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Volume 24 No. 156

Franchises

          The Marlins have "dropped" their five-year P.A.
     announcer Jay Rokeach, but his dismissal was "not
     financially motivated."  Marlins VP/Sales & Marketing Jim
     Ross said that the team "wanted to make a change for
     creative reasons."  The team is considering several
     candidates to replace Rokeach (MIAMI HERALD, 3/20)....The
     76ers will change the start time of Monday-Saturday night
     home games next season, moving them up a half-hour to 7:00pm
     (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/20)....The situation involving
     former employees of Rocketball Ltd., who had threatened to
     bring charges of race discrimination and sexual harassment
     against the organization, has been "resolved."  No details
     were released, and no legal action will proceed (HOUSTON
     CHRONICLE, 3/2)....Through Monday, the Mariners had sold a
     club record 18,416 season tickets.  At the same time last
     year, the club had sold 17,760 (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/19).

          The Blue Jays will use "a softer, more feminine
     marketing spin" this season, according to Mark Zwolinski of
     the TORONTO STAR.  Players "reading poems, earlier starts
     for night games, more news on the JumboTron, new, dynamic
     logos and slogans" are "all part of a fresh marketing
     strategy launched by the Jays in a bid to rekindle"
     excitement and attendance.  The team aims to draw at least
     2.8 million this year, an increase of some 200,000 over last
     season.  To do that, the Jays are targeting much of their
     marketing at women.  Blue Jays Communications Dir Peter
     Cosentino: "We're trying to appeal to a broader base of
     people. ... We want to be softer, but still have an
     aggressive approach."  Team research shows women make up
     about 40% of the team's fan base -- 6% short of the MLB
     average.  One element of the marketing package includes
     eight players reciting sonnet-style, baseball-themed poems
     on local radio stations.  New agency Ben Simon Byrne has
     replaced the Stanford Agency on an improved, C$1M-plus
     contract "to help sell the sizzle" (TORONTO STAR, 3/20). 

          NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue ruled in Tom Clancy's
     favor in the Vikings ownership dispute, according to Don
     Banks of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE.  Tagliabue ruled that
     team President Roger Headrick's right to match or top
     Clancy's bid "did not apply to the sale agreement between
     Clancy and the Vikings board."  The "major stipulation" of
     the ruling is that the current Vikings co-owners "are barred
     from re-investing under Clancy -- until after the transfer"
     of 100% of the team's stock.  Then, they can buy back into
     the team, "though with greater tax liability."  At least two
     co-owners -- Wheelock Whitney and James Binger -- "are
     considered likely to re-invest."  Clancy's purchase still
     needs approval from NFL owners (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE,
     3/20). In St. Paul, Charley Walters reports that Clancy's
     investors list "will total about 15," but Clancy said that
     Orioles Owner Peter Angelos "probably will not be an
     investor" in the Vikings (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 3/20).   
          HIT THE ROAD, ROGER? In Minneapolis, Paula Parrish
     reports that Headrick "next may lose his position as team
     president."  Some Vikings board members "are adamant that he
     resign or be removed, possibly before next week's owners
     meeting."  During their conference call discussing
     Tagliabue's decision, the co-owners "instructed" team
     attorney John Mooty "to press Tagliabue for the right to
     remove Headrick."  Headrick said he plans to retain his
     position and attend the owners meeting: "I'll be here right
     up until the sale of the team is closed" (STAR TRIBUNE,
     3/20).  In Minneapolis, columnist Dan Barrieiro, on the
     ruling: "To rule in favor of Headrick, and the status quo,
     would have been to deliver a public relations blow to this
     franchise so severe that even the most loyal Vikings fans
     might have fled to Arena Football" (STAR TRIBUNE, 3/20).  

          Both the Yankees and Cablevision issued statements
     after yesterday's NEWSDAY report that Yankees Owner George
     Steinbrenner had held discussions with Cablevision Chair
     Charles Dolan about the possibility of buying the team.  The
     Yankees said that Steinbrenner and Dolan had met and "the
     possibility of Cablevision buying into the Yankees was
     discussed.  But no deal was made.  The Steinbrenners will be
     with the Yankees for many years to come.  'The Boss' is here
     to stay" (Yankees).  In a separate statement, Cablevision
     CEO Jim Dolan said, "We maintain an active interest in the
     future of our relationship with the Yankees and are open to
     any ideas that Mr. Steinbrenner may have" (Cablevision).
          STILL TALKING? A "well-placed" source told NEWSDAY's
     Jon Heyman that a Cablevision "overture to buy the Mets was
     rebuffed more than a year ago" before it began talks with
     Steinbrenner.  But sale talks with the Yankees "remain very
     much alive."  Club sources "maintained yesterday that there
     is serious interest on Steinbrenner's part" in a deal
     estimated between $650-700M.  One source disputed the phrase
     "buying into" in the Yankees statement "and affirmed the
     original report from Newsday that Cablevision would become
     the principle owner under the terms being discussed." 
     Steinbrenner, on Newsday's report: "That's somebody popping
     off about something they know nothing about.  That's so
     ridiculous."  Moments later though, he added, "I don't rule
     anything out."  Cablevision declined comment when asked
     about its past interest in the Mets (NEWSDAY, 3/20).  The
     N.Y. DAILY NEWS reports that while Steinbrenner and Dolan
     have met about renewing the Yankees TV deal, a source close
     to Cablevision said, "Everything's on the table" (N.Y. DAILY
     NEWS, 3/20).  In N.Y., sources told Cauley & Fatsis that a
     "major hurdle" in the sale talks is Steinbrenner's "demand
     that he retain management control of the franchise for the
     next 15 years" (Cauley & Fatsis, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/20). 
          CABLEVISION TIE-IN: CNN's Lou Dobbs reported that
     speculation about a Yankees deal "and a recommendation from
     Goldman Sachs sent Cablevision stock sharply higher" on 
     Thursday, gaining $8 to close at $120.25 ("Moneyline," CNN,
     3/19).  In N.Y., Geraldine Fabrikant writes that the
     acquisition of "even a partial stake in the Yankees makes
     sense for Cablevision" and would give it "a near lock on the
     metropolitan area's professional sports market" (N.Y. TIMES,
     3/20).  But the DAILY NEWS' Bob Raissman writes that
     Cablevision's buying the Yankees "would be bad news for the
     fans" as it already owns the Knicks and Rangers and holds TV
     rights to the Yankees, Devils, Nets and Islanders.  Dolan
     has previously talked about creating various team TV cable
     packages at a "premium price" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/20).  A
     NEWSDAY editorial, on a possible Cablevision purchase of the
     Yankees: "That kind of domination of sports programming ...
     should raise questions" (NEWSDAY, 3/20).

          Minnesota Wild officials released a partial list of the
     team's investors and details of its business plan to
     legislators yesterday, in "an effort to quell suspicions
     about its financial dealings," according to Brown & Whereatt
     of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE.  The disclosures came after
     State Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe asked a legislative
     committee to investigate arrangements between the Wild and
     the city of St. Paul to see if "the process up to now has
     been a legally defensible one."  Wild CEO Jac Sperling said
     that he "will meet" with committee members, and the team is
     "expected" to hold a news conference today "to discuss the
     documents."  Documents released show the team's average
     ticket for the 2000 season will cost $40, with club seats
     costing "as much as" $65; by 2004, the average ticket price
     will be $54.33.  Also, the team "has reduced" its projected
     attendance numbers from 16,650 to 15,770, 83% capacity of
     the planned arena, and the team is predicting a positive
     cash flow of "more than" $2M each year (STAR TRIBUNE, 3/20).