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Volume 24 No. 117

Franchises

     The ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS' Curtis Eichelberger has been
covering the potential move of the Nordiques to Denver since
rumors about the team's move to the area began.  He told THE
SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY that questions about the Denver market's
ability to support an NHL team are valid, but he thinks Denver
could support a franchise.  Eichelberger: "I do think with the
proper marketing there is enough of a base here to get people to
turn out."
     THE CORPORATE DOLLARS: Eichelberger thinks the biggest area
of concern will be the ability of the Denver corporate community
to support the skyboxes and club seating necessary to make the
franchise profitable.  He says there are many Denver teams
competing for corporate money.  Eichelberger: "I think you're not
going to have a problem filling the place, and I think you are
going to sell some boxes, but to sell them all, and to get the
kind of money they've -- the Rockies, the Broncos, the Nuggets,
and even up at CU -- been getting for them, I think that's where
the real test is going to be" (THE DAILY).
     HAMILTON IN THE MIX?  A U.S. group led by Rough Riders Owner
Horn Chen is interested in bringing the Nordiques to Hamilton,
according to this morning's Hamilton SPECTATOR.  John Kernaghan
reports that Chen's group has been in contact with the Nordiques,
but "have received no reply."  Hamilton Mayor Bob Morrow, who
confirmed the groups' interest, said the city did not want to
"seem predatory."  Hamilton: "But we couldn't wait until a deal
was done to move the team to Denver" (Hamilton SPECTATOR, 5/19).

     Yesterday's noon deadline for a local group to buy the Jets
from Barry Shenkarow and keep them from moving to Minnesota came
and went without a decision.  Local buyer Izzy Asper released a
statement suggesting "he was prepared to make an offer to
purchase the team, and would have further details next week"
(WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/19).
     SHORT ON CASH:  The Canadian Government failed to donate the
C$37M Manitoba and Winnipeg officials had hoped they would to
help fund a new C$111M arena for the team, instead contributing
C$20M.  However, local officials were optimistic the shortfall
can be met, according to John Douglas in this morning's WINNIPEG
FREE PRESS.  Douglas reports that in addition to the C$17M
shortfall for the arena, the C$110M needed from local buyer Izzy
Asper and the community was still C$28M short (WINNIPEG FREE
PRESS, 5/19).
     PLAYING FAVORITES?  Yesterday's decision by the Federal
Government to allocate funds for an arena created an uproar in
Quebec, where the Nordiques have also threatened to leave if a
new arena is not built.  In this morning's GLOBE & MAIL, Stephen
Brunt writes that Quebec's pro-separatist government will likely
use this issue as another way to blame the Federal government,
"just months before the referendum" on Quebec separation.  Brunt
notes, the issue "is another card to play, and it will be played
if Canada sinks money into the Jets" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/19).
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien denied charges of
favoritism, noting that the federal infrastructure funds
allocated to Manitoba for a new arena in Winnipeg had been used
for a convention center by the province of Quebec (Hugh Windsor,
GLOBE & MAIL, 5/19).
     MEANWHILE, IN MINNESOTA:  MN businessman Richard Burke, in
line to buy the Jets if the Winnipeg effort fails, allowed the
deadline to pass "because of the intensity of the day and the
potentially violent situation" in Winnipeg, where thousands
gathered downtown to await word on the sale, according to the
Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE.  Jay Weiner writes it is "unclear if
Burke's option to buy the team expired Thursday, or if Shenkarow
simply pushed the purchase process into the future to calm
feelings and give the political and business communities one more
chance." Weiner also reports league officials were "semi
mystified" by the days events (Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 5/19).
STAR-TRIBUNE Columnist Tom Barreiro writes there are two reasons
Burke did not demand a deal yesterday: "The first is that Burke
does not want to come off as the cold, heartless franchise-
robber, and figures that once it becomes obvious Winnipeg can't
close the deal, then he'll be able to take the team anyway.  The
second, is that Burke, who has to know by now that it is no
better than a long shot to get the [state] aid he wants...is no
longer in a hurry to take the team" (5/19).

     The Walt Disney Co. and the Angels yesterday announced that
Disney has agreed in principle to buy a 25% interest in the team,
with an option to purchase the rest of the team upon the death of
Owner Gene Autry, according to the L.A. TIMES.  Disney will
reportedly assume the role of managing general partner and run
the day-to-day operations of the team.  According to Angels
President and CEO Richard Brown, that will happen "when the deal
is consummated."  Although terms were not disclosed, the deal is
reported to be worth about $30M.  Former MLB Commissioner Peter
Ueberroth, who was considered the "front-runner" to buy the team
was told that the Disney offer "exceeded" the bid made by his
group.  Ueberroth:  "We were disappointed that our bid was not
accepted..." (Steve Emmons, L.A. TIMES, 5.19).
     MARKETING REVIVAL?  In L.A., Ross Newhan writes, "[Disney's
involvement] will almost certainly mean the revival of a comatose
marketing and sales program throughout a densely populated area
that the Angels have often ignored" (L.A. TIMES, 5/19).  Disney
Chair and CEO Michael Eisner said that the company "will create a
number of concepts to develop synergies between the Angels and
various Disney entities" (Thomas King, WALL STREET JOURNAL,
5/19).
     IMPROVED RELATIONSHIPS:  Since the relationship between the
Autrys and the city of Anaheim "has been strained for years ...
the possibility of Anaheim building a new baseball stadium with
favorable terms for the Angels, or of at least significantly
improving the ... lease, is greatly enhanced by Disney's
involvement" (L.A. TIMES, 5/19).

