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Volume 24 No. 154

Franchises

          Mario Lemieux's agent Tom Reich, responding to a column
     Tuesday by Al Strachan of the Toronto Sun, said that Lemieux
     "won't be resuming his playing career anytime soon, if
     ever," according to Dave Molinari of the PITTSBURGH POST-
     GAZETTE.  Reich: "I'll never say never ... but he isn't
     going to be playing any hockey" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE,
     5/27).  In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont writes that Penguins
     co-Owner Roger Marino called the story "baloney," but would
     not comment on any specifics of Lemieux's contract.  Marino
     also declined comment on the legal action that Lemieux has
     taken in the last two weeks "aimed at getting the money he
     says Marino owes him"  (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/27).  On Tuesday,
     Strachan cited sources who said the Penguins "owe Lemieux
     $35[M] U.S. -- money which he earned during his career but
     which he agreed to take on a deferred basis."  Another
     source said that Lemieux's deals "were personal-service
     deals" with Penguins co-Owner Howard Baldwin, who was
     running the team at the time, and added that "there was
     always a lot of secrecy about them" (TORONTO SUN, 5/26).

          The Vikings Board of Directors decided on Monday "to
     put the franchise up for sale again and will accept open,
     cash bids for 100 percent of the stock in the holding
     company," according to Greg Johnson of the ST. PAUL PIONEER
     PRESS.  Bidders have until July 1 to make an offer, but
     Johnson wrote that "doesn't mean a transaction can't be
     completed" before that date.  Many of the team's owners
     "believe" that the successful bid "will be in the area" of
     Tom Clancy's earlier $200M offer (PIONEER PRESS, 5/26).  
          IN THE RED: San Antonio businessman Red McCombs, who
     made a $176M offer for the team before Clancy, said that he
     "has not decided if he will make a new offer."  McCombs said
     he saw "no reason for any real haste" with the July 1
     deadline set, and he will "probably wait until" then to make
     any offer (STAR TRIBUNE, 5/27).  But Vikings co-Owner Jaye
     Dyer said that "concerns have been aired" among the team's
     board about McCombs' intentions should he successfully bid
     for the franchise, adding "there has been speculation ...
     that anything he does would be intended to maybe eventually
     end up in San Antonio" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 5/27). 
          NO FROM SNIDER: Flyers Chair Ed Snider, a rumored
     candidate, said yesterday that he has "no interest" in
     bidding for the Vikings (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 5/27).

          Cleveland natives Charles and Larry Dolan announced
     that Bill Cosby has become an equity investor in the Dolan
     family owner-applicant group which is seeking to purchase
     the new Browns franchise.  If the bid is successful, the
     group announced that Larry Dolan would hold 30% of the total
     equity and act as the sole general partner, with majority
     voting control and complete management authority.  Charles
     Dolan would also hold a 30% stake, but would be a limited
     partner.  Dolan Family Trusts would hold a 30% equity stake,
     and Cosby would be a limited partner, with a 5% stake. The
     remaining 5% is being held in reserve (Dolans).  
          HEY, HEY, HEY: In Akron, David Adams wrote that the
     addition of Cosby, whose net worth was estimated at $300M in
     '96, "unofficially thrusts the Dolan effort to the head of
     the pack" of groups vying for ownership of the Browns. 
     Although Cosby has no local ties to Cleveland, he "does add
     a minority member to the group," something that NFL owners
     and Commissioner Paul Tagliabue "consider to be a powerful
     factor" in its favor (BEACON JOURNAL, 5/23).  Also in Akron,
     Terry Pluto wrote that the addition of Cosby to the Dolan
     group "rings hollow" and looks like an attempt "to tell the
     NFL 'Hey, we have a minority owner, too.'"  Pluto added that
     while the Dolan group and the Paul Warfield/ Calvin
     Hill/Howard Milstein group "will probably end up" as the
     finalists for the Browns, "[d]on't count out" Cleveland
     businessman Al Lerner.  Pluto wrote that Indians Owner Dick
     Jacobs, however, is "disenchanted" with the bidding process,
     and plans to "remain on the sideline and see what develops"
     (Terry Pluto, AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 5/24).

          The NHL Oilers are "fast running out of time" in their
     drive to sell at least 13,000 season tickets by May 31 in
     order to qualify for $2.5M from the NHL's Canadian
     Assistance Plan.  With five days remaining, the team has
     sold "about" 11,400 tickets (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 5/27).
     ...Saturday's MLS MetroStars-Fusion game drew 56,404 to
     Giants Stadium, the biggest crowd in MetroStars history. 
     The game was followed by an exhibition match between
     Colombia and Scotland (Bergen RECORD, 5/24)....MLB "shot
     down a proposal" by Hamilton County Treasurer Robert Goering
     that the county buy Marge Schott's controlling shares of the
     Reds.  Acting Commissioner Bud Selig: "I don't see that 
     happening" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 5/22)....In N.Y., Jay
     Glazer reported that final NFL attendance numbers showed the
     Jets trailed only the Chiefs and Broncos in total attendance
     figures for home and away games in '97 (N.Y. POST, 5/24).
     ....The Flyers have invited Hayley Wickenheiser, one of
     Canada's "top female ice hockey players," to the team's
     prospects camp (USA TODAY, 5/27). 

