One of the Expos' ballpark project's "high-profile
promoters has cast aspersions on Expos president Claude
Brochu and on the near-impenetrable veil of secrecy
surrounding the project he was recruited to sell," according
to Stephanie Myles of the Montreal GAZETTE. In a radio
interview, Jean Coutu said, "I think Brochu is a very good
administrator, but maybe he should step aside and let
someone else promote the project." Brochu would not
comment. Coutu joined the Expos' ballpark effort in March,
but he now says he is "no longer active in the project."
Coutu: "It's excessively difficult to put that good name we
[he and the other businessmen assisting in the ballpark
push] have into something we don't understand ourselves.
Who will own the stadium? We don't even know. It smells a
bit like what went on in Quebec City with the Nordiques."
Coutu: "They haven't known how to sell it to business,
government and the fans." Meanwhile, the Expos have invited
members of the business community to accompany them to
Baltimore today to tour Camden Yards (GAZETTE, 8/19).
With a 30-day window for potential buyers of the Twins
open to September 14, the two who had "publicly declared
interest in acquiring" the team say they "are undecided
about whether they will make an official bid," according to
Tom Powers of the ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS. Minneapolis
lawyer Clark Griffith, son of former Twins Owner Calvin
Griffith, said he will "take the next two weeks to decide
whether to make an offer." Mike Veeck said he will take
part in a conference call with his financial partners today.
But Powers writes that Veeck "no longer seems interested" in
buying the team (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 8/19).
TWINS PEAKED? In his column, Powers notes that the
Twins drew an average of 2.3 million fans from '87-93, and
writes that the lack of a new ballpark is "not the reason
Carl Pohlad has lost millions of dollars the past five
seasons." Powers: "Let's get real. The reason Pohlad has
lost a lot of money is his team stinks. His team stinks
because he won't spend enough to make it competitive.
Period. Quit blaming the market for everything. ... The
point is, instead of trimming the payroll from $26 million
to $20 million, why not invest in the team by signing some
much-needed talent?" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 8/19).
Today is the day that "seven aspiring owners of the
Browns pitch themselves in front of all 30 NFL team owners"
in Atlanta, according to Tony Grossi of the Cleveland PLAIN
DEALER. Grossi: "No prize is awarded at the end of the day,
but a good presentation could sway some votes when the owner
is selected in another month." Jaguars Owner Wayne Weaver:
"I think it's kind of a dog-and-pony show. ... We all will
form opinions and impressions. And when it comes right down
to it, it seems to me what they say and what they present
will become fairly significant. Because in the final
analysis, there won't be a great disparity in the bids."
Grossi writes that while the first bids are "signed and
sealed," the second bids -- due after each applicant visits
the NFL "data room" in New York -- will "separate the
field." If the bids "are close," an NFL owner speculated
within $50M of each other, "factors such as Cleveland
connections, minority participation and likability could
play a larger role." Through a draw from a hat, Cleveland
developer Bart Wolstein will go first (PLAIN DEALER, 8/19).
Wolstein: "From what I've been reading, the price is going
to be the most important thing" (BEACON JOURNAL, 8/19).
WHO ARE THE ODDS-ON FAVORITES? Grossi reports that
while Al Lerner "looks like the front runner ... nothing is
always what it seems in the NFL" (PLAIN DEALER, 8/19). USA
TODAY's Gordon Forbes lays his odds, putting Lerner at 3-1;
Wolstein at 7-2; Charles/Larry Dolan at 9-2; Howard Milstein
at 6-1; Richard Jacobs at 10-1; Thomas Murdough at 15-1; and
Jeremy Jacobs at 25-1 (USA TODAY, 8/19). In an AKRON BEACON
JOURNAL survey, Murdough was the fans' pick to become the
Browns' owner, receiving 27% of the vote. The Dolans got
22%; Lerner 16%; Wolstein 14%; Milstein 12% and Richard
Jacobs 4.5%. Lerner "drew the strongest response, both pro
and con" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 8/19). In St. Pete, Hubert
Mizell calls Lerner the "best bet" (ST. PETE TIMES, 8/19).
STADIUM LOAN: With a 5-2 vote, OH's Controlling Board
approved a $21.8M loan to help finish the Browns' stadium.
The loan -- "in effect, a cash advance on a state
construction budget" -- will be repaid with stadium aid
appropriated in the November budget (PLAIN DEALER, 8/19).
Alberta Treasury Branches paid a C$4M "break-up" fee to
Rockets Owner Les Alexander "after he lost out on his bid"
to buy the NHL Oilers in May, according to Jac McDonald of
the EDMONTON JOURNAL. Alexander "is entitled to" another
C$4M if the agreement keeping the Oilers in Edmonton until
2004 is "relaxed in any manner," making it easier for the
club to be relocated. The fee agreement, obtained by the
JOURNAL, says that the additional money is due "whether or
not the club is then relocated." The fees "were part of
Alexander's second offer to purchase the Oilers." Treasury
Branches spokesperson Darlene Dickinson "confirmed" that
Alexander received the C$4M, out of the C$100M proceeds of
the sale. Dickinson: "It was his requirement that if the
local buyers succeeded in purchasing the team, he would
require a break-up fee. This is quite normal under
transactions of this type" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 8/19).