John Elway will meet with Eli Broad on Thursday in L.A.
to "discuss joining Broad's venture" to bring an NFL
expansion team to L.A., according to T.J. Simers of the L.A.
TIMES. While in town, Elway has "no plans to meet" with
Michael Ovitz, but the NFL "has let it be known that it
would like Elway to listen to Ovitz's overture before
reaching any conclusion." NFL execs feel that Elway could
be "an asset in the process." One official: "Elway sounds
very passionate about the prospects of becoming involved in
this. And that's something the Los Angeles process needs."
Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen has extended an offer to Elway to
own a small piece of his team, but he "advised Broad and
Ovitz that he will most likely be unable to satisfy Elway's
desire to also work in a significant management position
with the team, freeing him to pursue" the L.A. opportunity.
Elway's agent Marvin Demoff: "It's clear John's interests
are to be involved in the day-to-day operation of a football
team, whether it's in Denver, Los Angeles or someplace else
in the future." Meanwhile, NFL execs met with Disney Chair
Michael Eisner this past week "and left encouraged with
future discussions expected." Broad also met with Steven
Spielberg in an effort to broaden his ownership group. But
one NFL exec noted the slow pace of progress: "We're just
not seeing all that much happening so far. We're moving
closer and closer to Sept. 15, and we're nowhere near to
getting something resolved" (L.A. TIMES, 5/9). The
SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Liz Mullen writes that "speculation
is rampant" that former Dodgers Owner Peter O'Malley "could
either form his own group or join an existing group" bidding
for an NFL expansion team in L.A. (SBJ, 5/10 issue).
NEW BUSINESS PARTNER? Michael Ovitz was profiled in the
N.Y. TIMES MAGAZINE. Ovitz, on his controversial image in
Hollywood: "I've left bodies in my path, believe me, because
I'm aggressive and sometimes I'm insensitive. But it's a
whole new world out there" (N.Y. TIMES MAGAZINE, 5/9).
WHAT ABOUT US! An editorial in the HOUSTON CHRONICLE
runs under the header, "NFL Is Running Out The Clock On
Houston, McNair," and asks, "How many deadline extensions
will the NFL be willing to grant Los Angeles while Houston's
bid ripens on the vine?" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/8).
NBA: Three of the eight NBA first-round playoff games
this weekend played to less-than-capacity crowds. The Magic
did not sell out Game One of its series against the 76ers,
as the announced crowd of 15,267 was the team's third-
smallest crowd of the season. Reports had "as many as"
3,000 tickets available at the 17,248-seat arena "as late as
90 minutes" before tip-off (ST. PETE TIMES, 5/10)....For the
first time in 16 home postseason dates, the Heat failed to
sell out a playoff game at Miami Arena, drawing 15,036 to
the 15,200-seat facility. One thousand seats remain for
tonight's game (SUN-SENTINEL, 5/9)....The Hawks drew 20,884
to Saturday's opener against the Pistons at the 21,570-seat
GA Dome (THE DAILY)...The NBA Board of Governors approved
the Maloofs as the new owners of the Kings. Gavin Maloof,
on the league's owners: "They think we have the most
exciting team in the league" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/9).
NHL: In Pittsburgh, Bob Smizik questioned the role of
local leadership -- especially Mayor Tom Murphy and County
Commissioner Mike Dawida -- in efforts to keep the Penguins
in town. Smizik: "People close to the negotiations maintain
they have been invisible, perhaps out of fear of further
offending the area's large senior citizen population, which
stands firm against helping professional sports teams and
athletes" (POST-GAZETTE, 5/9). Also in Pittsburgh, Mark
Madden wrote the NHL "would benefit, to a degree, if it
pulled the ice out from under the Penguins." It would
"throw a scare into the rest of the league, encouraging
teams to be more fiscally responsible," and it would "give
the league strong leverage in its next labor negotiations"
with the NHLPA (POST-GAZETTE, 5/8).
