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Volume 24 No. 112

Franchises

     Comsat Video Enterprises, owner of the NBA Nuggets, "likely
will know by mid-May whether it will have a chance to acquire"
the Nordiques and move them to Denver, according to Saturday's
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS.  Last week, Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau
appointed an attorney to review the team's finances and report
back on the "feasibility" of financing a new facility for the
team.  Nords spokesperson Jean Martineau says team President
Marcel Aubut "has written approval" to sell or move the team if
the government will not help.  Martineau: "The people who own
this company won't go bankrupt just because hockey is a big thing
here."  The Nordiques have suggested the government raise funds
to cover a new $125M arena and pay off the team's debt until the
facility can be built through a new lottery or casino.  Aubut met
with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman last week to discuss the
negotiations between the team and province.  Bettman "reportedly
told Aubut he would not assist the Nordiques' bid to secure
financing unless he was asked to get involved."  The team's lease
at Quebec's Colisee expires July 15 (Curtis Eichelberger, ROCKY
MOUNTAIN NEWS, 4/15).
     ROCKY ROAD BACK TO DENVER:  In Sunday's BOSTON GLOBE, Kevin
Paul Dupont speculates that the Islanders may be the next team to
be sold, and possibly move.  Dupont also mentions a possible
Devils move to Denver -- the city they abandoned for NJ in '82.
Dupont writes, "Wouldn't the hockey landscape play better if the
Isles bolted for, say, Phoenix and the Devils hit the road for
Denver?  It all would be so much easier if the Board of Governors
stopped worrying about lost expansion fees and encouraged some of
these weak sisters to do the right thing and move to better
buildings in better markets" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/16).

     In the wake of the NFL's approval of the Rams' move to St.
Louis, weekend reports centered on rumors the NFL is considering
moving as many as three franchises to fill the now-open L.A.
market.  "Crazy or not ... there is talk of swapping franchises,"
writes S.A. Paolantonio in Philadelphia.  One unnamed NFL source
mentioned two possible scenarios:  The Bengals to Baltimore; or
the Bengals to Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium, with the Eagles
moving to L.A.  Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie called that report
"absolute nonsense."  Bengals President & GM Mike Brown: "I have
not heard that, and I find that fairly strained."  But Oilers
Owner Bud Adams said there "has been some talk of it."  Adams:
"It's a helluva market out there.  My lease is up in two years.
I may want to take a look at L.A. myself."  Another NFC owner
said the Eagles "always come up in these discussions," but added
that owners are "not stupid enough" to move the Eagles out of
Philadelphia's No. 4 media market.  The league wants an NFC team
in L.A., and Lurie, a movie producer, "would seem a perfect fit."
But Paolantonio writes that moving the Eagles "seems heretical
even for the NFL's relentless pursuit of TV revenue"
(PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/15).  Fox Sports Spokesperson Vince
Wladika called the Eagles rumor "baseless and groundless":  "Why
would we want a team leaving the No. 4 market?" (Mike Bruton,
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/18).  The "message" the Bengals' Brown
took from the Rams vote was that "if a team wants to move, the
NFL isn't going to fight it.  Even if the team wants to come to
Baltimore," according to Vito Stellino in Baltimore.  On the
Eagles, Stellino speculates if Raiders Owner Al Davis gets a new
stadium at Hollywood Park, "Lurie could share it in this
scenario" (Baltimore SUN, 4/16).
     RAIDERS GO HOLLYWOOD:  The L.A. DAILY NEWS reports that the
league will grant at least two Super Bowls and a "undisclosed sum
of money" within the next two weeks to help build a Hollywood
Park facility that would be home to UCLA and the Raiders (SAN
FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, 4/15).  In discussions with NFL owners about
building a stadium at Hollywood Park, Davis said $60M could be
raised from the sale of PSL's.  But Davis also would want three
Super Bowls within a 10-year span, with 10,000 seats for each
Super Bowl "set aside" for luxury and club seat buyers in
addition to the 8,000 regularly reserved for the host team.
Davis reportedly will not let an NFC team share the facility.
The Raiders stadium situation "will remain in the air" until the
May league meetings in Jacksonville (Will McDonough, BOSTON
GLOBE, 4/16).  An L.A. TIMES editorial states "it's hard to argue
with the logic" of the proposed Hollywood Park deal, citing the
private financing and the boost to the economy from future Super
Bowls (L.A. TIMES, 4/16).
     IS FOX A WINNER OR LOSER?  Despite losing L.A., Fox will
"escape with little or no ratings damage over the remaining three
years of its contract," according to Jim Thomas in St. Louis.
Thomas writes the rebate was a "phantom issue" since there was no
provision in Fox's contract stating they had to have a team in
L.A. (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/16).  But in New York, Steve
Zipay sees Fox as a big "loser," as is KTTV, Fox's L.A.
affiliate.  Zipay's Winners:  NBC, which televises AFC games and
has the rights to the Raiders; and Logo Athletic, which has
exclusive rights to St. Louis Rams apparel (NEWSDAY, 4/14).
Possible "restitution" for Fox will "likely come in subsequent
seasons, and potentially, on a non-cash basis" (Thomas Tyrer,
ELECTRONIC MEDIA, 4/17 issue).  Fox Sports' Wladika wouldn't
respond to reports the NFL "promised" Fox a $12M rebate.  He did
say talks between the network and league were "ongoing" (Mike
Bruton, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/18).

