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Volume 24 No. 117

Franchises

          The AFL Orlando Panthers will float an IPO today that
     "could more than triple" the value of the owners' interest
     in the team, according to Barry Flynn of the ORLANDO
     SENTINEL.  Through the IPO, underwritten by WI-based First
     Midwest Securities, the ownership group headed by AZ-based
     William Meris hopes to raise "as much as" $5.6M by selling
     40% of Predators Entertainment.  Meris' group purchased the
     team in February for $2.3M.  At the expected offering price
     of two shares of common stock and one warrant at $10, the
     60% retained by the ownership group after today's IPO would
     be worth $8.4M (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 12/11).

          Former Browns WR Reggie Rucker, speaking to a Cleveland
     business group, on a new owner for the Browns: "We need an
     expansion team owned by [MBNA Corp. Chair] Al Lerner.  Al
     Lerner gives us the best chance to return to glory" (AKRON
     BEACON JOURNAL, 12/11)....Red Sox P Pedro Martinez said he
     has signed a contract for "around" $75M with the team, which
     makes him the "highest-paid player in baseball."  The Red
     Sox have not confirmed the deal (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/11).

          With no local offers to purchase the NHL Oilers on the
     table, the Alberta Treasury Branches (ATB) plan to ask the
     NHL "to help it find an out-of-town buyer for the team,"
     according to Jac MacDonald of the EDMONTON JOURNAL.  The 20-
     day deadline the ATB gave local buyers to make an offer for
     the team expires tonight.  While one local group has held
     talks with NHL officials about the team, "so far it has not
     made a formal offer."  ATB spokesperson Darlene Dickinson
     said the bank needs a "firm, viable offer on the table"
     before it would consider extending today's deadline,
     otherwise, she said, "we will work with the [NHL] to find an
     outside buyer" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 12/11).  In Edmonton,
     Bernard Pilon reports that one "rumored suitor" is Paul
     Allen, who is "mildly interested in acquiring" an NHL team
     for his Rose Garden arena (EDMONTON SUN, 12/11). 

          Kirby Puckett says he is willing to invest $10M to
     become a part owner of the Twins "if, and only if, a deal
     can be worked to keep the team in Minnesota," according to
     Tom Powers of the ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS.  Puckett: "I'm not
     going to North Carolina.  If [Twins Owner] Carl [Pohlad]
     still owns the team, then I'm locked in.  I was planning to
     do something like this anyway.  This is something I want for
     myself.  Just a piece of it.  Maybe 10 percent."  Powers:
     "Any serious involvement by Puckett should force [MLB] to
     look long and hard before approving a sale and transfer of
     the club to North Carolina" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 12/10).
          TWINS IN TRIAD: The Twins are scheduled to play a March
     31 exhibition game in Winston-Salem, NC, "conveniently" set
     "five weeks before the scheduled May 5 referendum to decide
     stadium funding for a ballpark in the Triad," according to
     Jay Weiner of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE.  In addition,
     prospective Twins buyer Don Beaver said that the final sale
     agreement with Carl Pohlad "is still being worked out, but
     there are no sticking points" (STAR TRIBUNE, 12/11).

          The Vikings' three-member sale committee "has met with
     several groups interested in purchasing the team, including
     some local ownership candidates," according to Don Banks of
     the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE.  Vikings Board Member Wheelock
     Whitney: "We've gotten a number of inquiries, particularly
     since news of the sale became public."  Banks adds that
     groups from Birmingham, AL, L.A. and Toronto have met with
     the committee.  A Birmingham group, headed by Dr. Larry
     Lemak, "is believed to be close to submitting a bid in the
     $200 million range" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/11).
          WHO'S IN, WHO'S OUT? In St. Paul, Charley Walters
     writes that "the word is half of the Vikings' 10 owners will
     attempt to remain as passive investors if the team is sold,"
     while the other five "are expected to cash out."  An
     "informed" source said that T'Wolves Owner Glen Taylor
     "might be interested in joining the new Vikings group as an
     active partner," and that Taylor "would want management
     input but not as the principal owner" (PIONEER PRESS,12/11).

          Bills Owner Ralph Wilson "promised" to make "aggressive
     changes this offseason," according to Leo Roth of the
     Rochester DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE.  With the future of the
     Bills in Western N.Y. "tied to a new lease that's contingent
     on the sale of luxury seating, a winning product is now more
     critical than ever."  The Bills have had just four sellouts
     this season, and 35,000 tickets remain for this Sunday's
     game against the Jaguars.  Wilson: "People shouldn't lose
     faith or look upon the team negatively.  Fans are down,
     sure.  So am I" (Rochester DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 12/10).