Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge John Bessey
issued a "directed verdict" against Lamar Hunt in the NHL
Blue Jackets contract dispute "without giving the case to
the jury," according to Bruce Cadwallader of the COLUMBUS
DISPATCH. Attorneys for both sides had asked for a directed
verdict. Bessey ruled that Hunt "wasn't improperly forced
out of the ownership group" of the Blue Jackets, and that he
committed a "'flagrant' violation of the business contract
by taking legal actions against" former partners John
McConnell and John Wolfe "without consulting other members"
of the ownership group Columbus Hockey Limited. Hunt claims
that McConnell and Wolfe breached their contract with him by
obtaining the Blue Jackets without him. Anthony Celebrezze
Jr., Hunt's lead attorney, said, "We're going to review the
ruling, but it's safe to say there will be an appeal on this
part of the case and we'll be appealing again the contract
issues which we've said all along are the critical issues in
this case." A second trial will be called "to determine
financial damages against Hunt" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 5/15).
ESCAPE TO NEW YORK: Hunt is pursuing a similar suit
against the NHL and Nationwide Mutual Insurance in New York,
which seeks $50M in damages and aims to prevent the league
from placing a team in Columbus. But John Zeiger, one of
the attorneys for McConnell and Wolfe, said, "We think the
New York court will be very respectful of Judge Bessey's
ruling today" (Bruce Cadwallader, COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 5/15).
The Pirates are using a CD-ROM software device, D&B
MarketPlace, to assist them in targeting corporations for
group ticket sales. The team began using the business-to-
business marketing tool, produced by MA-based iMarket, in
'96. Pirates Marketing Systems Analyst Jim Pappas said it
has helped him develop better leads for sales reps by
allowing him to segment the Pittsburgh market by criteria
such as company size, revenue or number of employees.
Pappas: "I had no idea how many viable companies were in
Pittsburgh." Aside from the initial software fee and
quarterly updates, users are charged on a per-lead basis
based on what is downloaded. The cost of leads varies from
$.10 to $.35. In their first year, the Pirates paid about
$10,000 for such leads. While the Pirates have generally
had a 4% success rate with targeted lists, Pappas said the
team has had success rates as high as 10-12% with D&B, and
he hopes to have had a 6-7% success rate with D&B for a 16-
week direct marketing campaign the team recently completed.
The campaign targeted 100,000 businesses, and Pappas
estimated the team spent $15,000 to $20,000 on D&B leads.
Final results of the campaign have yet to be completed.
Overall, group ticket sales have increased by 25% since the
Pirates started using D&B two years ago. In addition, the
team's full-season equivalents this year have increased from
6,800 to 7,800, which Pappas partially attributes to the
software. The White Sox also use D&B (THE DAILY).
49ers co-Owner Eddie DeBartolo had a "nice sit-down
meeting with his team's longtime nemesis," Raiders Owner Al
Davis, according to Matier & Ross of the S.F. CHRONICLE.
The meeting "was set up by DeBartolo's right-hand man,"
former Raider Ed Muransky, "who sources say has been
pushing" DeBartolo not to give up his "fight to keep control
of the football team." Sources say that Davis and DeBartolo
discussed issues ranging from possible preseason games
between the two teams to "how DeBartolo might handle his
fight to regain control of the 49ers." Muransky denied the
meeting had "anything to do with DeBartolo's current
problems with the NFL," saying only, "They were there to
talk about old times and friendships." Matier & Ross add
that DeBartolo opened a new pizza restaurant this week in
Santa Clara called Tomatina (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/15).
COLD WAR OVER? The Raiders have "accepted a city and
county offer to break a seven-month-old silence and discuss
a 'comprehensive proposal' aimed at restructuring" the
team's current deal with both agencies. The sides will meet
in the next couple of weeks" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 5/14).
The popularity of the Sabres among women fans was
profiled in the BUFFALO NEWS under the header "Hockey
Heartthrobs -- Those Hot Young Sabres And The Women Who
Chase Them." Sabres VP/Marketing Christye Peterson said
that women are "snapping up the jerseys and merchandise and
programs" in the gift shop this season (BUFFALO NEWS, 5/13).
...Tickets to Market Square Arena for Games Three and Four
of the Pacers-Bulls series sold out yesterday in five
minutes (INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS, 5/15)....The Maple Leafs
are looking into buying or owning an Ontario Hockey League
team outright as a tenant in Maple Leaf Gardens after the
Leafs move to Air Canada Centre (TORONTO SUN, 5/15).
Tom Clancy's bid to buy the Vikings "appeared on the
verge of collapse Thursday as new deal-breakers emerged,"
according to Don Banks of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE.
Vikings owners say that "potential flaws" include: an effort
by Clancy to lower the $200M purchase price by about $15M;
the inclusion of Rockets Owner Leslie Alexander in Clancy's
group; and "continuing concerns that Clancy, who is going
through a divorce, does not have the personal fortune to own
a team." Three NFL owners said that the current deal "will
not be approved by the owners," and "several" Vikings co-
owners said that the inclusion of Alexander "could prompt
them to vote against the final sale agreement." Clancy
spokesperson Marc Ganis dismissed the possibility that the
deal was in trouble and said, "A lot of what is coming out
is over-reaction" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/15).
