A restructuring at the Sharks' parent company "has resulted in 19 layoffs, but none come from the hockey ranks at Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment," according to David Pollak of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. SVSE Exec VP/Business Operations Malcolm Bordelon yesterday said that "most of the cuts came from the elimination of an entire merchandising division that enabled outside companies to put their own logos on everything from pens to T-shirts." Sources said that SVSE Senior Dir of Communications Ken Arnold and VP/Sales & Marketing Kent Russell "were among those given pink slips." Pollak notes the cutbacks came "after a yearlong review by the team's ownership group, assessing all aspects of the operation." The process is ongoing, but Bordelon indicated that it "was unlikely that any cutbacks would be imposed on the hockey department in the foreseeable future" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/18).
The proposed and currently delayed $680M sale of the Astros to Houston businessman Jim Crane was among the major topics discussed yesterday by the MLB Exec Council as part of ongoing owners' meetings in Cooperstown, N.Y., though without any new resolution. An owner vote on the deal originally slated for today was tabled on Monday. But Allen & Co. Managing Dir and former MLB Deputy Commissioner Steve Greenberg, helping broker the sale, was present in Cooperstown and took part in the executive council meeting along with current Astros Owner Drayton McLane. Greenberg, McLane and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig all declined to comment substantively on the talks yesterday, though Selig is expected to address the matter with reporters today. Asked at one point if there was any further progress on the Astros' sale process, McLane said, "I don't know. I'm going back in (the executive council session) to find out," before deferring further comment to Selig. MLB has not outlined any concrete reasons for the delay, only saying its customary due diligence performed before any team sale is still ongoing. But among the outstanding issues, according to industry sources, is a very large group of small partners in the proposed Crane group, investors that in some cases still need to have their personal and corporate backgrounds vetted by MLB. Crane's own background, which includes a series of EEOC complaints surrounding a company his controls, also has been a topic of conversation (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE CITI? Mets Owner Fred Wilpon yesterday flatly refused to discuss Tuesday's court ruling against him and partner Saul Katz in the Bernie Madoff clawback lawsuit, an upcoming hearing tomorrow or the matter of a proposed minority equity sale to David Einhorn. "No questions, no answers," Wilpon said. Greenberg is also aiding in the Einhorn transaction (Fisher). On Long Island, Ken Davidoff cited a source as saying that Tuesday's court ruling "was 'expected,' that the real battle -- sensibly -- will come over the other $700 million that Picard wants as payment for Picard's belief that the Wilpons and Katz should have known of Madoff's crime." Another source said, "It's still a huge disappointment for them. You hope you can find a way to beat the whole thing" (NEWSDAY.com, 8/17). In N.Y., Teri Thompson notes while Tuesday's ruling "upheld the method to calculate payouts" to investors used by Picard, it "is hardly certain that it affects Picard v. Katz et al, the case before U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff in which oral arguments will be heard" tomorrow. Despite various reports "characterizing the ruling as a significant setback for the Mets' owners and a big victory for Picard, the game-changing litigation for Wilpon and Katz will come in oral arguments Friday and in Rakoff's determination of whether Picard can proceed with his lawsuit and what the owners' lawyers call a flawed legal theory and a misrepresentation of factual evidence" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/18).
