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Volume 24 No. 116

Franchises

          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).