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Volume 24 No. 156

Franchises

          When Adelphia Chair John Rigas becomes owner of the
     Sabres, he will be "taking over a franchise facing a host of
     serious problems," according to Robinson & Warner of the
     BUFFALO NEWS.  Because the Sabres have lost $15M during each
     of the last three years, the deal "requires" Rigas to pay
     "only" $5M cash to the existing owners.  Rigas "also has
     pledged to pay another" $10.5M, plus interest, over the
     "next few years."  Robinson & Warner wrote that despite the
     opening of Marine Midland Arena, the team has lost about
     $46M in the last three years "largely because of the
     franchise's ballooning debt load" that stands at "nearly"
     $81M.  Another $6M was lost "in the first four months" of
     the current FY.  The team's season-ticket base "shrank" by
     1,600 this season to 8,634, almost 16% less than last year. 
     But the Sabres purchase "gives Rigas a valuable source of
     programming for Adelphia's Empire Sports Network," which
     already pays the team "a minimum" of $1.6M per season to air
     70 games.  A source said that the deal "also gives Rigas and
     Adelphia the chance to use some of the Sabres' losses to
     offset other income and reduce taxes" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/26).

          In a "historic move that could trigger a significant
     financial realignment" of MLB, the Indians "are expected to
     announce plans to make the ballclub a publicly traded
     company," according to Jones & Rogers of the CHICAGO
     TRIBUNE.  MLB owners last summer "approved the Indians'
     proposal" to issue two classes of stock, with Indians Owner
     Richard Jacobs maintaining control of voting interests.  An
     announcement could come "within the next week or so."  Jones
     & Rogers write that "the move may be a partial response to
     the increasing big corporate influence in baseball. ... This
     would be a remarkable departure in the operation of
     professional baseball, a very public game governed by the
     very private dealings of a select group."  Rogers & Jones
     add that the Indians would be the "first free-standing team"
     in MLB to go public (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/27).

          49ers co-Owner Eddie DeBartolo "is about to make a
     formal offer to buy his sister's share of the 49ers -- and
     is looking" to Bill Walsh to run the team, according to
     Matier & Ross of the S.F. CHRONICLE.  A source said the
     offer contains a provision that if DeBartolo "is indicted
     and convicted" in LA over questions of how he secured a
     gaming licence, the team would be placed in a family trust. 
     Matier & Ross: "Walsh's possible re-emergence could lead to
     a major shakeup in the 49ers' organization -- at the expense
     of team President Carmen Policy, whom most insiders credit
     with the team's success."  One source said the buyout deal
     "has the tentative blessing" of Denise DeBartolo York and
     the offer could be forwarded to the league as early as next
     week.  But a league source told Matier & Ross that the NFL
     "is likely to 'freeze' the current management structure --
     keeping Policy in place -- 'until Eddie's indictment goes
     away.'"  While DeBartolo thinks "prosecutors don't have a
     case against him," sources in LA "are predicting" that he
     will be indicted, "possibly by late May" (CHRONICLE, 3/27).
          THE GROWING DISTANCE BETWEEN FRIENDS: 49ers President
     Carmen Policy said that his relationship with DeBartolo has
     been "severed."  Policy: "I have distanced myself
     significantly from Eddie during this period.  And I've
     basically distanced myself on a personal level from Denise.
     ... I've backed way off on my personal relationship with
     both of them" (Chadiha & Finnie, S.F. EXAMINER, 3/26).