DETAILS & QUESTIONS: In St. Paul, Jeff Seidel reports
that some Vikings owners were "irked" that Ganis tried to
modify the deal by requesting to have part of the payment
deferred because the team has assumed additional debt re-
signing free agents. Ganis said that the changes he
requested amounted to less than 10% of the purchase price.
He said that the proposal "has been withdrawn, but several
owners called it a sticking point in negotiations."
Meanwhile, reports have varied on how much Alexander and
Clancy would invest and sources said that the NFL's concern
about approving the deal "stems from the fact Alexander
would have more cash invested in the team than Clancy."
Vikings co-Owner Wheelock Whitney said that Clancy needs to
have a $60M commitment to get league approval. Whitney: "We
didn't sell the team to Alexander; we sold it to Clancy."
But Ganis said $60M was not an accurate figure for Clancy's
investment (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/15). In St. Paul,
columnist Bob Sansevere: "Ganis has put the deal together.
If this deal flies, it will be because of Ganis. If it
fails, it will be because of Ganis" (PIONEER PRESS, 5/15).
MORE NEWS: In Houston, John Williams reports that NFL
officials said yesterday "they will take steps" to make sure
the Vikings stay put, "including making their next owner
promise not to break the team's Metrodome lease." Williams
adds that while Alexander has entered the picture, Houston
businessman Bob McNair said he "dropped his interest" in the
Vikings after being told they have a performance lease
locking them to MN. In "the past two weeks," McNair offered
$200M for the team "amid speculation Clancy's proposal would
crater" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/15). If Clancy's deal does
fall through, San Antonio business exec Red McCombs said
"he's ready to make a cash transaction." McCombs: "We could
close in 24 hours" (Charley Walters, PIONEER PRESS, 5/15).
...In their divorce proceeding, Clancy's wife Wanda
estimates in her counterclaim that Clancy's current holdings
and contracts for future books are worth "at least" $191M.
She hasn't said how much she wants, only that she is aiming
for her "fair share" (Annie Gowen, WASHINGTON POST, 5/15).
Media reports out of Tampa varied as to the status of
Pistons Owner William Davidson's bid for the Lightning. In
St. Pete, Tim Buckley reports that the Lightning has
received "a formal, written offer" from Davidson, but the
Lightning's ownership "has yet to decide if it will accept
or reject the bid" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 5/15). In Tampa,
Ira Kaufman reports that Davidson "did not tender a
conditional offer" yesterday. But he adds that Sunshine
Network GM Jim Liberatore has recently discussed the team's
contract with a Davidson rep, "assuring the executive of the
viability of Tampa Bay's NHL market." The Lightning owes
the net an estimated $5M for its TV deal, but Liberatore
said that Sunshine is open to renegotiating terms of the
deal "in exchange for adding years" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 5/15).
NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani yesterday called Wednesday's
attendance of 23,142 for the Yankees-Rangers game
"pathetic," according to Robert Hardt of the N.Y. POST.
Giuliani: "This just can't go on forever and forever" (N.Y.
POST, 5/15). Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner: "People
say, 'Don't leave Yankee Stadium.' ... Tell me why I should
stay here. If you're a decent, smart businessman, you have
to say, 'Why should I stay?'" Steinbrenner "alleged" he is
losing money, but he would not say how much. Steinbrenner:
"It would probably shock some people" (Bergen RECORD, 5/14).
REDS: In Cincinnati, Geoff Hobson reported that Reds
limited partner Carl Kroch, who owns one of the team's 15
shares, said that he believes that none of the team's owners
will align with Managing General Partner Marge Schott's 42%
to help her keep a majority after the current partnership
expires December 31, 2000. Kroch: "I'm perfectly willing to
let her keep her 40 percent, as long as she's a silent
partner. We need someone who is professional, can run a
business, and really knows baseball." Kroch said "his
impression is none of the other limited partners wants to
run the team." He added that Managing Exec John Allen has
"done a good job but he hasn't thought about a potential
candidate" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 5/14).
D'BACKS: HBO's "Real Sports" airs Tuesday with a
segment on the controversy over the $253M public subsidy
toward construction of the $350M Bank One Ballpark. In
N.Y., Steve Zipay writes that the report "can be viewed as a
warning" to all politicians looking to publicly subsidize
new facilities (NEWSDAY, 5/15). During an interview with
HBO's Armen Keteyian for the piece, D'Backs Managing General
Partner Jerry Colangelo walked off the set. But HBO Exec
Producer Ross Greenburg commended Colangelo "for calling me
to apologize" (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 5/15).
NOTES: In St. Paul, Charley Walters reports that Twins
President Jerry Bell estimates the team will lose $12M this
season (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/15)....The Devil Rays
announced a season-low crowd of 24,296 for last night's game
against the Royals (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 5/15).