Comcast-Spectacor is "in talks to sell" the 76ers to a group led by N.Y.-based Apollo Global Management Senior Managing Dir Joshua Harris, according to sources cited by Henry Abbott of ESPN.com. Negotiations are ongoing and a source called a deal "imminent." Harris' partners in the deal include David Blitzer, Senior Managing Dir & co-Chair of Blackstone's Private Equity Group, and former Kings Senior VP & Assistant GM Jason Levien. Comcast-Spectacor Chair Ed Snider has controlled the 76ers since '96, "the same year Spectacor merged with Comcast." The company also owns the Flyers and Wells Fargo Center, where both teams play. Sources said that Comcast-Spectacor "would continue to own and operate the arena with the Sixers as a tenant." The Harris-led group would become the "sixth owners in the club's 65-year history." The 76ers "were not known to have been for sale" (ESPN.com, 6/7).
Hornets Chair Jac Sperling yesterday said that it "could be difficult finding an owner willing to keep the franchise in New Orleans if the team does not reach 10,000 season-ticket holders for next season," according to John Reid of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Hoping to "meet the sales criteria, the Hornets will unveil an initiative today where current season-ticket holders and business partners will invite their friends, clients and business associates into their homes for social gatherings with hopes they will purchase tickets for the upcoming season." The initiative, called "I’m In, Are You?," will involve having "100 events in 100 days, with hopes the Hornets can up their current mark of just more than 8,000 season-ticket holders to 10,000 by Sept. 15." The Hornets "sold 6,300 season tickets this past season." Sperling said that if the season-ticket objective is met, it "would validate to a potential owner that the franchise is financially viable and a good investment." Sperling: "We want to find a local buyer to get them in place for next season. We need to get going with this. We need 10,000 season tickets as soon as possible." Sperling said that he has "had conversations with potential local buyers, whom he did not disclose." He said, "We are not focused on failing. We are focusing on how to succeed, and that’s why this program has been launched by our staff. I think it’s designed for success. I think it will succeed." Reid notes the summer months "usually don’t draw a high volume of ticket sales," but Sperling said that there "needs to be a sense of urgency." Sperling: "We can’t wait three or four months to address this issue if we’re interested in trying to find a local buyer" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 6/7).
True North Sports & Entertainment Dir of Communications & Hockey Operations Scott Brown yesterday said that Winnipeg's NHL franchise "has already cancelled a number of season ticket orders from people who didn't want to play by the rules," according to Kirbyson & Giroday of the WINNIPEG FREE PRESS. Brown did not "go into specific details about indiscretions but said some buyers weren't agreeing to the terms set out on the driveto13.com website." He said, "There are a number of checks and balances between now and the seat allocation process. People can be assured if they don't follow the proper steps, we will cancel the transaction." For every terminated transaction, "people at the top of a waiting list for tickets, which sold out on Saturday, will be contacted about buying the ducats." Winnipeg Police Service spokesperson Const. Jason Michalyshen said that he "wasn't aware of any formal complaints about scalping," and he "cautioned people about offering goods or services in exchange for tickets." In addition, Brown said that "transfers aren't allowed during the first year," but if a season-ticket holder with the AHL Manitoba Moose "can't afford NHL tickets and would like to transfer them to another person, True North will bring them both down and walk them through the process" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 6/7). Meanwhile, even though True North sold its entire 13,000 season-ticket inventory, there are "still plenty of options for fans to catch at least a few games." Brown said, "There was an inventory of walk-up tickets taken out of each price point category, so there are tickets available in a majority of price point categories for walk-up." The number of individual game tickets available will vary, anywhere from a "few hundred to up to 1,000," and the "walk-up price looks like it will depend on the opponent." Brown: "We are looking into what's called dynamic pricing" (WINNIPEG SUN, 6/7).
PARTING GIFT: In Winnipeg, Paul Friesen cites a source as saying that True North had to cover the buyout of former Thrashers GM Rick Dudley, "to the tune" of about $1M. Earlier this season, Dudley "signed a four-year contract extension with the Thrashers" at about $800,000 annually, and thus "could have been in line for as much as the entire amount," about $3.2M. But negotiations between Dudley and True North "likely produced the lesser settlement." True North could introduce new GM Kevin Cheveldayoff as early as today, and he "will likely start at a similar salary" to Dudley (WINNIPEG SUN, 6/7).
In an effort to bolster attendance, the D’Backs are trying “to drive more young adults to the ballpark this summer, especially fans buying tickets on game day,” according to Mike Sunnucks of the PHOENIX BUSINESS JOURNAL. Targeting the young adult crowd marks “a shift” in the team’s marketing strategy, but is "not a complete departure from its focus in recent seasons on creating a family-friendly environment.” D’Backs VP/Corporate Partnerships & Marketing Cullen Maxey said that the team “will develop promotions aimed at the 18- to 34-year-old set and ways to improve game-day ticket sales at Chase Field.” Maxey noted that “marketing energy and resources will be directed toward young adults and couples who may have gravitated away from baseball to other sports.” The D’Backs have already held two college nights this season, offering $5 tickets “to Arizona State University students and other young adults,” and Maxey said that additional college night promotions “could be added” to the ’11 schedule. In addition, the team held a “happy hour” promotion this season aimed at young adults. Maxey also said that the D’Backs are "opening the outfield pavilion more to regular fans this year." In the past, the team focused on “booking special events and private parties” at the pavilion. The team also advertises in the Phoenix New Times and is attempting to “boost its social media presence” on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, in hopes of “getting more young adults and college-age kids to attend games at the last minute.” Maxey said, “They don’t plan two weeks out. We’re up against everybody’s social schedule” (PHOENIX BUSINESS JOURNAL, 6/3 issue).