NFL: N.Y. POST gossip columnist Neal Travis reported
that "some have wondered" what Mort Zuckerman and Fred
Drasner "are doing" by investing in Daniel Snyder's bid for
the Redskins. While the investment might "help" Zuckerman's
"social standing" in DC and "it might even get some ads" for
his U.S. News & World Report, others say Zuckerman is
"treating his entry into the NFL as "just another business
decision, one that makes sense because -- as a first-time
franchise owner -- he gets to write off the entire
investment for tax purposes" (N.Y. POST, 5/9).
More than a thousand mourners are expected this morning
at the funeral of former Jets Owner Leon Hess at the Park
Avenue Synagogue in N.Y., including most of the NFL's
owners, politicians, celebrities and other distinguished
dignitaries (Randy Lange, Bergen RECORD, 5/10).
FUTURE OF TEAM: With Hess' passing, there is
speculation around the NFL that the Jets will be put up for
sale, as Hess told team owners and league officials that he
wanted the Jets to be sold after his death (N.Y. TIMES,
5/8). In NJ, Randy Lange reported that Hess' son, John, has
said that he "is not interested in NFL ownership" and the
team "is likely to be sold." Lange named Cablevision CEO
James Dolan, Devils Owner John McMullen, Giants co-Owner
Robert Tisch, Donald Trump and Isles co-Owner Howard
Milstein as potential bidders. But a league source said
that Tisch "appears happy" with the Giants and Trump would
have to get rid of his casinos (Bergen RECORD, 5/8). In
N.Y., Bill Pennington added Mets co-Owner Nelson Doubleday
as a possible suitor. One NFL owner said that Hess
"indicated he was planning to make the sale of the Jets a
priority in his will," while a friend said that Hess wanted
the Jets to be sold "to spare his family the angst and
disappointment he experienced" during the team's losing
seasons. Pennington estimated that the Jets could sell for
"at least" $500M (N.Y. TIMES, 5/8). NEWSDAY's Steve Zipay
put Cablevision Chair Charles Dolan, Yankees Owner George
Steinbrenner, Nets co-Owners Lewis Katz & Raymond Chambers
and Mets co-Owner Fred Wilpon in the mix. The Marquee Group
CEO Bob Gutkowski: "The Jets are a natural for Chuck (Dolan)
and what he's trying to do in this market." Other potential
buyers: MetroMedia co-Founders John Kluge and Stuart
Subotnick and Triarc Cos' Nelson Peltz and Peter May
(NEWSDAY, 5/8). One NFL insider said that Jets President
Steve Gutman will become the new Owner because Hess "put
full power" in Gutman on the sale (N.Y. POST, 5/8).
NO CATCH FOR THE TUNA? Jets coach Bill Parcells
dismissed weekend rumors that he could lead a group
interested in buying the team: "I am not part of any group,
nor will I ever be part of any group, to buy the Jets" (N.Y.
DAILY NEWS, 5/10). But in N.Y., Rich Cimini wrote that
Parcells "is in a position of power because he's the
organization's greatest asset" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/9). One
league source said Parcells "has a group he can put together
to buy the team" (N.Y. POST, 5/9).
After Michael Jordan pulled out of negotiations with
Hornets Owner George Shinn over an ownership stake in the
team, Shinn issued a statement saying that he has "received
numerous inquiries from others who are interested in the
possibility of a partnership in the Hornets." Shinn added
that he plans to "review those opportunities and proceed
accordingly" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/8). On Friday, Jordan
told the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER why talks broke down with Shinn.
Jordan: "We could have agreed to a 50-50 split. But
ultimately my decisions had to be it. ... It wasn't about
money. I offered to buy him out. It was about control and
we never were able to get that resolved." Jordan said that
"there was a possibility" that talks could resume, but "only
if the control issue were resolved, and if talks resumed
quickly." Jordan: "I'd be open if [Shinn] called tomorrow
morning and said, `Hey, I've made a terrible mistake, let's
talk.' It's up to George. I could not accept a situation
where I could not (have a final say)." Afterward, a source
said, "Shinn doesn't deserve to take the fall on this one.
