Devils Owner Jeff Vanderbeek is "close to a deal with lenders to retain control of the cash-strapped hockey team," according to sources cited by Josh Kosman of the N.Y. POST. Sources said that the proposed deal "would buy Vanderbeek -- who has been trying to scrounge up cash to pay off overdue loans -- another two years to either refinance the team’s debt or sell the club." The deal calls for "combining the team’s debt with separate loans against Devils Arena Entertainment, which collects concession revenue from Prudential Center events, into a single $160 million loan." Sources said that the details "were still being hammered out last night, and the talks could fall apart." Vanderbeek -- who "has been skating on thin ice since September, when the team missed an $80 million loan repayment -- missed the team’s latest extension yesterday" (N.Y. POST, 8/16).
At an introductory press conference yesterday, nearly 1,500 fans broke into "raucous chants" in support of newly-acquired C Andrew Bynum, "the player on whom the franchise now hangs its hopes," according to John Mitchell of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. Bynum was joined at the press conference by 76ers Majority Owner Josh Harris, CEO Adam Aron, President Rod Thorn, and new G Jason Richardson. Bynum said, “To be honest, man, my first experience here has been so great that I'm leaning toward making this my home. I'm not a guy who wants to be all around and have a lot of teams under my belt. But that's really the answer. I'm really looking forward to making this my home." Bynum’s agent David Lee said, "I'll just say that I want the kid to be happy” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/16).
OWNERS, FANS EXCITED: In Philadelphia, Marcus Hayes writes Harris is “ready to tie the knot” and he “cannot offer Bynum a max-deal fast enough.” Harris said, “Where do I sign? Show me the contract!” Hayes notes there is “one immediate reward for the Sixers’ risk,” as Aron said season tickets have been “flying off the shelves” since the deal was finalized last week. The Sixers “offered no statistical evidence” of increased fan interest, but there is “empirical evidence: Hundreds of Sixers fans crammed themselves into a cordoned mosh pit on the second floor of the National Constitution Center to watch the press conference.” Hayes notes it really was “less a press conference than an outrageous publicity stunt aimed at impressing Bynum,” and “it worked.” Harris said, "The recruiting process started today. This was a good kickoff." Hayes: “As titillating as Bynum's talents might be, Harris would prove most intelligent if he spends a few months in courtship before he slips a diamond on the finger of Andrew Bynum” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 8/16). Also in Philadelphia, Alex Lee writes from the start, Aron and Harris “have expressed a desire to build something here in Philadelphia” and they “have gone a long way toward showing it” (PHILLY.com, 8/16).
A "changing of the guard" under Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein continued yesterday, with the "highest-profile move" being the dismissal of VP/Player Personnel Oneri Fleita, according to Toni Ginnetti of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. The move came "days after a shuffle of the scouting and player development department that saw Jeron Madison hired from the San Diego Padres to become amateur scouting director." Fleita had "been with the Cubs since 1995 and was responsible for the acquisition and development of most of the team’s high-profile Latin American players." Also "let go was Chuck Wasserstrom, whose position as manager of baseball information was eliminated." He had "been with the Cubs some 25 years." Cubs Manager of Statistical Analysis Ari Kaplan "was let go as an employee but hired as a team consultant." Indications are that Baseball Operations Dir Scott Nelson "will be offered another position in the organization as well." Epstein "voiced support for assistant general manager Randy Bush, now the highest-ranking holdover of the Jim Hendry era." The firing of Fleita "came 10 months into Epstein’s tenure, with Epstein saying the timing had to do with the coming end of the minor-league seasons and the review period for minor-league players before the start of Arizona Fall League play." It also came "days after Madison was brought in and longtime amateur scouting director Tim Wilken was promoted to a special assistant." Fleita "was close to Hendry" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 8/16). In Chicago, Paul Sullivan notes Fleita, "a former protege of former GM Jim Hendry, was promoted to a VP position in 2007 and received a four-year extension from Chairman Tom Ricketts last September before the new regime was installed" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/16).
COLUMNIST: DID CUBS LET WRONG GUY GO? In Chicago, Phil Rogers writes, "Those are the guys who had to go? Come on, Tom Ricketts, you're smarter than this." You have been "speaking on a daily basis with the guy who has done more to hurt your organization than anybody." Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney "in more than a decade hasn't figured out a way to make the improvements that will unleash Wrigley's potential." Sullivan: "Someday I might meet someone who can explain how he's an asset to the organization." Everyone in baseball "knew a shake-up was coming at some point, as Epstein essentially retained Hendry's staff when he took over." The questions "left now are how widespread will the changes be an how many more staffers will Epstein add from Yawkey Way?" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/16).