          Blue Jays Chair & CEO Sam Pollock told a House of
     Commons committee on the future of sports in Canada that the
     Blue Jays and all Canadian pro teams "are in financial
     peril," according to William Walker of the TORONTO STAR. 
     Pollock said that the Blue Jays lost $35M in FY '97 and that
     he "forecasts a similar loss this year."  He added that the
     team "started losing money in 1993 and hasn't been
     profitable since."  But throughout his appearance Pollock
     "insisted" that the team was not asking for "government
     concessions" (TORONTO STAR, 5/26).  He cited the low
     Canadian dollar, the "bad deal" between the government and
     business when the SkyDome was built, and the amount of taxes
     the Jays pay as "key reasons" behind its struggles, and
     added that "every time the Canadian dollar drops one cent,
     it costs the Jays $600,000" (CALGARY SUN, 5/26).  

          The Knicks are "increasing" ticket prices by 10-12.5%
     next season, with the top tickets increasing by $100, to a
     "whopping" $1,350 per seat per game, according to Kevin
     Kernan of the N.Y. POST.  In a letter to season-ticket
     holders, MSG CEO Dave Checketts wrote that the increases
     were necessary "to keep pace with the growing cost of
     maintaining our talented roster in such a competitive
     marketplace."  Courtside seats will now run $58,050 per seat
     for the season.  The most affordable ticket at MSG will rise
     from $20 a game this year to $22 next season, and a seat
     that was $200 will now cost $220.  Kernan added that the
     $220 seat "was $25 a decade ago" (N.Y. POST, 5/26).

          C Mike Piazza's second game as a Met helped the team
     enjoy its "first sellout in five years," according to Steve
     Popper of the N.Y. TIMES.  Sunday's game drew a paid crowd
     of 47,291, and, including 8,484 giveaways, the ballpark was
     at its 55,775 capacity.  On Saturday, Piazza's Mets debut
     attracted a crowd of 32,908.  The team announced that 21,400
     tickets were sold for the two games after Friday's trade
     with the Marlins was announced (N.Y. TIMES, 5/25).  The Mets
     had been averaging 17,601 before Friday's trade. The average
     attendance for the two weekend games was 40,100 (N.Y. POST,
     5/25).  In N.Y., Claire Smith wrote that, in trading for
     Piazza, the Mets have "finally graduated from Off Broadway"
     and "now have the star of the show" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/23). 
     Also in N.Y., George Vecsey wrote that Mets management has
     been feeling the "immense pressure of empty seats and
     yapping voices and the graceful juggernaut in the Bronx." 
     Mets co-Owner Fred Wilpon, on Piazza: "This town is ready. 
     They love him already.  He could be like Willie Mays or
     Mickey Mantle to this town" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/23).
          BACK IN FL: In spite of "all the negativity around the
     Marlins," Miami Mayor Joe Carollo said that he wants the
     Marlins to "build a stadium next to the Heat's new arena,"
     and added that he is "willing to consider using public money
     to do it," according to Barry Jackson of the MIAMI HERALD.
     But Jackson wrote that the city "is in no position" to
     contribute toward a retractable-dome stadium, as it is
     "recovering from a financial crisis" (MIAMI HERALD, 5/25). 
     

          Stars Owner Tom Hicks "expects" MLB to approve his
     purchase of the Rangers at a June 12 owners' meeting in
     Seattle, an action that will allow him "to proceed with his
     plans to assemble his sports assets into one company,"
     according to Alm & Kirkpatrick of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. 
     Hicks said that he "still intends to package" the Rangers,
     Stars, an "as-yet-to-be-created [RSN] and perhaps other
     assets into a public company."  The company will "be
     financed privately initially" but Hicks said "[a]t the right
     time, we'll consider accessing the public so our fans can
     own some of the teams with us."  An IPO "may" come in the
     next 12-36 months (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/23).  In Toronto,
     Damien Cox called the Stars "one of the NHL big boys now,"
     and that if Hicks "has his way, they'll soon be a giant." 
     (TORONTO STAR, 5/25).  In Ft. Worth, Simon Gonzalez wrote
     that the Stars have sold out every playoff game thus far and
     are the "hottest thing around."  Stars President Jim Lites
     said "if [TV] and attendance are indicators," the team is
     "getting closer to" the MLB Rangers in popularity, and is
     "past basketball, by a long shot" (STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/26).
          WHO'S DOING HIS PR? In N.Y., Carlos Tejada wrote that
     Hicks' new consolidated sports company "would seek
     advertising with the promise of a national network of radio
     and [TV] outlets and possibly billboards," and would "give
     the laconic Mr. Hicks an impressive sports and media empire"
     (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/26).  Hicks was also profiled by
     Allen Myerson of the N.Y. TIMES, who wrote that Hicks "has
     transformed" the Stars into a Stanley Cup contender, and
     "plans to pit" Fox against Disney/ESPN "[t]o compete for
     rights to carry" the Rangers and Stars on cable through a
     partnership with his planned RSN (N.Y. TIMES, 5/25).