The Padres have drawn 1,586,825 fans to Petco Park through 62 home games this season, “about 50,000 more than they drew a year ago at this time, when they were leading” the NL West, according to Nick Canepa of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. But the team’s 55-70 record this season “shows up with the TV audience, where Channel 4 San Diego’s average rating stands at 3.4.” It is the "lowest since Channel 4 first got the rights" in '97, and down from 5.5 a year ago. Channel 4’s deal with the team expires at the end of this season, and “Fox is thought to be the leader in the clubhouse, but no one’s saying.” Padres Vice Chair & CEO Jeff Moorad: “We’re still in discussions.” Moorad added, “We have not heard a word about ratings; not a single group of those interested in our next broadcasting (rights) has raised the subject. I’m not personally concerned about ratings. I’m focused on support at the ballpark, which has been consistent.” Canepa notes this season’s attendance figures “probably are a byproduct of last season’s success, and people purchased 2011 season tickets knowing they would get playoff priority in 2010.” Next year will give “a more accurate portrait, but, fact is, overall attendance and ratings are down from 2007.” The Padres’ philosophy is “to build from within and not go nuts in free agency, which doesn’t always work.” And it “doesn’t help when fans see local products such as Adrian Gonzalez jump off for big-market greenery.” Canepa: “It tells them that, even if the Moorad Plan works, and the young players develop, they’re going to leave once they get too good for the Padres’ coin purse” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/18).
The Glazer family's plan to "raise a large sum of money" by floating Manchester United on the Singapore Stock Exchange "is not a guaranteed winner," according to David Bond of the BBC. The EPL club's global commercial strategy "has been a huge success," and the latest plan "looks like a no-brainer" for the Glazers. Selling 25-30% of ManU would "not only potentially help reduce the bond the Glazers took out in January 2010 but pay down any other private debts" they have. But whatever valuation the IPO "places on the club, once traded the share price will be subject to the forces and whims of the market." ManU's share price "could plummet if huge numbers of shares are dumped by speculators after the float or stock markets are rocked by another round of global slumps." Also, by making "such a large chunk of the share capital available to the open market, are the Glazers risking one or two large shareholders buying big stakes in the club?" Bond wrote the "final potential drawback for the Glazers comes with the disclosure requirements associated with listing on a stock market” (BBC.co.uk, 8/17).
STRIKING BACK: EPL club Everton FC Chair Bill Kenwright “has reacted to criticism from fans by pointing out that the club’s inability to borrow any money from their bank is to blame for their lack of transfer activity.” Kenwright: “There are two things: one, the world is in a recession and I don’t know any business that isn’t suffering at the moment, and I include football in that, other than the financial elite. And two, we’ve come to a stage with our bank with our finance where we just can’t borrow any more. ... The banks are tightening in now. We just can’t borrow any more money” (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 8/18).
Former Lightning co-Owner Oren Koules confirmed that "he’s had discussions with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about returning to the League as an owner,” according to Greg Wyshynski of YAHOO SPORTS. Koules said Bettman has put him “in touch with a couple of people.” His renewed interest "comes at a time when several NHL teams are for sale," including the Coyotes, Blues and Stars. Other franchises, notably the Devils, "are also looking for people to buy into current ownership groups." Koules: “It’s a buyer’s market but you gotta make sure what you’re getting. It’s the usual suspects. I’d like to flash forward a year to see what happens with the new CBA.” Wyshynski noted for Koules, "there’s both a passion to get back in the game and a desire to rewrite his legacy in the NHL.” There was "every reason to believe he had the chance to be hockey’s answer to Mark Cuban: Someone from outside the ‘old boys club’ that could inject some new vibrancy into the League’s leadership.” But that success “didn’t transfer over to his stint" in the NHL from '08-10. Koules said, “I had two problems. I had a partner that went bananas and the second problem is that the economy kicked us in the balls. We went from 38 million in tickets to 17 million" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/17).
In DC, Dan Steinberg noted the Nationals "had hoped to wear" their batting practice hats with military insignias "for the entire game" Tuesday, the start of the team's first homestand since a deadly helicopter attack in Afghanistan earlier this month. The team had asked MLB "for permission to do so," and "at least some members of the organization thought this would happen as late as Monday afternoon." MASN team broadcaster F.P. Santangelo said, "They tried, and Major League Baseball said no, but they wore 'em during batting practice [Wednesday]." He added, "It's unfortunate that they couldn't wear the hats during the game." MLB Senior VP/PR Pat Courtney said that the league "prefers its clubs commemorate specific causes with uniform patches or batting-practice displays, rather than the actual game hats" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/17).
