
tested for drugs.  A spokesperson for the state's chief medical
examiner said none of the eight consultants who assisted in
Lewis' autopsy raised the possibility of drug use in their
official reports, although one of the doctors said he raised
concerns verbally (Stephen Kurkjian, BOSTON GLOBE, 3/11).
     WEEKEND TALK:  BOSTON GLOBE'S Bob Ryan:  "The tragedy of
this is that no one will ever prove that he did or didn't do it"
("Sports Reporters," ESPN, 3/12).  In New York, Mitch Lawrence
writes, "The Celtics want this story to go away, but that won't
happen soon.  Not when $15 million is at stake in what is shaping
up as an insurance fraud case" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/12).  Phil
Mushnick notes that NBC's "three-hour, seven-reporter" coverage
of the NBA yesterday ignored the Lewis story (N.Y. POST, 3/13).
A BOSTON GLOBE editorial states:  "Instead of wasting their money
on a libel suit, the Celtics would be better advised to help fund
an independent investigation" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/11).

     Expos President Claude Brochu denied a report Friday that
linked the Expos to one of the losing Northern VA baseball
groups.  Brochu: "I want to reassure people that the Expos are
not for sale.  We haven't even received any offers."  Brochu did
say that Bill Collins, head of Virginia Baseball Inc., does not
want to wait for MLB's next round of expansion.  But Brochu
added, "There is no question of him buying the Expos."  Collins,
meanwhile, said his group would "continue to pursue the
possibility of purchasing and relocating a current franchise."
Brochu said talk of a possible sale started after Collins met
with Brochu last week -- not about selling the team, but about
expansion.  Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau, noted the rumor came
from a Toronto newspaper:  "It's a phony.  Mind you, the fact
that it comes out of Toronto is significant -- a balloon out of
Toronto about Montreal moving to Washington.  Ho, ho" (TORONTO
STAR, 3/11).  Columnist/former Expos P.R. man Richard Griffin
writes, "If the business community responds to what surely is a
crisis situation in the history of the ballclub, then baseball
remains in Montreal.  If not, then there is a wealthy suitor at
the bottom of the ladder waiting to elope with the franchise to
Northern Virginia" (TORONTO STAR, 3/11).  Peter Gammons notes the
"distinct possibility" that former Tampa group leader Vince
Piazza will make a "considerable offer" for the team.  Gammons
predicts the sale price of the Expos "will be closer than you
might imagine" to the $173M price for the Orioles (BOSTON GLOBE,
3/12).  For more on Northern VA, see #11.

     "The bloodless battle to keep the Rams in Southern
California will erupt today behind closed doors at the NFL's
annual meetings," writes Michele Himmelberg in today's ORANGE
COUNTY REGISTER.  The point of contention is the $70M the Rams
are due to receive from the sale of PSLs.  NFL Commissioner Paul
Tagliabue claims that money should be designated as ticket
revenue, to be shared 60/40.  Tagliabue:  "That's the No. 1 issue
in the minds of many teams.  The broader issue is whether the
move is justified."  The NFL's Finance Committee met with Rams
President John Shaw for two hours Sunday to begin those
negotiations (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/13).  A source on the
Finance Committee said the Rams will receive a "list of demands,"
and if Rams Owner Georgia Frontiere agrees to them, the committee
will urge team owners to approve the move.  But if the move is
voted down, the team expects to be back in CA. Shaw: "If we're
voted down I think the chances of playing in L.A. are very good.
Where?  We haven't even addressed that issue yet" (Plaschke &
Simers, L.A. TIMES, 3/13).
     FROM THE OWNERS:  Browns Owner Art Modell said the Finance
Committee appears divided: "If they do move, we'd be leaving a
tremendous gaping hole in the Fox television contract.  We want a
two-team market in Los Angeles.  I don't care what the Rams do,
but we need either an expansion team or a veteran team to
relocate to Anaheim if they were to go."  Broncos Owner Pat
Bowlen notes Fox's objections and is concerned the network will
ask for compensation:  "When the Cardinals moved, Bill Bidwill
spent a lot of time and effort trying to stay in St. Louis.  He
stayed within the rules.  When the time came to vote, it was
apparent he had tried and failed.  I'm not sure the Rams have put
forth that effort" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/13).  Oilers Owner
Bud Adams:  "It's a doable deal.  I think we will work something
out.  Anything as big as this takes a lot of time" (L.A. TIMES,
3/13).  Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones: "It would surprise me if this
is totally resolved at (this week's) meetings" (USA TODAY, 3/13).
In Boston, Will McDonough writes it "looks like" the Rams' move
will be defeated.   One owner who will vote against the move:
"The votes are there to stop them.  And unless some people change
their minds, it is not going to happen" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/12).
Several other NFL beat writers predict the league and the Rams
will work out some arrangement and the move will be approved.
     FINANCIAL SITUATION:  The Rams contend they lost about
$700,000 in '93 and were projecting a $6M loss for '94 (Michele
Himmelberg, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/13).  But McDonough reports
that the NFL has evidence the Rams have not lost money.  One
"highly placed source":  "Each team has its own method of
accounting.  But the league office has one they use to conform
all teams the same way.  The Rams' accounting says they lose
money.  The league's accounting says they make money.  Big money"
(BOSTON GLOBE, 3/12).

     The $1B sale of Madison Square Garden, the Knicks and the
Rangers and MSG Network is complete.  Seven months after reaching
an agreement with Viacom, the ITT Corp./Cablevision Systems
partnership "took possession."  While no changes are expected
with the teams, "cable-junkies could be in for a rude awakening."
The N.Y. POST reports that ITT CFO Bob Bowman recently addressed
the fate of MSG Network: "I don't know why MSG considers that
they've got to have a live event on at 2:00am. ... I don't know
why MSG has to have live sports for 30 minutes at 11:00pm.  I
don't know anybody who watches it."  Bowman made the comments to
a group of Wall Street analysts last year.  "However, there is no
mention that the network will be scrapped."  ITT's partner,
Cablevision, runs SportsChannel New York.  The transcript of
Bowman's remarks "also notes that many of MSG's other operations
might also go."  Among them is MSG Enterprises, which books
concerts and events.  Said one ITT insider:  "I didn't even know
it was there until we bought it" (N.Y. POST, 3/11).  The payment
to Viacom was about $66M less than agreed to when the plan was
announced in August 1994 because of closing adjustments (WALL
STREET JOURNAL, 3/13).

     According to Angels Exec VP Jackie Autry, former MLB
Commissioner Peter Ueberroth may buy 25% of the Angels, with an
option to buy the remaining 75% upon the death of team owner Gene
Autry.  If the purchase is completed, Ueberroth would immediately
become managing general partner of the team.  Jackie Autry said a
price tag has not been set, but it is believed the Angels would
be valued at $125-135M if a deal to build a new $215M stadium is
finalized.  How soon a deal could be made will depend on
Ueberroth's analysis of the franchise, and how long it takes MLB
to check financial stability of Ueberroth and his investment
group (Michele Himmelberg, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/10).

     "The Devils are not moving to Tennessee," according to Barry
Meisel of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS.  But he notes that team owner John
McMullen did meet with Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen on Thursday
(see THE DAILY, 3/10).  An NHL source adds that Gaylord
Entertainment Pres & CEO Dick Evans mediated the meeting.
Gaylord (owner of The Nashville Network) wants to buy the Devils
and move them to TN.  But one "prominent sports executive" in
Nashville said Friday he believes McMullen is "simply using the
town as leverage to improve the Devils' lease" with the NJ Sports
and Exposition Authority (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/11).