76ers minority Owners Erick Thohir and Jason Levien are "expanding to another sport, reaching agreement to become co-owners" of MLS DC United, according to sources cited by Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Sources said that Thohir and Levien "are poised, pending MLS approval, to become partners next week with longtime DC United owner Will Chang." Sources said that United President & CEO Kevin Payne "will continue to run the club's day-to-day operations." Sources also said that Thohir and Levien "will make the construction of a new soccer-specific stadium for DC United their top priority" (ESPN.com, 7/6). In Philadelphia, Jonathan Tannenwald notes Thohir's name first surfaced as a "potential investor back in March, and he attended a United practice in late May." Tannenwald writes, "I had not heard Levien's name associated with United until now, and I think his involvement will be of more interest to Union fans than Thohir's." Tannenwald: "Knowing Levien's passion for basketball, I can't help wondering to what degree he would take a role in United's operation." MLS is "still a small enough league that most of its investor-operators take active interests in their clubs" (PHILLY.com, 7/6).
The Wild's signing of LW Zach Parise and D Ryan Suter Wednesday is "immediately energizing a franchise that was finally starting to see some apathy set in among its fans," according to Jon Krawczynski of the AP. Wild Owner Craig Leipold said, "This is a game change. We're overnight changing who we are. We're changing our identity. We'll never get that opportunity again." Krawczynski noted as much of a "fan as he is a businessman, Leipold desperately wanted to inject some sizzle into a roster short on star power this summer." But as late as Monday night, "he feared the team was going to come away empty-handed." Leipold said, "We didn't think we were going to get either one." It turns out that Parise and Suter "spent much of Monday and Tuesday talking to each other, researching the teams and trying to make a joint decision on where to play." For a "medium-sized sports market that has seen so many players leave for bigger cities and bigger pay days throughout the years, it was a momentous move" (AP, 7/5). In St. Paul, Charley Walters notes considering the recent drop in season tickets, the Wild "had little choice but to try to sign Parise and Suter in order to revive interest in the product." The Wild "enjoyed 409 consecutive sellouts, including exhibition, regular-season and postseason games," but the team last season had just 16 sellouts. The Wild have "gone three straight seasons without an increase in season tickets ranging from $43 to $88 per game." Meanwhile, the team now would "seem relevant enough to warrant a Winter Classic." TCF Bank Stadium and Target Field "want to host the game," and depending on the Wild's performance, the '14 or '15 Winter Classic "would be a realistic possibility" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 7/6).
ALREADY PAYING DIVIDENDS: In Minneapolis, Amelia Rayno reports as of late Thursday afternoon, the Wild "had sold more than 1,000 season tickets since the news broke" that Parise and Suter had signed with the club. The Wild also have sold all 120 jerseys they printed with the new players' names and numbers. Wild Media Relations Coordinator Ryan Stanzel said that the printing "would continue throughout the day as long as fans continued to buy them" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/6).
DID I SAY THAT? YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote Leipold is a "hypocrite" after signing Parise and Suter based on something he said earlier this year. In April, Leipold said, "We're not making money, and that's one reason we need to fix our system." Wyshynski: "Crying about expenses related to player salaries, and then adding $196 million in expenses for two players. Unless, of course, he meant the Wild would fix their spending levels by inflating them for the two largest contracts in franchise history." Had he "stuck to his guns, Wild fans don't experience a game-changing day for the franchise and Leipold doesn't get a chance to write a valentine to those fans as the 'Secret Weapon' in negotiations" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/5).
The Rockets Thursday agreed on a four-year, $28.8M contract with restricted free agent G Jeremy Lin, and the "hope is that the jump to $9.3 million per season in the third year of the contract ... will keep New York from matching" the deal, according to a source cited by Jonathan Feigen of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The Knicks "seem certain to face a luxury tax" during the third season, as the tax "becomes increasingly punitive." However, a source said that the Rockets are "not confident that the Knicks will not pay any price to match the offer and keep Lin." Lin cannot officially sign the deal until Wednesday, at which point the Knicks have three days to match it (CHRON.com, 7/5). ESPN’s Jemele Hill said the Knicks "tend to make mistakes larger by compounding it with bigger mistakes. It would be a huge mistake to give this money to Jeremy Lin.” But Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said the Knicks “have been an irrelevant team that couldn’t do anything for years" and that re-signing Lin is a “risk, but you have to see how this plays out.” Cowlishaw: “They’ve had some of the worst teams money can buy, and now they’re going to worry about a $10 million a year contract for a guy that can play?” L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, “Lin may be worth that kind of money to the Rockets in terms of marketing and exposure and buzz. I don’t think he’s worth that to the Knicks.” ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan: “Yao Ming was the big star of the Houston Rockets and drew an Asian community there that just blew everybody away, so they already know how to make it work in terms of marketing there” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 7/5). The N.Y. Daily News’ Tim Smith said of Lin, “He's such a marketing tool for them. When Linsanity hit, the ticket sales went up, it was just phenomenal.” Smith added, “I think they would want to re-sign him for nothing more than that. ... From a marketing standpoint, they’ve got to bring him back” (“Daily News Live,” SportsNet N.Y., 7/5).