He wanted Michael involved. But no one in their right mind
would sell 50 percent of a business and have no decisions."
Sources said that "at least two other groups" are interested
in buying part of the team (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/8).
COULD TALKS RESURFACE? In Chicago, John Jackson cited
NBA sources as saying "there is a chance" that Shinn might
"reconsider" Jordan's offer to buy 100% of the team "if the
outside pressures on him continue and intensify" (SUN-TIMES,
5/9). Also in Chicago, Lacy Banks writes that Jordan has
the leverage: "Let's face it: Shinn and the league need
Jordan more than he needs them" (SUN-TIMES, 5/10).
REAX: In Charlotte, Ron Green wrote that you can't
blame Shinn for the failed deal because Jordan's "demands
were so outrageous, it's difficult to believe he was serious
about buying half of the team." Green called Shinn's
refusal to meet Jordan's demands "noble" (CHARLOTTE
OBSERVER, 5/9). Also in Charlotte, Tom Sorensen wrote that
Shinn chose power over a Jordan deal because the Hornets are
his "identity." Sorensen: "The Hornets are much more than a
business to Shinn. They are his connection to the big time,
his only connection" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/8).
THE WIZARDS KING? David Falk said that he "doesn't
know" if his client has thought about buying the Wizards
since he "has spent all of his recent time trying to make a
deal for the Hornets" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/8).
A NEW PARADIGM? In Chicago, Bernie Lincicome writes on
today's pro athletes seeking ownership interests in teams.
He calls Jordan's effort to buy a stake in the Hornets "not
so much a corporate takeover as celebrity extortion. ...
Things have gotten so very askew that when somebody finally
says no to Jordan, it is Jordan who gets all the
commiseration. Poor Michael. If he wants his own NBA team,
why shouldn't he have one?" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/10).
Stars President Jim Lites was named MLB Rangers
President and is now just one of five people to lead two
sports franchises, according to Gerry Fraley of the DALLAS
MORNING NEWS. Lites, who replaces Tom Schieffer, "is
expected to bring about significant changes" in the Rangers'
marketing campaigns to ticket buyers and advertisers.
Rangers Owner Tom Hicks: "What we didn't want anybody to
worry about was that I was going to unleash a bunch of
business suits into the sports business. We don't do that.
We get the best possible people to do the job and let those
people do their job. Sports people will be in charge of
sports." Fraley reported that Lites' sports background,
with 17 years in hockey with the Stars and the Red Wings,
"figured" in Hicks' decision. Hicks, however, will
"represent" the Rangers at MLB and AL meetings, with
Southwest Sports Group Exec VP/Finance & Operations John
McMichael, who was recently promoted from Rangers Exec
VP/Business Operations (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/8).
NEW MODEL: In Dallas, Richard Alm wrote that the Stars
and Rangers are "becoming one, forging the next generation
of sports enterprise." Southwest Sports Group CEO Michael
Cramer: "All the ticket sales will be run through one
person. All sales of corporate sponsorships will be run
through one person. All marketing will funnel through one
person." Stars Marketing Dir Jeff Cogen, who has led the
Stars' string of 40 straight sellouts, is taking over ticket
sales for both teams (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/8).
THE LITES STUFF? In Dallas, Tim Cowlishaw wrote that
with the Lites announcement, the "mom-and-pop organization
... is no more." Lites, on making changes to the Rangers'
operations: "I think there are opportunities here that have
not been maximized. You might see different things in the
way the game looks and sounds. I anticipate those things
changing a bit" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/8).
CAPITAL GAIN: In N.Y., Kevin Sack detailed former
Rangers Owner George W. Bush's stewardship of the team. The
TX Gov. saw his $606,000 investment turn into a $14.9M
payday when his group sold to Hicks in '98. Sack: "There's
no denying the Rangers' success during Mr. Bush's tenure,
both on the field and in the stands" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/8).