CUBS QUESTIONS: SI.com's John Heyman cited sources as saying that Cubs GM John Hendry's job "is probably safe" because he reportedly has "a good rapport and the respect of relatively new owner Tom Ricketts." But some sources said Hendry is "at risk" of losing his job, despite the fact that Ricketts "has spoken positively about Hendry to some other owners." Heyman noted in Hendry's nine years as GM, there have been "some very bad contracts, including the $136 million for" LF Alfonso Soriano, who is still owed more than $50M under a deal signed in '06, and $30M for free agent OF Milton Bradley. Heyman: "Ricketts is said to be a cautious man, and someone who likes the personable Hendry very much. Some close to him have thought Hendry would stay. But that doesn't appear to be assured now" (SI.com, 8/17).
MEET THE METS? In N.Y., Kaja Whitehouse reports the Mets, "already suffering from an 8 percent decline in home attendance," are about to "suffer yet another indignity -- they are about to drop into 14th place in baseball's average attendance standings." The Mets "haven't been this low in MLB's attendance race" since '04. They finished 12th in '10, after "drawing enough fans to finish in seventh place in 2009 and second place in 2008" (N.Y. POST, 8/18).
BUCKING THE TREND: Fox Business’ Lori Rothman reported MLB teams are “struggling to get fans in the seats in their ballparks amid a weak economy and the growing ability to watch games on TV or mobile devices,” but the first-place Brewers are “bucking that trend, scoring both on the field and in the stands.” Fox Business’ Jeff Flock noted the revolving signage next to the team’s dugout at Miller Park and said the Brewers “don’t have the same revenue streams like the Yankees have.” Brewers COO Rick Schlesinger said, “Signage is big part of what we do. ... We're trying to balance it. We want to have a tasteful atmosphere, but we also have to generate revenue to pay for these players” (Fox Business, 8/15).
YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski reports as Pacers Owner Herb Simon "investigates possible succession plans" for the team's front office, TNT analyst Reggie Miller is "emerging over everyone else." Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird is expected to step down after the '11-12 NBA season, and Simon "has been canvassing people he respects -- including his longtime former general manager Donnie Walsh -- for opinions about how they believe Miller would do with the transition from television to management." Sources indicated that the Pacers are "pushing Miller to pursue the job." Sources added that Simon "has considered this possibility for several years," and thinks that the "timing could be right to groom Miller to run his basketball operations." There also is "momentum growing for Walsh to return to the Pacers with Miller" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/18).
WARRIOR DASH: In S.F., Rusty Simmons reports Warriors co-Owner Peter Guber "wants to add more health-food options, find better ways to entertain the 1,500 or so fans who show up 1 1/2 hours before tip-off, and polish every crevice of Oracle Arena." Guber said, "We need constant and never-ending improvement. I mean, we've got no (spot)light at center court. That's simple drama. ... Our music sometimes sounds like it was chosen by a passing truck. No detail is small, but we can't fix every detail all at once. I ain't the master of the universe, but I'll take my shot." He added, "Every touch point from the time a fan decides to buy a ticket to the time they leave the arena is important. If it's difficult to get out of the parking lot, we've just ruined the dessert of their dinner. Music really counts. It sets the emotional tone of the audience. It's like an IV to your heart" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/18).
BLAZING A NEW TRAIL: In Portland, Joe Freeman reports Trail Blazers interim GM Chad Buchanan is "no longer a candidate" for the permanent job. In a meeting Friday, Trail Blazers President Larry Miller told Buchanan that he is "out of the running because Miller and team owner Paul Allen have decided they want to hire someone with GM experience or with extended service time as a 'No. 2.'" Buchanan will remain interim GM indefinitely, and he said, "They’d like someone with more experience -- I totally understand that. I wasn’t shocked" (Portland OREGONIAN, 8/18).