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Volume 24 No. 132


The NBA Kings are "seriously considering the possibility of applying to the NBA by the league's March 1 deadline for relocation to Anaheim for next season," according to sources cited by Marc Stein of The Kings "haven't made a final decision," but sources said that team officials "have been in Orange County, Calif., this month to gather more first-hand data on the feasibility and potential obstacles involved in trying to move to Anaheim's Honda Center." NBA Commissioner David Stern "confirmed for the first time Saturday night at his annual All-Star Weekend news conference that the Kings have had discussions with Anaheim officials about a possible move." Kings co-Owner Joe Maloof did not mention any specifics but said, "We have to look at all of our options at this point. But we also want to concentrate on our team right now. Any of the arena stuff, we'll talk about that later." Sources said that "with no NBA-ready arena for the Kings to move into in the Maloofs' home base of Las Vegas," Anaheim "holds the greatest appeal to the Kings." Stern confirmed that the league "no longer has an active role in trying to keep the team in Sacramento after originally backing the efforts of Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson ... to find a solution to the arena issue." Stein noted among the "issues that could dissuade the Kings from making the relocation request before next season's deadline in 10 days are the millions still owed by the Maloofs to the city of Sacramento in loans and the behind-the-scenes resistance they could potentially receive" from the Lakers and Clippers. The Kings "would likely need favorable loan and lease terms in Anaheim to mitigate those financial obligations and the franchise might still face opposition from the Lakers and Clippers" (, 2/20).

CALIFORNIA LOVE? In L.A., Broderick Turner notes, "How this affects the Lakers and Clippers is not quite known, but neither team is overly excited about the possibility of the Kings playing about 30 miles from Staples Center." Lakers Owner Jerry Buss and Clippers Owner Donald Sterling "would probably have a lot to say about the Kings move, but it would take a majority of the 30 NBA team owners -- at least 16 -- to approve the relocation." And there "could be a relocation fee that the Kings would have to pay" (L.A. TIMES, 2/21). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin wrote she gets the "sense that while the league probably would approve the move, the higher-ups aren't thrilled about the prospect of (a) abandoning the 20th largest media market; (b) adding a third NBA team in Southern California and (c) having to deal with all this with a lockout looming" (, 2/19). In California, Jeff Miller writes the Lakers "dominate the Southland," and it would take "years of achievement for the Kings or any NBA team in O.C. to escape the Lakers' spell." However, the Lakers "aren't Orange County any more than the Dodgers are Orange County, any more than the Angels are L.A. County" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 2/21).

ONE MORE TRY: The SACRAMENTO BEE's Voisin wrote, "Within days, there is a very real possibility Sacramento will become the next Seattle." If the "decades-long relationship between the Maloofs and the city hadn't gone south at some point, if the brothers didn't feel unloved, unappreciated and unwanted, justified or otherwise," the new arena conversation initiated by Johnson, developer David Taylor and officials from architecture firm ICON "would be receiving a prolonged and legitimate look." Voisin: "They would give us more time, give us one more long shot. They should, anyway. They need us. We need them more. The Kings are owned by the Maloofs, but they belong to Sacramento" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/20). Johnson said that he "intends to move forward with efforts to build a sports and entertainment arena." He said that he "would continue his efforts to get a facility built even if the Kings left town." A rep for Taylor said that the group "has been in contact with Kings officials but has not yet set up a meeting to discuss the financing for a Sacramento arena" (Tony Bizjak, SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/21).