AMAZIN’ ATTENDANCE? In New Jersey, Bob Klapisch reported the Mets’ attendance “is off by 13 percent from a year ago” and 28% from ’09, and the "trend-line continues downward.” The Mets are 7.5 games out of first place in the NL East, and “will be flirting with another 90-loss season” if they continue at their current pace. One major league scout said, "(The Mets) are basically a Triple-A team. They have a few interesting pieces, but they win because of spunk. Once you take that away, you’re looking at disaster.” In addition to a potential “free-fall in the standings,” Klapisch noted "its the attendance that’ll suffer as well” (Bergen RECORD, 6/5).
The Timbers are the "latest team to address a question that has vexed MLS throughout its 16-year history: how to attract a Latino community already in love with soccer, but with established habits and allegiances that often don't include U.S. teams," according to Rachel Bachman of the Portland OREGONIAN. The team has launched "long-term initiatives that range from feeding local Spanish-language content to the team website to recognition awards for teams in Latino 'ghost leagues' that operate statewide outside mainstream soccer associations to partnering with media outlets who broadcast games on TV and radio in Spanish." The Timbers also "created a four-game package" that included a game against Mexican team Club America, two other Timbers games and the May 28 Mexico-Ecuador game at Qwest Field. All 100 of them "sold out." Additionally, Timbers Manager of Hispanic Business Development Kristel Wissel and club officials "met with Latino coaches about development of their young players ... and the team is considering starting a Spanish Twitter feed." Wissel: "It's a pretty aggressive agenda and event list. But ultimately we want the community to know that we're here, the doors are open and we're excited to have them." Bachman noted the Timbers' "only Mexican player, midfielder Rodrigo Lopez, has not played in a game this year." Timbers COO Mike Golub said that team officials "are unlikely to try to form a Latino supporters group or sign a star Mexican player solely for their heritage" (Portland OREGONIAN, 6/5).
SEEKING THE RIGHT FIT: In Tacoma, Don Ruiz noted 50,305 fans attended the Mexico-Ecuador game, which is "about 15,000 more than the typical home crowd" attracted by the Sounders, MLS' "attendance leader." Sounders investor & GM Adrian Hanauer said, "We're not blind to the fact that football for the Mexican-Americans, it's a duty to support their teams and the Mexican national team in particular. And we certainly have looked at Mexican players over the years." But he added, "We have to find the right player. What we’ve always said is we’re not going to pander to any ethnicity, whether it’s Mexican, Russian, Ethiopian, Japanese or German. And we’re always going to err on the side of just trying to find the right players that fit our team, our system, our ethics" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 6/3).
In Dallas, Mike Heika cites a source as saying that potential Stars Owner Tom Gaglardi "hopes to have a signed purchase agreement in place by the end of the week." Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said that though he "does not have a budget for next season, he expects it will be higher" than last season's $47M payroll. Nieuwendyk: "I think our first hurdle is to find out what our budget will be, and we should know that soon." The Stars "tried to sign" impending free agent Brad Richards in March, and Nieuwendyk said having the "ability to go out and sign Brad, it says that our payroll will be higher, so we'll have some money to play with" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 6/7).
DIFFERENT APPROACHES: In New Jersey, Andrew Gross writes Knicks and NHL Rangers Owner James Dolan is "equally involved" in the two franchises, but is "perceived in two different ways: Hands-on (too much so) with the Knicks, hands-off (perhaps, too much so) with the Rangers." Dolan as a general rule "no longer talks to media covering either team," but he is "not nearly as visible as the Rangers' owner as he is with the Knicks, when he often sits courtside." Dolan "attends Rangers games, out of sight from the Garden crowd in the skyboxes." Sometimes, he "pops into the dressing room after the game, before the media is allowed in" (Bergen RECORD, 6/7).
OFFERING HIS TAKE: In San Jose, Mark Emmons reported new Warriors Exec BOD member Jerry West wants to make it clear that all he is "providing is opinions." Warriors GM Larry Riley and Assistant GM and "G.M.-in-waiting" Bob Myers are running the Warriors show." West said, "I am not the decision-maker. I am not the face of the franchise. I know if I get involved, I'm going to get too involved. And I'm not going to be someone who makes myself crazy like I used to. I can't be that person anymore" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 6/5).
WELCOME TO THE BIG LEAGUES: In DC, Jason Reid wrote Nationals GM Mike Rizzo "has made major mistakes quickly, showing he has much to learn." Reid: "Despite his impressive scouting background and strong work ethic, Rizzo, at this point, has a lot to learn regarding some of his most important duties. His dealing with the media is at best awkward and at worst antagonistic, which won't make his on-the-job training any easier." Since "officially being given full control of the Nationals in October, Rizzo grossly overpaid for right fielder Jayson Werth, assembled a batting order with baseball's fourth-worst on-base percentage and for several weeks prohibited hitting coach Rick Eckstein from speaking with reporters" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/4).