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Volume 24 No. 158

Franchises

          NBA: In AZ, David Leibowitz called the Suns' pay-per-
     view (PPV) package a "rip off."  Leibowitz: "The sad thing
     is, the fans fall for it -- the team expects a jump in buys
     over last year.  Sadder still, the Suns keep trying to sell
     pay-per-view as a favor."  Leibowitz looked at the schedule
     of PPV games vs. free TV games since '93.  While the 78
     regular-season PPV games have featured teams with a total
     winning percentage of .568, teams on the 127 games on free
     TV had a .447 winning percentage.  He also notes that the
     three PPV games this week were against the Rockets, T-Wolves
     and Bulls (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 11/19).
          NHL: The Islanders and Brett Lindros have "reached a
     settlement" on Lindros' contract.  Lindros retired following
     three concussions suffered on the ice and "indications are"
     that Lindros will receive the full amount due to him in the
     five-year, $7.5M contract, "which could be as high as" $4.5M
     -- depending on how much of the deal was paid out in bonuses
     up front instead of salary (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/20).

          Season-ticket sales "almost doubled" for the D'Backs
     and Devil Rays on Wednesday, following the expansion draft.
     D'Backs Ticket Sales Manager Rob Kiese: "Until this week, we
     sold 30-40 season-tickets a week.  But in the last two days,
     we've sold 50" (Mel Antonen, USA TODAY, 11/20).
          NEVER ENOUGH FRUM: In Toronto, Marty York reports that
     Murray Frum and his partners "are still quietly in pursuit"
     of the Blue Jays and "remain hopeful" that the Jays, the CFL
     Argonauts and the SkyDome "will ultimately be theirs."  Frum
     had no comment when asked if his group had reopened talks 
     with Jays Owner Interbrew SA (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/20).
          TWINS: In St. Paul, columnist Bob Sansevere writes that
     Twins Owner Carl Pohlad's "credibility" was among the things
     that "made it difficult" for the people of MN to support a
     new ballpark.  Sansevere: "The problem with Pohlad was, and
     still is, people don't trust him" (PIONEER PRESS, 11/20).
          INDIANS: Ticket prices for '98 have been increased in
     seven of the 11 seat locations at Jacobs Field.  Among the
     increases, Field Box seats go from $23 to $26; Lower & View
     Box go from $18 to $20; Upper Box, Mezzanine & Lower Reserve
     go from $15 to $17; and Bleacher seats go from $10 to $12. 
     The approximate ticket price increase is 12% (Indians).
          YANKEES: In N.Y., adidas and the Yankees ran a full-
     page ad in today's N.Y. Post and N.Y. Daily News that touts
     "132 DAYS 'TIL OPENING DAY" (THE DAILY).
          

          A press conference "will be held no later than
     tomorrow" to announce that Raptors minority Owner and Exec
     VP/GM Isiah Thomas "will be leaving Toronto, regardless of
     whether he decides to take a television job with NBC,"
     according to Craig Daniels of the TORONTO SUN.  Daniels
     writes that NBA Commissioner David Stern "asked Thomas
     yesterday to remain with the club for the next 24-48 hours
     ... so the Raptors could clean up certain financial matters,
     such as the closing of financing for the Air Canada Centre." 
     Yesterday, Thomas "retired to his home" in Detroit and
     referred all calls to his agent.  Thomas: "I want to be as
     professional and classy in this matter as possible.  I don't
     want to be in the position where I have to look people in
     the eye and lie, so you have to understand there are some
     things I can and can't say right now." Team Assistant GM &
     VP/Legal Affairs Glen Grunwald "appears" to be "the leading
     candidate" to replace Thomas as GM  (TORONTO SUN, 11/20).  
          STRAINED RELATIONS? In Toronto, Michael Grange writes
     that everything "surrounding the latest ownership drama ...
     remains unclear," and that "the rift between Thomas and
     [Raptors Majority Owner Allan] Slaight is no closer to being
     repaired and has likely widened as each side regards the
     other with a growing measure of distrust" (GLOBE & MAIL,
     11/20).  Also in Toronto, Doug Smith reports sources who
     said that Slaight "provided some of the money Thomas has had
     to pay out in the last couple of months to fulfil
     obligations as a minority shareholder."  One source: "I
     think Isiah has a bit of a cash squeeze."  Thomas' reps
     "refused comment" on the speculation.  Smith adds that
     Slaight "has positioned himself perfectly to assume Thomas'
     share" of the team, and sources say that Slaight "signed off
     on an agreement ... that puts in place a syndicate to
     finance" Air Canada Centre (TORONTO STAR, 11/20).
          TALKING TOUGH ABOUT ZEKE: In Toronto, Steve Simmons
     writes, "The latest squabble for Thomas is just another in a
     series of personal-agenda controversies that have marked his
     life in basketball.  His career has been a testimony to
     conflict.  Name a place, name a person, and there is a story
     to be told.  Too many stories" (TORONTO SUN, 11/20).

          The Bay Area "buzz" is that Warriors Owner Chris Cohan,
     "saddled with major financial obligations and rocked by the
     lack of support by fans, is quietly exploring the idea of
     selling the team sometime in the next two years," according
     to C.W. Nevius of the S.F. CHRONICLE.  There is "even a
     scenario" that would have the MLB Giants' ownership group
     "taking over and using the team as an East Bay presence to
     help attract baseball fans" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/20).
          WARRIORS REFUTE RUMORS: Nevius adds that the Warriors
     "insist there is nothing to" the sale rumors.  Warriors
     General Counsel Robin Baggett: "The concept of selling the
     team has never been discussed.  As far as losing money and
     not operating in the black, that is inaccurate."  Baggett
     said that "there has always been a misconception about"
     Cohan's financing, and that ever since he bought the team
     "there have been suggestions that Cohan borrowed heavily for
     the money, and overpaid wildly."  More Baggett: "[Cohan]
     bought the team for $119 million, not $140 million. ... He
     is not heavily leveraged."  Nevius adds that "there are
     clearly some problems, which go beyond the woeful product on
     the floor," and that the league office is "concerned about
     the way the franchise is floundering."  Baggett also added
     that sales of the team's 72 luxury boxes have been "fair.  I
     wouldn't put it at good."  But Nevius reports that "others
     are even less optimistic, doubting that the team has sold as
     many as 20 boxes" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/20).

          The Sonics' marketing strategy this year aims to
     "familiarize fans with the players' human side," according
     to Mike Roarke of the PUGET SOUND BUSINESS JOURNAL.  To help
     form a "long-term relationship between the team and its
     supporters," the team hired Seattle-based ad agency
     WongDoody to produce a series of ads "focusing on the
     personalities" of the team members.  The ads are "not
     scripted," and feature six Sonics, including coach George
     Karl and Gary Payton, "interacting spontaneously" with
     people in "unrehearsed settings."  In one spot, Payton is
     shown spending time with senior citizens; in another, Sam
     Perkins "playfully blocks" a child's shot on a mini-hoop,
     before sending him to bed.  WongDoody's Tracy Wong feels
     that this type of campaign "could be what the NBA needs." 
     Wong: "I think the NBA's problem now is the salaries are so
     astronomically high, a distance has been created between the
     players and the fans" (PUGET SOUND BUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/17).