     The "behind-the-scenes jockeying" over John Labatt Ltd.
intensified Monday as a major Canadian broadcaster, CanWest
Global Communications Corp., confirmed it has been approached by
investment bankers about acquiring some Labatt assets if the
company is sold.  Meanwhile, sources disclosed that South
American brewer Quilmes Industrial, SA is still considering
teaming up with leveraged buyout firm Onex Corp. for a multi-
billion dollar run at Labatt.  CanWest has already started
preliminary talks with Labatt about its intention to spin off
some of its broadcast and sports assets (Marina Strauss, Toronto
GLOBE & MAIL, 4/18).  Labatt's assets include the Blue Jays,
SkyDome and TSN.  Speculation is that if Onex is successful in
acquiring Labatt, it will sell off all of its assets with the
exception of the brewery (FINANCIAL POST, 4/15).

     As the May 1 deadline approaches for Manitoba Entertainment
Complex to purchase Barry Shenkarow's shares of the NHL Jets and
for the Winnipeg City Council to approve a new arena site
approaches, the Twin Cities are preparing for a possible return
of the NHL.  In Sunday's Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, Jay Weiner
examines the struggle to keep the Jets in Manitoba, and the
possibility of moving the team South.  MEC Chair John Loewen says
the chances of a deal being worked out are "65-35," in favor of
Winnipeg.  In a sidebar, Weiner breaks down the issue.  If the
Jets are sold to a Canadian buyer rather than American interests,
"they could lose out" on $21M because of the devalued Canadian
currency and higher demand for the team in the U.S.  The value of
the franchise was set at C$50M in '92, which is the basis of what
Shenkarow will receive for his 64%, should he sell to MEC.  In
Minneapolis, it is estimated a deal for the Jets could bring a
total of US$70M (Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 4/16).  NHL General
Counsel Jeff Pash, who was in Winnipeg to meet with the
interested parties last week:  "We want to keep the Canadian
teams in Canada."  Pash says U.S. interest in teams "can be
addressed through expansion at the appropriate time" (Tim
Campbell, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 4/15).
     JET WASH:  In Toronto, Greg Reekie writes the chances of a
Jets move to MN "are in the 80% range. ... The accepted wisdom
had been that the league wanted to keep franchises where they are
in order to leave all potential expansion sites open."  But since
no group in MN seems willing to pay the likely $75M expansion
fee, it makes sense to move the Jets.  Meanwhile, Atlanta and
Denver would remain open for $75M expansion franchises, "both of
which are very likely" (TORONTO SUN, 4/16)....MN officials want
the $20M or more reaped from the sale of the land that held the
old Met Center to be applied to the purchase of a new hockey team
(Sid Hartman, Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 4/15)....Former NBA
Nuggets President Tim Lieweke, who was heading Denver's Pepsi
Center project for Comsat before he resigned last month, is
reportedly interested in being involved in a MN ownership group
(Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 4/15)....Fans in Winnipeg have created
a drive to save the Jets that features a page on the internet.
The address: http://www.infoman.mb. ca/infoman/savejets.html
(Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 4/16).