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Volume 24 No. 117

Leagues Governing Bodies

          NBA owners will vote Monday to "void the final three
     years" of its CBA, "setting the stage for a potential
     lockout at the end of the season," according to officials
     cited by David Moore of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS.  The
     league's Board of Governors will officially meet in Dallas
     on Monday, and each of the league's 29 teams received the
     report by the Labor Relations Committee appointed by NBA
     Commissioner David Stern.  The 17-page document "strongly
     recommends the owners exercise a trigger clause" to re-open
     the CBA and the "owners are expected to embrace that
     recommendation."  League officials have "canvassed clubs" on
     the vote and "indicate that at minimum of 21 or 22 teams" 
     will vote to re-open.  A simple majority of 15 votes is
     required to re-open (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/20).  NBPA Exec
     Dir Billy Hunter told USA TODAY's Greg Boeck that he expects
     owners to vote to re-open the CBA: "This doesn't come as a
     surprise to me" (USA TODAY, 3/20).  
          WHAT THEY WANT: On ESPN SportsZone, David Aldridge
     writes that league "[p]eople I've talked to in the last
     couple of weeks don't sound like they want to crush the
     union or force huge player concessions.  They sound like
     businessmen who want to make a deal that's good for them. 
     But not one that's horrible for the players."  Among issues
     owners "have to have relief on" include reducing the
     percentage of income spent on players salaries; redoing the
     rookie cap and three-year contract for draft picks, and
     modifying the 20% rule where salaries rise a maximum of 20%
     over the previous season (ESPN SportsZone, 3/18).

          The Fox Group's purchase of the Dodgers "is the latest
     in a string of notable programming buys by entertainment
     conglomerates that are changing the face of the business,"
     according to Sallie Hoffmeister of the L.A. TIMES.  Across
     the "spectrum of entertainment, companies have been paying
     what on the surface appear to be irrational prices for
     signature products that can break through the clutter of
     consumer choices created by new satellite, digital and
     internet technologies" (L.A. TIMES, 3/20). In DC, Heath &
     Farhi write that the Dodgers may be Murdoch's and MLB's
     "ticket to the largely unexploited international market and
     its billions of potential viewers.  Murdoch owns satellite
     TV systems reaching baseball-hungry markets in Latin
     America, Japan and Asia."  Former MLB Commissioner Peter
     Ueberroth: "Within another three years, all teams will be
     owned by major corporate entities, most of whom will be
     associated with some media company."   Rick Burton, Dir of
     the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the Univ. of OR:
     "Sports is a global battlefield ... and the next
     evolutionary step is the international network.  Murdoch
     someday is going to be able to offer any game, any where,
     any time of day" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/20). In N.Y., Steve
     Zipay writes the "wave of new media and entertainment
     emperor/owners continues to change the shoreline of
     professional sports" (NEWSDAY, 3/20).  On "Market Wrap,"
     Jerry Cobb said that media companies acquiring sports teams
     is "becoming increasingly common, because the economics of
     sports and the needs of broadcasters are creating a marriage
     of convenience."  Cowen's Gary Farber: "The cable industry
     spends approximately $6 billion a year on programming alone. 
     By buying sports properties, it's essentially buying the
     programming, but rather than leasing it, they're going to
     own it."  Farber: "It's an entree to so many under-leveraged
     businesses.  Besides just the actual real-estate involved,
     there's the brand that it creates, brand awareness, there's
     substantial merchandising opportunities and corporate
     sponsorship" (CNBC, 3/19).  In N.Y., Jon Elsen writes on the
     growing trend and adds, "So far, buying sports has worked
     out well for the media giants" (N.Y. POST, 3/20). Former
     Dodgers Owner Peter O'Malley, on approaching the various
     media conglomerates' interest in MLB: "If I was baseball,
     I'd sit them down all day to discuss it -- ask them,
     encourage them.  What needs to be done?  Communications. 
     Kids' programs. International telecasts" (L.A. TIMES, 3/20). 
          CONFLICT: With Murdoch holding national broadcast
     rights to MLB as well as cable TV rights to 22 of MLBs
     teams, some raise the question of potential conflict of
     interest.  But Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said, "We
     live in a new world.  Obviously every sale will be looked at
     in regard to conflicts of interest.  I thing there are a
     number of examples of baseball owners being partners in
     other ventures.  The thing that does remain the same is that
     you can't have ownership interest in more than one club." 
     In N.Y., Bill Madden: "In other words, baseball is resigned
     to the fact that, by going corporate as it has, there is no
     avoiding entangling alliances involving its owners" (N.Y.
     DAILY NEWS, 3/20).  In DC, Thomas Boswell quotes NFL
     Commissioner Paul Tagliabue on media ownership of sports
     teams: "The ownership of an NFL team by a media conglomerate
     or a media owner would present a conflict of interest in
     competitive situations.  You're better off dealing with the
     networks directly.  We always want our outlets to have but
     one interest.  That might be compromised."  Boswell says
     that MLB made its decision on Murdoch based on "only two
     considerations," the $311M franchise fee and the fear of an
     antitrust lawsuit (WASHINGTON POST, 3/20).  In Philadelphia,
     Stephen Seplow writes under the header, "Murdoch Deal: Did
     Someone Say 'Conflict Of Interest?'" (INQUIRER, 3/20).  