     The firing of coach Chris Ford "might be the start of
wholesale changes in the Celtics organization that could include
the axing" of GM Jan Volk, according to Steve Bulpett in the
BOSTON HERALD.  The Celtics say Volk's job is not in jeopardy,
but "one belief from within is that Volk won't be given a new
contract when his expires this summer."  Bulpett also reports
that Tod Rosensweig, the team's VP/Marketing and Communication
also "might find his job in peril."  Rosensweig headed the Celtic
marketing operation until Stuart Layne took over the department
in March of '94.  Layne "appears to be headed to an expanded
role" as COO.  One anonymous employee: "I just think a lot of
people are very nervous about the direction everything is going
in" (BOSTON HERALD, 5/18).  Team sources told Jackie MacMullan of
the BOSTON GLOBE that Layne "is clearly Paul's (Gaston) guy.  Jan
is from the Red Auerbach camp and that camp is losing power every
day."  MacMullan writes league sources "were concerned enough
about Rosensweig's status to start looking into other markets for
him" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/18).

     Onex Corp., a Canadian investment firm and Quilmes
Industrial S.A., Argentina's largest brewer, "fired the first
shot" for John Labatt Ltd. yesterday by offering C$2.3B for the
beer and entertainment conglomerate.  Onex Chair Gerald Schwartz
"suggested he was prepared to raise his debt-propelled offer if
he finds Labatt is worth more."  Labatt, which controls close to
45% of Canada's domestic beer market, also owns European
breweries as well as up to C$1B-worth of sports and entertainment
properties, including  the Blue Jays, CFL Argonauts, SkyDome, and
The Sports Network (Marina Strauss, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/19).
          NO GO?:  Labatt President George Taylor has dismissed
the initial offer.  Taylor: "This is a wholly inadequate proposal
and does not reflect fair value to our shareholder."  Industry
analysts and market watchers said the bid "will have to be
higher" for a deal to be made.  David Cohen, an analyst with
Research Capital Corp., said the offer was "a little light
relative to what people expected relative to the value of
Labatt's assets."  Labatt's Board of Directors will meet today to
discuss the bid (Art Chamberlain, TORONTO STAR, 5/19).
     WITHER THE JAYS: Schwartz said he wanted to return Labatt to
its roots as a brewer and eventually sell its non-brewing assets
to pay for a leveraged buyout (Bertrand Morotte, CALGARY HERALD,
5/19).  But he also said Labatt's interest in the Blue Jays might
remain.  Schwartz: "[Baseball] is a business I don't understand,
and I would want to get advice from (Blue Jays President) Paul
Beeston. ... Obviously the Blue Jays are a great marketing
vehicle for Labatt" (John Saundes, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/19).
According to Bill Lankohf of the TORONTO SUN, potential suitors
for the team include:  Canwest Global; cable TV mogul and Sun
owner Ted Rogers; and the Bassett family, owners of CFTO and
Baton Broadcasting (TORONTO SUN, 5/19).
     TSN HOT?  One business executive: "The hot property is TSN.
Lots of people would like to buy into that.  I think you'll see
(Schwartz) lump some things like the Argos and Blue Jays with TSN
and try to sell it as a package" (TORONTO SUN, 5/19).  In
Toronto, Rob Longley writes that TSN's "profit picture has never
been rosier and therefore the network and its holdings ... have
never been more ripe for a sale."  If TSN is sold, Longley writes
that possible buyers include Molson, which last year was
unsuccessful in a bid for a regional sports network, and Canwest
Global, which is "becoming a bigger force in the broadcast
industry" (TORONTO SUN, 5/19).  Other possible buyers include
Astral Communications of Montreal, Alliance Communications of
Toronto, Telemedia of Montreal, Western International
Communications of Vancouver, Baton Broadcasting of Toronto,
CanWest Global Communications of Winnipeg, and News Corp.'s
Twentieth Century Fox.  One analyst pegs the value of Labatt's
broadcasting assets and TSN "at roughly $600 million" (Harvey
Enchin, TORONTO GLOBE & MAIL, 5/19).

     Cable TV exec John Rigas and the Pirates yesterday reached a
preliminary agreement for him to buy the team.  Rigas will
reportedly pay $25.15M in cash and assume $60M in debt for the
franchise.  He will also assume the $13M projected debt for '95,
plus a $20M city-backed loan to the team in '85.  Rigas:  "It is
a risky gamble, but one we think is worth taking to keep baseball
in Pittsburgh ... and to get a new stadium."  The agreement is
expected to be formalized within about four weeks, and then must
be approved by MLB owners (N.Y. POST/AP, 5/19)