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Volume 24 No. 160

Franchises

     Ascent Entertainment, parent company to the Nuggets and
Avalanche, reported revenue of $57.2M and pre-tax earnings of
$6.3M for the fourth quarter.  The revenue figure was a  27%
increase over $45M in '94.  Earnings for the same period of '94
were $11.8M.  The company reported a net loss for the year of
$19.4M or $0.80 cents per share.  Ascent CEO Charlie Lyons said
the results were "as expected ... by eliminating the unproductive
Satellite Cinema operations, we can focus in 1996 on increasing
revenue and cash flow in our On Command Video operations while
pressing ahead with plans to enhance revenue opportunities in our
entertainment business."  Lyons said 4th quarter entertainment
revenue increased 108% to $25.8M with the start up of the
Avalanche, since the addition of the NHL team required only 17
new operational staff positions (Ascent Entertainment).

     Cleveland Mayor Michael White yesterday said again he is
opposed to the Bengals moving to Cleveland.  White said he would
simply avoid Bengals Owner Mike Brown.  White:  "I won't talk to
the man.  If the NFL can do a deal without me to bring Cincinnati
here, then that's their business" (Bart Hubbuch, Akron BEACON
JOURNAL, 2/15).  In other news, Cleveland's deal with the NFL
ends just two of 10 lawsuits filed against the Browns since
November 6, according to the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER.  Cuyahoga
Common Pleas Judge Kenneth Callahan is scheduled to meet next
Tuesday with the lawyers from pending cases (Cleveland PLAIN
DEALER, 2/14).

     The "cachet of Knicks home games is fading fast now that
Viacom has sold the Garden to ITT/Cablevision," according to
Landman & Mitchell of NEW YORK magazine.  Seats on the floor that
were occupied by such notables as Madonna, Billy Crystal and
others "are now peopled with unfamiliar faces atop suited bodies"
-- while "more illustrious fans" are pushed back six or seven
rows "tending to mitigate the excitement of their presence."
Sources say the new MSG owners regard to famous ticketholders as
"freeloaders" and "even discussed plans to turn the former VIP
suite into a $20,000 per-year private membership club."  Thorn
EMI-Capitol Head Charles Koppelman:  "The crowd seems to have
less star power now.  It definitely seems more corporate if you
look around."  Spike Lee:  "The vibe has changed. Knicks games
are not as loud as they used to be" (NEW YORK, 2/19).

     After an initial ticket surge created by Magic Johnson's
return to the Lakers, there has been no rush to buy tickets
further into the season.  Bob Steiner, a spokesperson for Lakers
Owner Jerry Buss, said the same thing happened when Johnson
returned as coach in '94 (L.A. BUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/5
issue)....The Sabres announce ticket prices for seats in the new
Marine Midland Arena today.  Buffalo's BUSINESS FIRST reports top
club seating will go for $59 per seat, about $9 more per seat
than gold levels at the Aud.  Lower seats, equivalent to current
Red or lower Blue seats at the Aud, will go for $40 per game
while visitor's end lower bowl seats will go for $32 per seat.
In the upper level, seats will start at $24 and drop to $10
(BUSINESS FIRST, 2/15)....The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have told the
CFL they are in for the '96 season, but only if they can solve
financial woes through the sale of 20,000 season tickets.  Their
business plan is called "Third and Long" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL,
2/15).

     Padres Owner John Jay Moores met with "influential
businessmen" in Houston yesterday and said he is "upbeat" about
putting together a package that could include public stock to
attract an NFL team to replace the Oilers. According to John
Williams of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE, Moores asked close to 50
business-people to "invest at least" $1M each to help buy a team,
and gave the group until next week to "give an indication of
interest."  Moores said he also hopes to gain NFL approval for
"allowing average fans to buy shares in the team," a practice
"currently banned by the NFL."  NFL Dir of Communications Greg
Aiello said the league "has no plans to change its prohibition of
public ownership."  Aiello:  "Those rules are there to minimize
the chance that a company would transfer revenues from the
football team to help another part of the corporation."  Sources
close to the meetings said Moores "intends to borrow as much as
the $40 million maximum in debt that the NFL will allow a team to
carry."  He will then contribute half the remaining cash and
other investors will contribute the other half.  Moores
reportedly won't do the deal if it means selling his stake in the
Padres (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/15).

     The state of WA has filed an antitrust suit against Seahawks
Owner Ken Behring.  The suit contends he violated state and
federal antitrust laws in moving the team to L.A. and that
"Washington's economy and public welfare would be harmed."  ESPN
later reported that state officials have estimates that the
economic impact of the loss of the team is around $100M
("SportsCenter," 2/14).  King County Exec Gary Locke:  "This
lawsuit today by the Attorney General's office tightens this
community's grip on its football team" ("Sports Tonight," CNN,
2/14).  WA Atty General Christine Gregoire said the lawsuit did
not seek monetary damages, but she held put the possibility the
state could ask for more than $3B from Behring.  In L.A.,
Behring's lawyer, Bill Temko, called it "just another step in a
political barrage to vilify Mr. Behring" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY
NEWS, 2/15).
     WHY THE LONG FACE?  In an interview with the LONG BEACH
PRESS-TELEGRAM, Behring said he is "perplexed by the cool
reception he has been given in Los Angeles."  Behring:
"Normally, when a NFL team moves to a new city, that city gets
behind it.  But that certainly hasn't been the case since we
decided to move to L.A."  He expressed confidence they would play
in L.A., but he added, "It could get to a point where there is so
much opposition that I'll say, 'The heck with it,' and go in
another direction.  Life is just too short to put up with all
this stuff" (LONG BEACH PRESS  TELEGRAM /PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS,
2/15).  In L.A., Mike Downey writes recent words from NFL
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue have him "convinced" the Seahawks
will stay in Seattle.  Downey "strongly suspects" Cleveland and
L.A. will be the NFL's expansion franchises in '99 (L.A. TIMES,
2/14).
     AD HOC:  The L.A. City Council will form a committee to lure
a football team to L.A. and broaden the panel to include members
of other key local groups, according to the L.A. TIMES.  The
council panel will be called the "Ad Hoc Sports Franchise
Committee" and will negotiate for other pro teams.  The expanded
committee will include members of the Coliseum Commission, the
mayor's staff and the L.A. Convention and Visitors Bureau (L.A.
TIMES, 2/14).