The Mets announced this morning that they have entered exclusive negotiations with Greenlight Capital President David Einhorn to purchase a minority, non-operating investment in the team for $200M. The deal is subject to MLB approval, and the parties aim to have a definitive agreement by late June (THE DAILY). Sources said that the deal is for less than a 49% stake in the Mets and "will not include" ownership in SportsNet N.Y. (ESPN.com, 5/26). On Twitter, Newsday’s Neil Best wrote, “Despite all the reports about Mets willing to part with a piece of SNY, they always were confident they could get this done without that” (TWITTER.com, 5/26). Meanwhile, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, the court-appointed mediator in the dispute between Mets Owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz and Bernie Madoff trustee Irving Picard, yesterday said that the "mediation was entering a critical phase in which discussions on the framework of a possible settlement could begin." Cuomo said that by the "end of next week, both sides should have submitted their valuations on the assets of Sterling Equities, Wilpon and Katz's holding company." Those assets "include the Mets, real estate and private equity investments and 65 percent of SNY." Cuomo: "After that, we'll have some serious sitdowns. It won't take long after that to see if a deal will be made" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/26).
TRYING TO CALM THE STORM: Mets GM Sandy Alderson yesterday said that cuts to the team's payroll this offseason will not be as "extreme" as Wilpon indicated in an interview with SI, when he suggested that it "may be slashed dramatically" to about $100M. Alderson said, "From my standpoint, ($100 million) is not a number we’ve discussed. I would expect our payroll to be somewhat above that number and somewhat below where we are now ($136.3 million)." When asked if next season's payroll could be around $120M, Alderson said, "Within that range, I think that’s a fair statement and something you could rely on. But there’s a potential minority investor that may come on board and it may depend on how we end up this season, so there are a lot of other factors in play" (N.Y. POST, 5/26). Asked whether the Mets will be more aggressive in free agency this offseason than last, Alderson said, "We weren't aggressive at all this past winter. Let's face it. So yeah, I guess I would expect to be a little more active, but let's wait and see how it plays out" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/26). More Alderson: "I’ve said that the financial situation is somewhat more challenging that I had originally anticipated. I didn’t expect this to be an easy task. At this point, I’ve said a number of times that none of these financial issues has affected any of the decisions that we’ve made. Now, whether that will happen, whether that effect will occur down the road, we’ll see" (NJ.com, 5/25).
The Dolphins "rolled back salaries by as much as 20% this month" because of the ongoing NFL lockout, but team Owner Stephen Ross "pledges to ultimately make up the difference," according to Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY. Ross yesterday said, "If we play, they're all getting money back or days off. So it's not really a cutback. We'll definitely make it up." Ross was the "first Dolphins official to speak publicly about the reductions, about two weeks after employees were told of the lockout-related measure." He said that it "was a difficult decision to trim salaries but necessary amid the uncertainty of the lockout." Ross: "We recognize people affected are working for us. They don't have all the upside, so they shouldn't have all the downside. We're just kind of delaying cash payments. We all know the position that we're in." Bell notes about one-third of NFL teams are "known to have implemented cost-saving measures during the lockout" (USA TODAY, 5/26).
STILL HOLDING OUT: In Cincinnati, Joe Reedy notes the Bengals cut assistant coaches’ salaries by 30% "shortly after the lockout started but have not taken cost-reducing measures for the rest of their employees." Team offices at Paul Brown Stadium "are closed today, Friday and Monday" due to Memorial Day, but "employees are being paid." Offices also were "closed...half a day on May 13, but employees were paid." Bengals President Mike Brown said, "We’re doing some of that -- summer hours. We’ve had some before, but we’re having more now." Reedy notes the lockout "has made things even more challenging" than a normal offseason for the Bengals, and it is "even more daunting considering that the Bengals are bringing production and sales of their radio network in house this year." Brown said, “With the lockout, a lot of things are harder" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 5/26).