The sale price of the Pistons is a "major cause for the complexity of negotiations" with Platinum Equity Chair & CEO Tom Gores, and it is "just one explanation for why, even now, five days before thelatest deadline for making a deal, the two sides have yet to agree onthe outlines of an eventual accord," according to sources cited by Krupa & Goodwill of the DETROIT NEWS. Sources said that "both sides are closing the gap, but that what likelywill happen next is that Gores' exclusive negotiation period will beextended another two weeks." NBA Commissioner David Stern Saturday said, "We know that there are veryintense negotiations going on, which are in their final stages. Either there will be a deal or there won't be a deal within thenext week. And every indication is there will be a deal, and we'll seehow that goes." Krupa & Goodwill write, "What is clear is that as the third partner to the negotiations, the NBAhas a significant stake in making certain the announced price tag is inexcess of $400 million" (DETROIT NEWS, 2/21). In Detroit, Vince Ellis reports Gores watched last night's NBA All-Star Game "from a suite" at Staples Center, and Stern"met with representatives from Platinum Equity ... before the game." Current Pistons Owner Karen Davidson also was "in attendance," as the sides "continue to work on a deal that would give Gores the Pistons" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 2/21).

An investment group led by L.A.-based Lightning Pictures CEO and Atlanta native Stephen Rollins "has not made an offer to purchase the Thrashers and is unlikely to do so," according to sources cited by Chris Vivlamore of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. Rollins said that he "represents a group interested in purchasing the majority interest in an NHL franchise, a claim first made in May 2010 in a press release," but there has been "no movement in regard to the Thrashers." An NHL official indicated that there are "no buyers currently in line to purchase the franchise," and two sources said that Rollins' group "is not considered a viable candidate" (, 2/18). In Atlanta, David Markiewicz cited sports business execs as saying that it is "not hard to understand" why the Thrashers have not yet "found either investors or a buyer for the club despite ongoing efforts." The franchise "has been a perennial money loser in a market that's remained mostly uninterested in the product and the sport." Atlanta Spirit, which owns the team, has been "trying to sell the team for six years, according to a recent lawsuit, and is losing about $20 million yearly." The execs said that "prospects of a financial turnaround" are "outweighed by the likelihood that multi-million dollar losses will continue" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 2/20).

Mets Owner Fred Wilpon and President Saul Katz over the years offered "select people" an opportunity to invest with Bernie Madoff, according to a front-page piece by the N.Y. TIMES' Serge Kovaleski, who writes under the header, "Mets' Owners Guarded An Investment Pipeline." Former CNN host Larry King was among those chosen for the "strange and unique investment opportunity." But to be among those referred by Wilpon and Katz, "one had to agree to odd and puzzling terms that restricted direct contact with or questioning" of Madoff. Sterling Equities, the family company that owns the Mets, "would administer all the referred accounts and handle the transactions between the investors and Mr. Madoff's firm." Those invited would not send money to Madoff. Instead, it would be "filtered through the Sterling partner" and Mets BOD member Arthur Friedman, a "certified public accountant with a law degree who served as the liaison to Mr. Madoff’s operation." By the time Madoff was arrested in December '08, Friedman "had managed 178 Madoff accounts opened for friends and close business acquaintances of the Sterling partners, and for some Sterling employees." He also "administered 305 other Madoff accounts set up by Sterling partners for themselves, their families, trusts and Sterling-related entities." Account holders "were never to speak directly with Mr. Madoff or anyone at his business, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities," as "all communications regarding any of the accounts had to go through Sterling." Clients "would receive monthly paper statements from Mr. Madoff, though the year-end tax statements were sent from Sterling." Wilpon and Katz "clearly cherished and cultivated their lucrative relationship" with Madoff, as they "would allow investors to profit from his operation without fully understanding or having direct access to it." Court documents show that Sterling partners "told their lenders and their employees ... that his average returns were an impressive 18 percent or so and that they consistently outperformed the market" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/21).

HIGH DEMAND: Allen & Co. Managing Dir Steve Greenberg, who was "hired by the Mets owners to assist in the sale of a minority stake in the team," said that he is "surprised by the high level of interest in the club." Greenberg said that he "has been contacted by dozens of potential suitors, including 'a couple of dozen very serious groups' that have expressed interest in buying 20%-to-25% of the Mets." He noted that he "could not identify potential candidates." Greenberg said that it is "difficult to predict how long it will take to find a suitable partner for Wilpon." He "described the process for finding partners for the Wilpons this way: he fields the initial calls from prospective investors, determines if they are serious candidates and then directs them to Major League Baseball to be vetted by MLB officials." MLB officials "make sure the candidates have the financial resources to purchase the interest in the team and conduct background checks" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/19).