The role that Nets investor Jay-Z plays within the organization and Barclays Center is profiled by David Halbfinger in a front-page piece in the N.Y. TIMES. The hip-hop artist's “contributions have dwarfed” the $1M he invested nine years ago, and the Nets have “effectively written a new playbook for how to deploy a strategic celebrity investor.” His influence “has been wildly disproportionate to his ownership stake -- a scant one-fifteenth of one percent of the team. And so is the money he stands to make from it.” Jay-Z helped design the Nets' logos and “choose the team’s stark black-and-white color scheme.” He also “counseled arena executives on what kind of music to play during games,” while “pushing niche artists like Santigold over old favorites like Bon Jovi.” Jay-Z has capitalized on his Nets investment by “extending the Jay-Z brand into endorsement deals normally reserved for elite athletes.” He is featured in a new Budweiser ad “wearing a Nets cap” that was broadcast during the Olympics, and he was named Exec Producer of “NBA 2K13.” Jay-Z "has achieved a remarkable feat of leverage with his tiny sliver of the team." Sources said that his investment "was reduced from one-third to one-fifteenth of a percent upon [Nets Owner Mikhail] Prokhorov’s purchase of the Nets.” Nets and Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark said Jay-Z “was not receiving a fee for his advice or any special deals for his businesses,” yet he has attended quarterly meetings of the arena’s BOD and keeps in touch by phone and e-mail with Yormark. At one time during the Nets’ free-agency moves this summer, Yormark received a call from Jay-Z who was following the team’s moves on television. Yormark: “He said he was watching ESPN, and the size of our logo was too big, because the word Brooklyn was getting cut off on the ticker at the bottom of the screen. He said, ‘Call ESPN and get them to fix it.’ And he was right. And then they fixed it” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/16).
EPL club Liverpool Owner and Fenway Sports Group co-Chair John Henry said that the team faces a “huge financial challenge to compete with the very best” as it “continues to pay the price for the failings of the previous regime,” according to Alastair Himmer of REUTERS. Henry said that FSG remained “committed to restoring the Reds to the top of the English game but warned not to expect a change of fortunes as rapid as the one achieved with the Boston Red Sox.” Henry: “When you look at the rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United, Liverpool isn't holding up its side of the rivalry. That is the way it was with the Red Sox and the (New York) Yankees. The Yankees were just completely dominant when we arrived” (REUTERS, 8/16). FSG co-Chair Tom Werner said that the “key to strengthening the squad going forward is continuing to improve on the club’s commercial performance.” Werner: “I think that we knew from the very beginning that it was important to increase commercial revenues. People have talked about this idea of virtuous circles. The stronger we are commercially, the stronger this club can be. I think we have made great stride.” He added, “The sales from the new Warrior kit have surpassed our expectations, we announced a new deal with Chevrolet, we have announced a deal with an Indonesian airline. ... We are very aggressive in how to raise the revenues commercially. We are working on stadium solutions because we know that match day revenues have to increase” (North Wales DAILY POST, 8/16).
BE MY VALENTINE: In Boston, Scott Lauber notes Henry in an e-mail “rebutted” an article about a July 26 meeting in which Red Sox 1B Adrian Gonzalez and 2B Dustin Pedroia reportedly “led a contingent of players in advocating” for the firing of manager Bobby Valentine. Henry confirmed a meeting took place, but said, “No one in that meeting at any time took the position that Bobby should be or needed to be replaced.” He added, “What is important for Red Sox fans to know is that ownership, players and all staff especially Bobby Valentine are determined to turn around what has thus far been an unacceptable, failed season” (BOSTON HERALD, 8/16). Also in Boston, Nick Cafardo writes, "A major issue for upper Sox management is concern over the sources cited in the story and their motivation.” Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino said, “We are very concerned about a breach of confidence in this matter because [in the 10] years we’ve held these meetings, we’ve never had information leak like this.” Valentine, when asked whether the clubhouse drama was “beginning to weigh on him or the team.” Valentine: “I don’t know if it’s weighing on me, but the guys are upset that every time we win a game, something else pops out of the bag of tricks.” He added, “I guess this guy was sitting in the story for about three weeks and decided to wait right before the Yankees series to pop it out there. Great stuff, really good stuff” (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/16).
European secondary ticket market firm Viagogo announced partnerships with nine EPL clubs, five Bundesliga clubs, two Dutch Eredivisie clubs, one La Liga club and a number of Serie A clubs. The company now has deals in place with '12 EPL champion Manchester City, UEFA Champions League winner Chelsea, Bundesliga club Bayern Munich and Dutch club PSV Eindhoven (Viagogo). In London, Alex Ralph writes the by partnering with Viagogo, the EPL clubs "have tried to pre-empt criticism of empty seats at grounds when the season starts." Viagogo said that U.K. season-ticket holders "missed an average of four Premier League matches last season, a total of 1.8 million seats and about 20 per cent of the 8.75 million seats available" (LONDON TIMES, 8/16).