BUCS CLOSING FRONT OFFICE FOR A WEEK: The Buccaneers announced their front office will be closed next week due to the lockout. The team stated in a release that should the lockout continue into the fall, additional office closures around Labor Day and in the winter have been conditionally scheduled (Buccaneers). NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora noted some teams "are basically going to tell their football ops and their coaches starting this Memorial Day weekend, ‘Hey, we’ll see you at the end of June.’" La Canfora: "Some teams giving them as much as three weeks off. Everyone’s been in a holding pattern here … as no one’s been able to get a feeling on any kind of stable timetable” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 5/25).
The "final obstacle holding up the sale" of the Thrashers to Winnipeg-based True North Sports & Entertainment -- how the $170M purchase price would be split between the NHL and Atlanta Spirit -- "has finally been overcome," according to a source cited by Ken Campbell of THE HOCKEY NEWS. The resolution "appears to have favored the Atlanta Spirit and owner Bruce Levenson, who will reportedly receive $20 million of the $60 million relocation fee that is included in the purchase price." The negotiations for the sale "were being held up because the league and Levenson could not agree on how much each side would receive from the sale." The "purchase price for the franchise was reportedly $110 million, which would go to Levenson and the Atlanta Spirit, with a $60 million relocation fee that would go to the NHL." It was "believed the NHL was trying to extract the full $60 million relocation fee, plus at least another $10 million of the purchase price, while Levenson was negotiating for a portion of the relocation money." A source said that all that is left to be determined is "when the announcement will be made by the NHL." It "will either be done between now and the Stanley Cup final or between the end of the final and the draft" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 5/25).
TIME WILL TELL: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, when asked yesterday on Tampa's WDAE-AM about the Thrashers' possible relocation, said, "I think you're being a tad presumptuous on what's going on in Atlanta. Nobody's announced anything and frankly if there is something going on nothing is going to happen until it actually happens, which means it may not happen. So I think people need to take a deep breath and pause" (WINNIPEGFREEPRESS.com, 5/25). In Winnipeg, Gary Lawless notes if there is "no progress in short order, Tuesday is the earliest date a sale could close and that would mean a news conference would be held next Wednesday." Any announcement "will be of a conditional sale and the beginning of a ticket drive to test the marketplace" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/26). Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said that an announcement "will likely come before the end of this week" (WINNIPEG SUN, 5/26).
NORTHWEST TERRITORY: NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly on Tuesday said, "We've had discussions with a group in Seattle. Certainly people who are interested in having NHL hockey in Seattle. I would rather not get into specifics to be fair to that group, or the process." A source said that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is "not a part of the current group." Daly "stresses he doesn't believe the local group was willing to act in time for next season." He added that he "has concerns about a possible venue for an NHL franchise." Daly: "Key Arena is a difficult arena for hockey. How many of those seats would be obstructed view seats?" (KING5.com, 5/24).
Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt has told MLB officials that he "expects to meet the team's payroll next week," contrary to reports that he would not be able to do so, according to sources cited by Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. If he can meet the Dodgers' May 31 payroll, McCourt "would at least temporarily avoid the prospect of baseball paying the salaries for him and seizing the team from him." A source said that McCourt "needs about $9.8 million to meet the May 31 payroll." Another source indicated that he "could obtain at least some of that money by accelerating payments the Dodgers were due later this season." Two sources said that the "amount of money needed to meet payroll will increase in June, when the Dodgers must pay" recently retired Manny Ramirez more than $6M in deferred compensation. Shaikin reports McCourt and three of his lawyers "met with MLB officials on Tuesday in New York, asking again for approval of the Fox contract -- baseball is waiting to complete an investigation of Dodgers finances before it makes a decision on the matter -- and expressing the belief that his ex-wife Jamie McCourt has no say in the deal." The McCourts are "scheduled to resume settlement talks" today (L.A. TIMES, 5/26). USA Today’s Bob Nightengale on Twitter reported, “McCourt never worried about having the funds to make May 30 payroll, but the June 15 payment remains huge obstacle.”