The Red Sox last year paid around $85.5M to MLB's "revenue-sharing fund last year and an additional $1.3 million in competitive balance tax," second only to the Yankees, according to Peter Abraham of the BOSTON GLOBE. The team also has "money set aside to fund any trades that become necessary during the season." Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino: "We will certainly look to make improvements if the team is in the hunt and (has specific needs). I think that's part of the obligation of ownership." The Red Sox during the offseason bolstered their payroll by signing CF Carl Crawford and agreeing to the parameters of a contract extension with 1B Adrian Gonzalez after trading for him. Lucchino said he, Red Sox Owner John Henry and Chair Tom Werner "emphasize the commitment to winning to our players. We understand that's the central purpose of this game." Abraham reports Henry, Werner and Lucchino received "a standing ovation" as they entered the clubhouse at the Red Sox player development complex yesterday, the players' "way of acknowledging the lengths ownership went to improve" the team in the offseason (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/20).

FENWAY IN GOOD SHAPE: In Boston, Steve Buckley reports the Red Sox have spent around $285M "in renovations of Fenway Park over the past decade," and the team indicated that they expect the ballpark "to be serviceable well into the 21st century." Lucchino said, "We will have Fenway Park for another 40 or 50 years. It's there, but that doesn't mean you have to be playing there 40 or 50 years. But it means that it has the life expectancy of that long. I always take 10 years off that, so I look at it and say 30 years." Buckley noted the Red Sox' owners have "made many dramatic improvements to Fenway since taking control of the team in the spring of 2002, though adhering to what Lucchino has always referred to as a 'do no harm' mantra in terms of the look and ambience of the facility, which will turn 100 years old next year" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/20).

MAKING A FUTURE PITCH: In Boston, John Tomase noted the Red Sox "would like to host a soccer friendly" involving New England Sports Ventures-owned EPL club Liverpool, but the team does not "anticipate it will happen this summer." Lucchino said that there is "similarly little urgency to get the Red Sox back overseas to play a game in England or Italy" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/20).

The Packers are "raising ticket prices for the second consecutive year." Season-ticket holders are "being notified that tickets between the 20-yard lines will increase from $83 to $87." Other sideline seats "will go from $73 to $76, and end zone seats will go from $67 to $69." Suite tickets "will also increase to $87." Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy said that payments "would be refunded if a work stoppage happens" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 2/19).

ON THE RISE: In Oklahoma City, John Rohde reported "roughly one-third" of Thunder season-ticket holders "will experience a slight cost increase for the 2011-12 season." Team officials said that 34% of arena seating "will see an increase of $2 to $5 per game, but prices will remain unchanged in 66 percent" of Oklahoma City Arena. It marks the franchise's "first season-ticket price increase since relocating" from Seattle in '08. Renewal announcements were sent out last week, and fans have the "option of paying for their season tickets in full, in three monthly installments, or six monthly installments" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 2/19).

WAITING FOR STARS TO ALIGN: In Dallas, Mike Heika in an online chat wrote he believes Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban "has strong interest" in buying the Stars, but noted Cuban has "said on the radio that the lenders are asking too much and that they 'made their nut' on the Rangers deal and they can afford to be patient with the Stars." Heika: "I think Cuban will be a bidder until the end, but that he doesn't want to overpay." He added of Cuban, "He certainly has the money to run the Stars in a manner in which they would be most competitive (which would be the smart business move if you want to eventually make the most money off of the team), but do you want an owner with more business passion than hockey passion?" (, 2/20).

NO REASON TO CROSS THE BAY? In Boston, Gary Washburn noted there were "early rumors" that the Warriors' new ownership group planned to move the team "back to San Francisco." But Oakland "has shown surprising support, given the Warriors' struggles," as the team ranks 11th in the NBA in attendance (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/20).