WILLING TO GO THE EXTRA MILE: In N.Y., Stefan Bondy notes unlike the "vast number of NBA owners," Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov has "pooh-poohed the idea of a revamped luxury tax, bankrolling the Nets' unihibited spending and star chasing this offseason." Even if the club does not land C Dwight Howard in a trade with the Magic, it will "most certainly be paying the luxury tax until 2016" with around $230M owed to G Deron Williams and Fs Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace. Nets coach Avery Johnson said, "When he first bought the team, he said he would do whatever it took to build a championship team. He has a chance to step up and be a really dynamic owner, because as time goes on we're going to be spending a lot of money" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/6).
THIS IS GOING TO HURT: The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair writes G Steve Nash in agreeing to a sign-and-trade deal to join the Lakers "dealt Canada’s only NBA franchise something deeper than a flesh wound." The Raptors reportedly had offered Nash a three-year deal for $36M, and Raptors President & GM Bryan Colangelo’s backup plan -- "swapping a lottery-protected first-rounder and forward Gary Forbes to the Houston Rockets for point guard Kyle Lowry -- won’t sell jerseys or drive up television ratings or bring people back to the Air Canada Centre." Blair: "The diehards will buy in, but for the majority of fans in Toronto and across the country, the Raptors will remain something that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment uses to pay the bills between Maple Leafs games" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/6).
The Heat winning the NBA championship has forced the Marlins, Dolphins and Panthers to begin "conveying more urgency, more boldness, more of a nod to public relations, and generally more of a win-now mind-set,” according to Greg Cote of the MIAMI HERALD. The Heat have a "chance to become a basketball dynasty and grand-marshal this region’s sports parade for years.” Cote asks, “Do you think it’s a coincidence the Marlins agreed to star on Showtime’s ‘The Franchise’ reality series this summer?” The Marlins recently traded two prospects to the Astros for 1B Carlos Lee, but the “old Marlins would not have dealt pieces of the future for a beefed-up present, certainly not while in fourth place.” The “new rules are that the Marlins know it will take the postseason to compete for the marquee in this market now.” Cote also asks, “Do you think it’s a coincidence that the Dolphins agreed to star this summer in HBO’s reality series, ‘Hard Knocks?’ An inherently conservative franchise agreeing to give network cameras free reign?” A Dolphins exec said, “If we’re not struggling and the Heat aren’t dominating and it’s still like it used to be down here, with us as the top dog, no way we’d be on that show. This is about raising our profile, competing, because we have to.” The exec said Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross “knows the season-ticket needle won’t start to move again until we’re a playoff team.” The exec: “We’re not just competing against Tom Brady anymore. We’re competing against LeBron James” (MIAMI HERALD, 7/6).
FUN WITH NUMBERS: Heat Owner Micky Arison earlier this week said that despite the team’s on-court success this season, the franchise will still lose money this season, but Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said, “I have a hard time believing with them having as good a deal as they have in terms of rent in that arena and 13 home playoff games how they ended up losing money." Cowlishaw: "That sounds like trickery to me.” L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, “Anytime a sports owner of a championship team complains about losing money, he’s just negotiating. He’s negotiating to get a better TV deal, he’s probably trying to set up the fans to raise ticket prices. To me, it’s all negotiation. You can’t be losing money with the Miami Heat.” SB Nation’s Bomani Jones said, “Are they losing money or are they ‘losing money?’” However, ESPN’s J.A. Adande said, “You’d be surprised at the tiny number of NBA teams that actually make money, even when they have surprisingly successful playoff runs and fill up their coffers during the postseason. It’s hard for teams to make money in this league. That’s why they had that long lockout” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 7/3).
