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Volume 24 No. 156

Franchises

          Six months into his term as Orca Bay Sports &
     Entertainment's President & CEO, Stephen Bellringer
     "commands a corporation immersed in a sea of red ink caused
     by rising salaries ... and an unsteady Canadian dollar,"
     according to Grant Kerr of the Toronto GLOBE & MAIL.  Kerr
     reports that Northwest Sports Enterprises, the Orca Bay
     subsidiary which owns the Canucks, reported a loss of C$15M
     through the first half of the NHL season after reporting a
     loss of C$21.2M last year.  This season, the Canucks may
     report losses up to C$30M, and the Grizzlies up to C$9M. 
     Bellringer, on Vancouver's "mid-market" status: "We get no
     market-size relief from the NHL, zero, under the current
     policies.  We are obviously concerned about the losses, but
     there's no magic-wand solution."  Bellringer, who said Orca
     Bay is "committed" to retaining its top players, including
     Pavel Bure and Shareef Abdur-Rahim: "It's a North American
     business, competing for North American talent.  You can't go
     to the players ... and offer Canadian dollars."  Bellringer
     added that Orca Bay Owner John McCaw's commitment to the two
     teams "has not wavered," while "admitting there may be room
     for additional partners" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 3/10).

          MLB: ESPN's Peter Gammons reported that Marlins
     President Don Smiley thinks a deal to buy the team "will be
     done by sometime in May or June."  Gammons adds that the
     Marlins are "still looking at possibly ending up with close
     to" 13,000 or 14,000 season tickets, "which isn't that great
     a decline from the" 16,500 the team had in '97 ("Baseball
     Tonight," 3/9)....The D'Backs are considering a proposal to
     transport fans to games in shuttle buses.  D'Backs Managing
     General Partner Jerry Colangelo: "I think the potential is
     there for a crisis."  The cost of the shuttle service could
     come from the city's share of new sales-tax dollars
     generated by the baseball team (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/10). 
          HOCKEY: Red Wings Owner Mike Ilitch, after matching the
     $38M offer sheet for Sergei Fedorov and the impact of
     lucrative contracts on the NHL: "[T]he difference in hockey
     is that we don't have the owners ... to sustain that kind of
     heat.  They're not getting anything out of national TV, so
     you've only got your gate, basically" (DETROIT FREE PRESS,
     3/10)....Despite his increasing interest in film production
     and the increased role of co-Owner Roger Marino, Penguins
     co-Owner Howard Baldwin said there is "no change" in his
     role with the team.  Baldwin: "I've always been devoted to
     the Pens, it's just that now I have a partner [Marino] who
     is really enjoying it, and that's a good thing."  Baldwin,
     asked if he will keep his interest in the team: "Absolutely"
     (TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 3/10)....The WPHL announced the addition of
     its 15th franchise for next season in Tupelo, MS.  The team
     joins two other new franchises in Corpus Christi, TX and
     Arkansas (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/9).
          NOTES: The Bills and Rochester, NY-based Wegmans Food
     Markets are negotiating for the supermarket chain to become
     the team's new main ticket outlet, making tickets available
     in 55 stores in NY and PA (DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 3/9)...The
     NPSL Milwaukee Wave announced a sellout of 18,000-plus for
     its game Friday night, the largest crowd in Wave and NPSL
     history.  The "drawing card" is Brett Favre, who will appear
     in a halftime promo titled "One on One with Brett Favre" and
     will throw 30 passes to fans in a fund-raising event for
     Children's Hospital of WI (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 3/7).

          The Vikings "saga" took an "unexpected turn Monday with
     news NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue will receive some
     further but final testimony Wednesday morning from four of
     the team's co-owners," according to Don Banks of the
     Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE.  Tagliabue, who will meet with
     John Skoglund, Wheelock Whitney, James Jundt and N. Bud
     Grossman, has assured all parties that he is prepared to
     "promptly issue his decision" after Wednesday's hearing
     (STAR TRIBUNE, 3/10).  In St. Paul, Jeff Seidel writes that
     "some believe Tagliabue has decided [Vikings President
     Roger] Headrick has the right to match [Tom] Clancy's offer
     but will give the owners one last chance to explain their
     stance," while others believe Tagliabue "wants to hear the
     owners explain their mindset and the partnership agreement
     before deciding in their favor" (PIONEER PRESS, 3/10).

          The U.S. Senate's Antitrust Subcommittee "is planning
     to move forward with a hearing April 1 that will take a look
     at concentration in the cable business, including Rupert
     Murdoch's deal to control the Dodgers," according to
     Christopher Stern of VARIETY.  U.S. Senate staffers said
     Murdoch's potential ownership of the Dodgers, as well as of
     FSW and L.A.-based KTTV, "raises issues that they would like
     to examine at the hearing."  While Senate staffers
     reportedly "would like to book an appearance" by Murdoch,
     News Corp.'s Washington lobbyist Peggy Binzel said that an
     invitation to testify "had not been issued" (VARIETY, 3/10). 
          DODGERS SALE OK? The AP cites two anonymous members of
     MLB's Exec Council who "predicted" that the Dodgers sale to
     News Corp. "will be approved next week" (Ronald Blum, AP,
     3/9).  D'Backs Managing General Partner Jerry Colangelo also
     said that he expects the deal "to be approved at next week's
     owners meeting" (L.A. TIMES, 3/10).  But Giants Owner Peter
     Magowan said, "There are reasons why Murdoch people could be
     good for [MLB], and there are a number of concerns.  This is
     not a slam dunk" (USA TODAY, 3/10)

          The Predators, who must sell 12,000 season-tickets by
     March 31, are "believed to have sold between" 9,500 to
     10,000 as of Friday, according to Jeff Legwold of the
     TENNESSEAN.  But if the team does not meet its goal, "it is
     highly unlikely the franchise would be revoked."  Legwold
     wrote that many "inside the league have said privately" the
     team would be "heavily fined -- as much as" $5M to $10M --
     if the sales target is not reached.  NHL Commissioner Gary
     Bettman: "Simply put I have to take into account that there
     are three other franchises coming into the league over the
     next three seasons who are watching, so this is a condition
     I take very seriously" (TENNESSEAN, 3/7).