          In an "unexpectedly one-sided vote," MLB owners
     yesterday "overwhelmingly approved the purchase" of the
     Dodgers by Rupert Murdoch's Fox Group for "about" $311M, the
     "most ever paid for a professional sports franchise,"
     according to Newhan & Hiltzik of the L.A. TIMES.  The vote
     "puts one of baseball's most storied ballclubs in the hands
     of one of the world's most unsentimental and pragmatic
     businessmen."  Despite "rumors that Murdoch's aggressive
     business practices might stir up serious opposition to the
     deal from other owners," only the Braves and White Sox voted
     against the transaction, while the Mets abstained.  Some
     owners were concerned over whether Murdoch "would comply
     with bylaws requiring that" overseas rights to all games be
     negotiated by MLB, not the individual clubs; whether he
     would "bid too aggressively for top players" and if he would
     use his cable deals with 22 teams to "impact the local
     revenues of those clubs."  But the Fox Group "agreed to
     several changes" in its deal with MLB, assuring even Fox's
     "long rumored ... opposition," including Padres Owner John
     Moores and Giants Managing General Partner Peter Magowan. 
     Even Disney, which was expected to abstain, approved the
     deal (L.A. TIMES, 3/20).  Magowan: "They did a good job
     answering our questions" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/20).  News Corp.
     President Peter Chernin, on owners' fears that Fox would use
     its 22 local deals to its advantage: "We just sort of
     explained to [other owners] the way these businesses run. 
     That we have so much money invested in Fox Sports Net, that
     we're not going to do anything to jeopardize that by playing
     around with the Dodgers" (CNBC, 3/19).  In Milwaukee, Tom
     Haudricourt writes MLB owners "decided it's best not to bite
     a hand that feeds them" (JOURNAL SENTINEL, 3/20).      
     ESPN's Tim Kurkjian: "A lot of owners ... got the idea that
     this isn't necessarily Rupert Murdoch who is buying the
     Dodgers, it's more the Fox Group, which has a very good
     relationship with baseball" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/19).
          THE PLAYERS: In L.A., Jim Newton writes, "Quietly but
     with characteristic determination, Murdoch is burrowing into
     the fabric of Los Angeles, joining its most powerful circle
     of insiders."  But while others are "long steeped" in L.A.'s
     business and political culture, Murdoch is  a "bruising,
     right-wing outsider" (L.A. TIMES, 3/20).  Also in L.A.,
     James Bates profiles Chernin and Chase Carey, Murdoch's "top
     two lieutenants," who have "survived and flourished in the
     mogul's Darwinian management culture."  While Carey is
     "somewhat introverted, seemingly more comfortable behind the
     scenes," Chernin is "more comfortable ... mingling with
     Hollywood talent, listening to pitches and making public
     appearances" (L.A. TIMES, 3/20).
          NO TCI INTEREST? While TCI's Liberty Media, partners in
     the Fox Sports RSNs, once had an option to participate in
     Murdoch's purchase, Liberty Media President Robert Bennett
     said they "waived that a while back."  He did not know if
     such an option "might arise again" (DENVER POST, 3/20).
          SOME TV CHANGES, MORE STADIUM SIGNAGE? The Dodgers
     "traditionally" have fewer games on local TV than any other
     team in MLB, but with the Fox Group now in charge, "that is
     going to change," according to Larry Stewart of the L.A.
     TIMES.  The number of cable telecasts will jump from 40 this
     season to 80 in '99.  Fox made that announcement Thursday,
     one day after the settlement of a lawsuit filed by KTLA
     against Fox and the Dodgers last year.  The "settlement
     allows for more cable games."  All 40 Dodger cable telecasts
     will be on Fox Sports West 2, but in the future, some games
     "also could be carried on Fox Sports West."  KTLA will carry
     48 over-the-air games (L.A. TIMES, 3/20)....Dodgers
     President Bob Graziano said that "any other changes, such as
     more signage at Dodgers Stadium and installation of luxury
     boxes will be gradual" (Hal Bodley, USA TODAY, 3/20).   
          NOTES: In L.A., Bill Plascke notes that Murdoch was not
     present at the announcement, as he was in London on
     business, and adds, "Nothing to do now but get used to it." 
     Plascke: "One of our last remaining treasures wasn't simply
     sold Thursday, it was swallowed whole" (L.A. TIMES,
     3/20)...In Chicago, Jim O'Donnell writes that White Sox
     Chair Jerry Reinsdorf's vote against Murdoch "comes off as a
     recalcitrant, stubborn move made with little apparent
     upside."  O'Donnell: "For Jerry Reinsdorf, is the end of his
     reign as an influential sports power man now clearly -- and
     voluntarily -- in sight?" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/20).

          After two seasons of "battling poor attendance and
     losing money," the ABL Glory will not return to Atlanta next
     season, according to Celeste Whittaker of the ATLANTA
     CONSTITUTION.  The team will move to Nashville, Tampa or St.
     Louis, with a decision by April 1.  ABL CEO Gary Cavalli:
     "The bottom line was just so bad.  We have lost a tremendous
     amount of money down there."  The team averaged 2,780 its
     first season at Morehouse Arena and 3,898 in its second
     year, but "much of its wasn't paid."  The league "will not
     retain anybody from the team's front office."   Whittaker:
     "The Glory suffered from a lack of overall marketing. 
     Despite the big local names, the players didn't make many
     local appearances" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/20).