Prospective Coyotes Owner Greg Jamison "cannot produce the capital needed to purchase the team from the NHL and as a result" today's deadline to "maintain a critical lease agreement with the City of Glendale will pass without a deal being completed," according to sources cited by Scott Burnside of ESPN.com. A separate group of investors is "prepared to step into the void created by Jamison's failure to produce the money." The question is whether Glendale officials "will agree to extend the lease agreement to a new group given that it was Jamison who negotiated the terms of the highly contentious lease deal." It is "believed that Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers, who took office after the lease agreement was passed by the previous council, would be agreeable to discussing keeping the team in Glendale with this new group, although it's believed he will want to rework the deal to make it more beneficial for the city." Sources said that the new ownership group, which has "arranged for financing that would allow for the purchase of the team from the league at a reported price of $170 million, is hoping to discuss parameters for a new lease agreement in the next few days, perhaps as early" as today. The league has established "no deadlines in relation to selling the team, although it's clear a lease agreement between potential buyers and the city is integral to keeping the team in Arizona." The NHL has owned the team for "almost four years and, barring the emergence of a new suitor willing to start from scratch with the City of Glendale on a lease if things fall apart this week, it would seem inevitable the league will begin the process of relocation" (ESPN.com, 1/30).
SPLITTING HAIRS? In Phoenix, Mike Sunnucks cited officials as saying that Jamison "could have the money and financing to buy the NHL-owned Coyotes, or be very close to that mark." But Jamison could be "squabbling with investment partners on control of the team and decision-making." That would "delay finalizing the purchase and could derail it even if the money is there." There also are "doubts remaining as to whether Jamison and his group have money and financing to buy the team from the NHL." While some sources have said that the money "is there, others say Jamison has two-thirds of the needed cash." Others "insist it is far less than that" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/30). The ARIZONA REPUBLIC's Paul Giblin wrote one question that "arises is whether anyone will be around City Hall to receive any news that Jamison has to offer late into the night" (AZCENTRAL.com, 1/30).
COYOTE UGLY: In Phoenix, Sunnucks noted the Coyotes rank last in NHL attendance, "averaging just over 12,250 fans per game through the first four home games of the lockout-shortened season." The team "averaged 12,420 fans last season (worst in the NHL)." The two home games on the first weekends of the season "drew larger crowds" of around 14,800 against the Kings and 17,400 against the Blackhawks. But the Coyotes "routinely draw four-figure crowds for weeknight home games against the likes of" the Predators and Blue Jackets (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/29).
Sharks Majority Owner Hasso Plattner yesterday purchased shares of the team's parent company formerly held by investors Kevin Compton and Stratton Sclavos. Plattner, a member of the Sharks ownership group since Sharks Sports & Entertainment purchased the team from its original owner, the late George Gund III, in Feb. '02, has been the club's majority owner since '10. Plattner will serve as the Sharks NHL BOG rep, while Sharks GM Doug Wilson and Exec VP & General Counsel John Tortora will remain Alternate Governors (Sharks). In San Jose, David Pollak notes Plattner previously operated in a "secondary role" while Compton and Sclavos "served as the ownership group's executive committee." Plattner said that the two men "approached him about selling their shares last year, and he agreed to buy them." No financial terms were disclosed, and Plattner "declined to say what percentage of the team he now owns." He said that the current management structure "would remain in place," with Wilson responsible for hockey operations and Exec VP Malcolm Bordelon "in charge of the business side." Plattner added that there would be "no radical changes and the team would continue to operate without" a COO. But instead of Compton and Sclavos serving as the exec committee "working with" the team's six exec VPs, a new board will be "put in place to serve in that same capacity." Plattner yesterday "assured fans ... that the team's priorities remain the same." He also "met with players before they took the ice for a morning practice at HP Pavilion." Sharks coach Todd McLellan said that because Plattner "has been part of the ownership group, there was never a 'now what?' moment" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/31).
FREE CREDIT SCORE REPORT: CSNBAYAREA.com's Kevin Kurz noted Plattner also wants to make sure the Sharks, who "claimed a loss" of $15M last season, have "a sustainable business model." He has "no fantasies of turning a major profit, though." Plattner said, "The financial situation is not better this year than last. On the other hand, I said this to the employees, don't worry. My credit line is good enough, if you look it up." He added, "That doesn't mean we spend money foolishly." Kurz noted the Sharks have "routinely spent near the salary cap ceiling for many years now, and Plattner doesn't expect that to change." He said, "We are in a solid financial situation. You can look me up, so I can guarantee this financial situation. But, that doesn't mean that we don't work hard to have a normal business." Plattner added, "You cannot make money with a hockey team." He continued somewhat jokingly, "You cannot make money with a hotel, either, and you cannot make money with a golf club. I have all three of them" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 1/30).
