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Volume 24 No. 156

Franchises

          After Panthers Owner Wayne Huizenga took his team
     public in November '96, his "first move" was the acquisition
     of two resort hotels owned partly by Huizenga and other team
     officials, "a move that enriched Huizenga, his friends and
     others who have invested with him," according to Edward
     Wyatt of the N.Y. TIMES.  The floatation "has all worked out
     grandly for Huizenga, whose original investment in Florida
     Panthers Holdings has nearly tripled in value" to $150M. 
     Initial investors "have done well, but many of those who
     bought subsequently have, at best, broken even," and some
     "profitable investors who got in early have expressed
     outrage, believing that Huizenga and his friends profited
     improperly.  Three class-action lawsuits seeking damages
     have been filed by shareholders" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/25). 
          WAYNE'S WORLD: Wyatt reports that the initial resort
     deals, "unrelated to the hockey club, sent the price of
     Panther stock soaring.  But despite the sharp increase, the
     company did not adjust the number of shares it had offered
     to exchange for the resorts before the deal closed."  By
     "ignoring a common practice when acquisitions are paid for
     with shares of stock, the company ended up paying" $225M for
     the two resorts, three times the original price.  Wyatt adds
     that despite the teams' losses, the market value of FL
     Panthers Holdings "has increased sixfold" since the company
     went public.  Profits from the hockey and arena-management
     operations, which now account for only about 10% of the
     company, "will be a blip on the company's financial screen." 
     Wyatt: "For Huizenga, little about Florida Panthers Holdings
     has to do with hockey" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/25).

          NOTES: Tom Clancy disputed a report that he will sell
     his minority interest in the Orioles in acquiring the
     Vikings: "I plan to follow all league rules, but nobody has
     asked me to sell my interest in the Orioles."  Clancy's
     partner Marc Ganis admitted that his comments saying Clancy
     would sell his stake was a "misunderstanding" (Baltimore
     SUN, 3/25)....The Islanders hired NY-based Diamond Promotion
     Group to market the team and handle promotional programs,
     fan forums and other events (NEWSDAY, 3/25)....The ECHL's
     first franchise in GA will be called the Augusta Lynx
     (HOCKEY NEWS, 3/27 issue)....The Anaheim Bullfrogs, formerly
     of RHI, have joined Major League Roller Hockey (MLRH).
          MLB: Cablevision CEO James Dolan said that Yankees
     Owner George Steinbrenner told him the "ballclub is not for
     sale."  But Dolan said that "his company will continue have
     a close relationship with Steinbrenner" (CNBC, 3/24)....Pro
     Player Stadium is expected to be sold out for the Marlins'
     season-opener on Tuesday (SUN-SENTINEL, 3/25)....In
     Cincinnati, Managing CEO John Allen is profiled by Bill
     Koch.  Asked about his relationship with Marge Schott, Allen
     said, "Marginal at best."  But Koch wrote that under Allen,
     the Reds "finally have a plan.  If all goes well this year,
     if the Reds can draw about 1.8 million fans, they might
     actually make a little money" (CINCINNATI POST, 3/24)....The
     Orioles will have the largest player payroll in MLB history
     this season at $74.3M.  The Braves will open the season with
     a payroll of $71.6M, followed by the Red Sox at $71.3M and
     the Yankees at just under $68.3M (WASHINGTON POST, 3/25). 

          A mediator "issued a non-binding ruling" that the Twins
     are "free to terminate the team's Metrodome lease after this
     season," according to Patrick Sweeney of the ST. PAUL
     PIONEER PRESS.  Robert Bowen, a retired judge hired by the
     Twins and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission
     (MSFC), gave his ruling yesterday.  The Twins lease allows
     them to terminate their agreement, provided they met either
     of two conditions: attendance less than 80% of the AL
     average from '95-97 and audited financial records showing a
     cumulative operating loss for the same period.  Because
     Bowen's ruling "was non-binding," the MSFC may file suit to
     try to "bind" the Twins to the lease.  MSFC Exec Dir Bill
     Lester: "We'll have to evaluate our options -- whether
     that's court or not" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 3/25).  MSFC
     Chair Henry Savelkoul: "The court situation will be a last,
     last, last resort" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/25).