Warriors co-Owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are "looking to shake up" the franchise with a season-ticket renewal effort called the Risk Free Article of Agreement, according to John Lombardo of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The offer includes a "written expectation being sent to season-ticket holders that the team will make the playoffs next season for the first time since 2007." If the Warriors fail to reach the postseason, ownership is "offering a freeze on season-ticket prices for the 2012-13 season." The team also is "predicting that it will win at least 25 home games next year at Oracle Arena, a benchmark reached just three times in the past 16 years." In addition, ownership is "expecting that the Warriors will have a player selected next year for the All-Star Game, something that last occurred in 1997." The team is "offering full refunds plus above-market 5 percent interest" for any games lost due to a lockout to season-ticket holders who keep their money with the club. The refund is "per league policy," but the NBA "has not yet set a specific interest rate." Warriors President Robert Rowell: "It is time that we make a commitment that is equal to what our season-ticket holders have made. We are committed to higher standards, and we need to be accountable" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/14 issue). Lacob said in a statement, "Our new ownership group is committed to a higher standard of expectations for our basketball team and our business. This renewal plan is just one small example of that commitment to our shareholders." Warriors F David Lee: "The ownership is bringing some new, fresh ideas. It feeds into the players' competitiveness and what we're trying to accomplish" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/13).
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal yesterday said that the state "expects to make a payment of just more than $7 million to the Hornets because the franchise isn’t projected to meet the benchmark revenue requirement in its lease agreement," according to John Reid of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. The Hornets in January "surpassed the attendance benchmark average of 14,735, a requirement in their lease agreement with the state." But there also is a "revenue benchmark included in the team’s amended lease agreement that stipulates the state will have to pay the Hornets’ inducements not exceeding $7.5 million at the end of this season if the team doesn’t gross" at least $43.6M, which is 80% of their "gross revenue for all potential ticket sales." The state and the Hornets "continue to have informal talks to come up with possible revenue streams that could make the franchise profitable for a new buyer." Jindal was in New Orleans yesterday to "attend the launching of the Hornets’ new marketing campaign, called 'I’m In,' to meet their possible target of reaching at least 10,000" season-ticket holders next season. The campaign "will include television and radio commercials, billboards, newspaper and online advertisement featuring celebrities, community and business leaders," such as Saints QB Drew Brees, musician Kermit Ruffins, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Archbishop Gregory Aymond. The Hornets as part of the campaign are "offering a season ticket package that allows fans to buy two tickets in the balcony and get two free or fans can put down an initial payment for any other seat location and receive all regular season home games next month for free" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 3/15).
Rogers Communications is "stickhandling around questions about rumblings that it likely won't bid" for the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan's stake in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, but industry insiders "believe the telecommunications giant will drive hard for the country's biggest sports company," according to Van Alphen & Rubin of the TORONTO STAR. Rogers "would not confirm or deny a report on Monday that the company has 'very little interest' in buying the majority stake" in MLSE. Rogers VP/Public Affairs Jan Innes said, "Sports is an important part of Rogers and we're always looking to enhance the sports content we offer our customers." Van Alphen & Rubin note two other potential bidders, Telus and CTV, "would also not comment on any interest in bidding for the MLSE stake." But sources said that Rogers, Telus and BCE, which includes Bell Canada and CTV, will "take serious looks at the Teachers' stake in MLSE." A CTV source: "Everyone is looking" (TORONTO STAR, 3/15). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts reports Woodbridge Company Ltd., the investment arm of Thomson Reuters Chair David Thomson's family, yesterday ruled itself "out of an interest in MLSE." Meanwhile, MLSE Chair Larry Tanenbaum "remained silent" on his plans. Tanenbaum "has the right of first refusal" on the OTPP's 66% stake in MLSE (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/15). Sources close to the OTPP said that the pension plan "has received numerous expressions of interest recently." The OTPP paid C$180M in '94 to "buy into what became MLSE." Sources said that the pension plan is "looking to sell its stake" for C$1.5B (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/15).
TEACHERS AN EASY TARGET: The GLOBE & MAIL's Michael Grange noted the "average sports fan can identify by name or face Larry Tanenbaum, the only private investor in MLSE," but he is "just a minority partner" with a 20.6% stake. The "presence of Teachers has always provided those looking for reasons for MLSE’s unblemished championship record and long-standing playoff allergy an easy target: As long as the money rolled in and they got the good seats, the Teachers folks didn’t really seem to take that much of an active role in how things were done on the ice or the floor or the field" (GLOBESPORTS.com, 3/14).
On the first business day since the NFL locked out players on Saturday, several franchise owners and execs reached out to fans yesterday to discuss the league's ongoing labor turmoil. Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen in an open letter to fans wrote, "You have every right to be disappointed and frustrated with the lack of a collective bargaining agreement. As owner of the Denver Broncos and co-chair of the NFL Management Council Executive Committee, I want to say that I share your level of frustration. I am sorry the negotiating efforts have yet to yield a new deal" (DENVER POST, 3/15). Falcons Owner Arthur Blank in an open letter to fans, posted on the team's website, wrote in part, "The most important thing you should know is that we remain committed to reaching an agreement that is fair to both sides and does not disrupt the 2011 season. We negotiated in good faith with the NFLPA, and we are prepared to re-enter negotiations at any time" (AJC.com, 3/14). In a letter sent to Patriots season-ticket holders, Robert and Jonathan Kraft wrote, "We know that many Season Ticket Holders are feeling frustrated by our inability to finalize a deal with the players' union. We apologize for any role we played in that. Please know that we are working diligently to assure that NFL operations get back to 'normal' as soon as possible" (BOSTON.com, 3/14). Dolphins CEO Mike Dee in an open letter to the team's fans wrote, "We are fully aware that fans don’t care how owners and players manage their business and that this temporary stoppage only distracts and detracts from what is most important to us all: the game" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 3/14).
BUSINESS AS USUAL: Browns President Mike Holmgren yesterday, during a press conference to address the labor situation, said, "It's going to be business as usual in the building for the Cleveland Browns' organization." The Browns are "preparing for the NFL Draft in late April, and they don't plan on laying off team employees or cutting the pay of assistant coaches." Holmgren: "Our philosophy is we're gonna keep people working. ... We have a lot of good people here working very, very hard doing their jobs, and we'll continue to do that." He added that "ticket holders will be refunded with interest if any Browns home games are canceled because of the labor situation" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 3/15). Bills CEO Russ Brandon also "reached out to season-ticket holders Monday by sending them a message aimed at easing their fears over the NFL's lockout of players." Brandon in a statement said, "Although the off-season has not kicked off in typical fashion, one constant is the Buffalo Bills commitment to our season ticket holders, business partners and fans. On March 28, we will hold our second annual premium seat-holder and sponsor 'State of the Bills' event, featuring coach [Chan] Gailey and GM Buddy Nix. We also are excited to host our annual Draft Day Party here at the Buffalo Bills Fieldhouse on April 28 and 29 for all of our season ticket holders" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/15). The Titans in a letter to fans said that "season-ticket holders would be entitled to refunds or a credit in the event of canceled games." A team spokesperson said any decision on layoffs, pay cuts or furloughs is "between the team and its employees" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 3/15).