          MN: In MN, Charley Walters reports that season-ticket
     depositors ($100 nonrefundable) for the Wild number 10,400,
     and "team officials say they have yet to put club seats and
     private suites on sale.  The team projects it will surpass
     12,000 by December."  Walters also reports that Rush
     Limbaugh "is being mentioned" as a possible Vikings investor
     with Tom Clancy, and that "the rumor of actor Tom Selleck as
     an investor won't die" (STAR TRIBUNE, 3/27).  
          NOTES: Nets GM John explained the circumstances "that
     led to his argument" with agent David Falk in Nets' locker
     room after Wednesday's game against the Sixers.  Nash: "It's
     unfortunate.  It's really not the way I prefer to do
     business."  In Newark, Don Burke reports that the team
     policy which prohibits agents from being in the locker room
     "was apparently not enforced."  Falk did not return phone
     calls (STAR-LEDGER, 3/27)....With five days remaining before
     their March 31 deadline, the NHL Predators have sold 11,512
     season tickets, 488 season tickets short of their 12,000-
     mark goal (Predators)....The Georgia Dome has decided to let
     the Hawks shoot for the NBA attendance record of 61,983 for
     tonight's game against the Bulls.  As of yesterday, the team
     had sold 56,540 tickets (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/27)....The
     Coyotes Goals for Kids Foundation on Wednesday gave $20,000
     to the Sojourner Center to help alleviate a shortage of
     space at the domestic-violence shelter (ARIZONA REPUBLIC,
     3/27)....In Tampa, the Mutiny drew 6,035 last night for
     their game versus the Fusion (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/27)....The
     Hurricanes drew 15,426 last night for their game against the
     Rangers.  In Raleigh, Steve Politi reports that NHL
     Commissioner Gary Bettman will make his second appearance in
     NC this season when he visits March 31 to help the Canes
     unveil a new season-ticket package (NEWS & OBSERVER, 3/27).

          The Eagles have opened a kiosk to sell licensed team
     merchandise at the USAirways hub in the Philadelphia Int'l
     Airport.  The kiosk is the first of its kind offered by an
     NFL team.  Eagles Dir of Merchandising Steve Strawbridge
     told THE DAILY that the team will open another kiosk at the
     airport this fall.  This season will also mark the return of
     the Eagles traveling merchandise trailer, introduced at the
     team's training camp in Lehigh last fall.  The trailer, the
     Eagles' "merchandise store on wheels," will be in operation
     throughout training camp, at Friday pre-game festivities and
     in front of Veterans Stadium on game days.  Strawbridge said
     that the airport kiosk, merchandise trailer and altered
     uniforms have all attributed to the team's increase in
     merchandise sales.  The Eagles jumped from 15th in licensed
     merchandise sales in '95, to sixth place in '97, the highest
     for a non-playoff team.  Strawbridge added that the Eagles
     will also send out an initial 300,000 merchandise catalogs
     this season, building on the over 200,000 it sent to fans
     last year.  The team has produced its own in-house
     merchandise catalogs for the past three years (THE DAILY).

          One MLB owner "has suggested" that the league purchase
     the Twins for the same price, $140M, offered by prospective
     buyer Don Beaver, according to Sid Hartman of the
     Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE.  The Twins would then remain in MN
     run by the Pohlads for two years.  If a new stadium is not
     built, then MLB, "not the Pohlads would make the decision
     whether to move the team."  Twins President Jerry Bell: "I
     did hear something like that.  But it didn't come up in any
     of our meetings."  Hartman writes the MN Legislature should
     holds talks with Pohlad about his investment in a new
     facility, for "[d]eep in his heart, Pohlad still wants to
     keep baseball here" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/27).
          NOTES: The Blue Jays have shifted their Wednesday home
     opener from the traditional afternoon start to a night game
     "in a bid to draw more customers," but Jays VP/Ticket Sales
     George Holm said that "a sellout is not expected" (Toronto
     GLOBE & MAIL, 3/27).  In Toronto, Mark Zwolinski reports
     that the Jays "will have trouble attracting 40,000 fans" on
     Opening Day (TORONTO STAR, 3/27)....Hal Bodley profiles
     Devil Rays Owner Vince Naimoli in today's USA TODAY. 
     Bodley: "If you think George Steinbrenner is a hand-on owner
     ... you should spend a day with Naimoli.  He's involved in
     every detail of the team" (USA TODAY, 3/27).  The Rays
     announced that "several thousand" tickets will go on sale
     for Tuesday's home opener, a game which had been "previously
     billed as a sellout" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/27)....In AZ, Steve
     Wilson profiles D'Backs General Managing Partner Jerry
     Colangelo, and writes that Colangelo "has taken more than
     his share of cheap shots.  Next week, an Arizona team will
     open its first Major League season in a winning ballpark
     that should be a source of statewide pride.  He's earned
     some applause" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/27)....The Orioles named
     David McGowan as the new public address announcer at Camden
     Yards (WASHINGTON POST, 3/27)....Tom Cummings, the voice of
     the Lipton Tennis Championship since '88, will replace Jay
     Rokeach as the Marlins P.A. announcer (MIAMI HERALD, 3/27).