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Volume 24 No. 155

Franchises

          NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue will hold a hearing
     this morning to decide if the Vikings' $200M sale agreement
     to Tom Clancy stands, or whether team President Roger
     Headrick has the right to top or match Clancy's bid, as he
     contends, according to Don Banks of the Minneapolis STAR
     TRIBUNE.  A decision "could come by early next week."
     Meanwhile, Headrick "has stopped communicating with his
     fellow owners about the team's business," including re-
     signing OT Todd Steussie and DL John Randle to $22M and
     $32.5M deals, respectively.  Banks writes that there are "no
     indications that Clancy, who at this point has no financial
     power over the team at all, has any problems with the free-
     agent signings" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 2/19).  But in
     his SportsZone column, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that
     Vikings sources say Clancy and his partner, Marc Ganis,
     "have complained to the Vikings' partnership and the NFL
     that Headrick's recent spending spree ... is incongruent
     with the team's business practices prior to the sale of the
     club."  Several partners "have asked Headrick to curtail his
     free-agent spending until the ownership issue is settled
     because they are concerned that Clancy might have a right to
     modify the purchase terms" (ESPN SportsZone, 2/18).

          Red Wings holdout Sergei Fedorov signed an offer sheet
     with the Hurricanes, and the NEWS & OBSERVER's Steve Politi
     writes that for a team "that's already going to lose more
     than" $25M this year, "the deal," six years, $38M, "is mind-
     boggling."  Politi: "It's a bold -- and very expensive --
     move by a struggling team that's attempting to generate
     excitement in a new market" (NEWS & OBSERVER, 2/19)....In
     Nashville, country music stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
     will co-host Hockey Tonk Jam March 4 for the NHL expansion
     Predators, the "next push" by the team to meet NHL season-
     ticket and suite requirements.  The Predators will invite
     more than 2,000 corporations that have yet to buy season
     tickets (BANNER, 2/18)....49ers co-Owner Edward DeBartolo
     Jr.'s legal troubles are examined in a front-page feature in
     the WALL STREET JOURNAL.  With DeBartolo facing a possible
     indictment over a LA gaming license, lawyers for the
     government "won't say whether they are willing to enter into
     settlement talks, which might open a way for Mr. DeBartolo
     to return to his beloved 49ers" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/19).

          The ownership dispute over the NHL expansion Columbus
     Blue Jackets will be tried locally, according to Bruce
     Cadwallader of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH.  Franklin County, OH,
     Judge John Bessey Tuesday "denied a request by attorneys for
     Lamar Hunt to end the case in Columbus" so it can be pursued
     in N.Y.  The judge also granted a request from attorneys for
     current team Owner John McConnell "to continue the Columbus
     lawsuit with an amended complaint."  The amended complaint
     seeks to resolve all the remaining issues between the
     parties and requests financial damages from Hunt.  A trial
     date has been set for April 20 (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 2/18).

          The Memphis and Shelby County, TN, Authority has voted
     to give its board the power to negotiate with the NFL Oilers
     if they want to break their Liberty Bowl lease for '98,
     according to David Williams of the Memphis COMMERCIAL
     APPEAL.  Authority Vice Chair Reggie Barnes: "We would like
     to have a very substantial monetary settlement if the Oilers
     leave."  The authority receives a rebate of state sales
     taxes from Oilers games in Memphis.  In '97, that rebate was
     more than $650,000 (COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 2/18).  In Nashville,
     Rob Moritz reported that an end to the Oilers' Memphis lease
     "could be negotiated as soon as next week" (BANNER, 2/18).

          N.Y. investment banker Michael Largue says that he and
     an unnamed Swiss banker have up to $100M to spend on an NHL
     team "and are eager to take control of the local effort to
     buy the Oilers," according to Bart Johnson of the EDMONTON
     SUN.  Although Largue has not formally submitted any bid, he
     said that he and his partner would want control of the team,
     with input from the local owners (EDMONTON SUN, 2/19).
          NO PROVINCIAL HELP: Alberta Premier Ralph Klein said
     that there are "no provincial moves to help out" the NHL
     Oilers, but a new city-appointed community lottery board
     "may be able to" direct some of its money to try to keep the
     team in town.  Meanwhile, Edmonton Mayor Bill Smith said
     that local businessman Al Owen's contribution has pushed the
     local bid to C$45M, leaving the group C$7M shy of the NHL's
     requirement of having 50% of the Oilers' price tag "in hand
     before financing the rest" (EDMONTON SUN, 2/19)....Almost
     C$18,000 has been donated from 34 people and businesses to
     the Edmonton Oilers Forever Fund (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 2/19).