EPL club Arsenal's second largest shareholders have "expressed their 'deep reservations' over the direction of the club" under majority Owner Stan Kroenke following the team parting ways with F Robin van Persie, according to Andy Hunter of the GUARDIAN. In an open letter to the Arsenal board, Red & White Securities Limited investors Alisher Usmanov and Farhad Moshiri "claim the continued exodus of star players is a result of policies that prioritise their riches above 'squeezed' supporters." Usmanov and Moshiri "own almost 30% of shares in Arsenal's parent company but do not have a seat on the board." They "insist they will continue to increase their shareholding," and that they "will 'do what is necessary' to end Arsenal's seven-year trophy drought and keep its finest talent at the club" (GUARDIAN, 7/5). In London, Jeremy Wilson writes Usmanov and Moshiri have "long called for a rights issue that would release share equity to pay off a debt that peaked at" US$493M in '08 but now "costs the club around" US$21.7M a year. Usmanov said, "You can try and put a good face on a bad game for as long as you want, pontificating about the merits of this model, but it will not hide the obvious fact that it just does not allow our great manager [Arsene Wenger] to fully realise his managerial talent and deliver success for the fans who are paying the highest prices in the land" (London TELEGRAPH, 7/6).
SELF-SUFFICIENT? The GUARDIAN's David Conn writes, "The 'self-financing model' has been so sung by Arsenal in praise of their approach that it was presented as a beacon of good practice to the parliamentary select committee examining football's unholy relationship with money last year." Arsenal have "for years prescribed that the club must live from its income, and no director or owner must put a penny into the club" (GUARDIAN, 7/6). The FINANCIAL TIMES' Christopher Thompson reports Usmanov in the letter also "lambasted management for allegedly giving the impression to Arsenal supporters that his investment company, Red & White, was in 'some bitter stand-off' with the board" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/6).
It is "perfectly fair, in the light of recent high-profile divorce cases, to examine the possible impact" Jeffrey and Christina Lurie's announcement will have on the Eagles, according to Phil Sheridan of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. The "unfortunate, red-flag-raising precedent is the divorce that led to the recent sale" of the Dodgers. The franchise became "the focus of an ugly battle between" owners Frank and Jamie McCourt. It "seems as if the McCourt mess was on the Luries' minds when they crafted the carefully worded statement that was released" Wednesday. Without "mentioning them, the real message seems to be: 'We are not the McCourts.'" The Dodgers are in California, "where divorce law requires a 50-50 split of all assets." In most other states, including Pennsylvania, "the standard is an 'equitable' split." However, that "could mean Jeffrey Lurie has to compensate Christina for her share of the value of the team." Since that is "somewhere north of a billion dollars, the only way to raise those funds could be to sell the asset." There are "some unknowns here." Pre- and postnuptial agreements "could be part of the equation," and it is not clear "whether the team is in Jeffrey's name or in both of their names." There is a "much bigger factor than divorce laws in preventing the Eagles from the same fate as the Dodgers." The Luries are "not the McCourts, who drained money from the Dodgers to finance a lavish lifestyle." Univ. of Pennsylvania Wharton Sports Business Initiative Associate Dir Scott Rosner said, "The Luries have been great stewards of that franchise. They do a lot of good work with Eagles Youth Partnership. They've had a lot of success. The only thing they haven't done is win a Super Bowl" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 7/6).
TO BE DETERMINED AT A LATER DATE: In Philadelphia, Les Bowen notes "generally in divorce proceedings, the wife gets a financial settlement, and it's far from clear whether Jeffrey Lurie has a huge chunk of money independent of his ownership" of the Eagles. He "certainly didn't have that when he bought the team" in '94. Falcons Owner Arthur Blank and his wife, Stephanie, "split last year." That parting "seems to have had no impact on Blank's ownership or management of the team." But Stephanie Blank "had no real role in the running of the Falcons, reports indicate" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 7/6).
The D’Backs on Saturday for their game against the Dodgers will “distribute lucha-libre masks to the first 15,000 attendees” as part of a promotion by the team and KTVW-TV, and team Senior VP/Communications Josh Rawitch said that the giveaway “continues the franchise's tradition of reaching out to Hispanic fans,” according to Stephanie Russo of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. The team, which has “23 promotional giveaways ranging from bobbleheads to kiddie backpacks during its 81-game home season, says its fans are buzzing about this one.” Rawitch said that he “expected a crowd of 35,000 at the game.” Rawitch said that tickets sales to Hispanics “have increased since last season.” On a given night, about 20% of the Chase Field crowd is “made up of attendees of Latino descent.” D’Backs President & CEO Derrick Hall said that 35% of the team’s fans “have Hispanic roots.” Hall: "We can always do more in the Hispanic market because it's such an important aspect of our fan base. We let all Hispanic fans know that they are welcome here, we want them here." Hall said that the D'Backs “considered doing the lucha-libre-mask promotion at the Hispanic Heritage Day game on Sept. 16.” But he added that the promotion “could not be fit in with the other festivities planned.” Russo notes since its inception, the franchise and its foundation have “donated $8 million to Hispanic communities and foundations” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 7/6).