The 49ers yesterday said that in their new Santa Clara stadium they have “sold 95 percent of the 900 primo club seats that are the second most expensive in all of U.S. sports, behind only the $150,000 seats" at Cowboys Stadium, according to Mike Rosenberg of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. The 49ers' “final few dozen $80,000 seats are expected to sell out within weeks.” The team has sold $68M “in seat licenses for its priciest section at the 50-yard line, which equals about half the 49ers' current player payroll.” Other NFL stadiums have “opened without selling all of their priciest seats,” most recently MetLife Stadium in ’09, yet the new Santa Clara stadium is “still a year and a half away from opening.” Legends VP/Sales & Marketing Al Guido said, "Once the Niners went on the run, we certainly saw a spike in sales.” Guido added, "The 49ers have an extremely passionate fan base, and that dates back prior to this run." Rosenberg notes there are two “special sections, on opposite sides of the 50-yard line, where seat licenses cost $80,000 apiece, plus $3,750 a year.” Those seats come with “free food, drinks and parking; access to exclusive club areas, and even passes that allow fans to roam the sidelines behind players during games” (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/31).
QUEST VISION: ESPNW’s Kate Fagan reported members of the 49ers’ marketing department midway through the season were “hoping to create a campaign that would capture the imagination of the team’s fans.” The result after “a lot of brainstorming” was a slogan, "Quest for Six," that has “gone viral on Twitter (#QuestforSix) and on Facebook, as droves of 49ers fans have replaced their avatars with the badge.” Graphic designer Ben Mayberry said, "I think why it works so well with people is because it perfectly mirrors our team right now. We are trying to differentiate from the past. This team is trying to create its own story, its own history, while also paying homage to the past." The campaign “might seem like a no-brainer now, but that was hardly the case a few months ago.” The marketing team in recent weeks has been “able to capitalize on ideas and trends that have started organically, whether at the grassroots level among fans, which is where Mayberry first saw the phrase ‘Quest for Six’ being used sporadically” (ESPNW.com, 1/30).
The Suns’ 16-30 record and a "starless ensemble have put a hurt on” the team’s gate, according to Paul Coro of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. The Suns’ attendance average of 14,826 as of Tuesday “ranks 25th and the 80.5 percent arena capacity is 22nd.” Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver said, "It's a struggle. We'd love to have fans try to grow with us. The reality is it's tougher to sell tickets when the team is losing more games than we're winning. We work at it every day.” Sarver said that there has been “little brushback from season-ticket holders during the Suns' worst half-season in a quarter-century, and after Lindsey Hunter replaced Alvin Gentry as coach.” Sarver: "There's a disconnect between the criticism from local media and our fan base and national media. Fans are disappointed. I'm not saying they're not. I'm disappointed. ... But as specifically related to the changes, the degree that the local media portrayed that transition was a little harsher than what we've heard from our ticket holders” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/30). AZCENTRAL.com Sports Dir Mark Faller in a video said “there have been a lot of empty seats” this season for Suns games. The Arizona Republic's Coro said the “main reason attendance is down this year is because of the team.” The Suns “lack star power” now that G Steve Nash is with the Lakers. Faller said, “The Suns know they have their work cut out for them, both for the rest of this season and for the immediate future thereafter. They aren’t going to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season and they’re probably not going to get an impact player in the draft come this June so they have to stay the course and hope the fans go along with them for the ride, no matter how bumpy it is” (AZCENTRAL.com, 1/29).
STARTING AT THE TOP: ESPN’s Bill Simmons said there is a case to be made that Sarver is "the worst owner in the league." The Suns were in the Western Conference Finals in ‘10, but in three years, "they’ve dismantled this team." Simmons: "They don’t have a single major asset that you would point to and be like, ‘Well, at least they have that guy.’ It’s a mess and I don’t think it’s getting better. ... The Suns have great fans, 40 years of great history and I think they deserve a better owner.” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said Phoenix is “one of the few cities with all four major league sports franchises where basketball is No. 1." Wilbon: "They care about basketball” (“Kia NBA Countdown,” ESPN, 1/30).
The Canadiens are "now front and centre again, not just on the ice but with the club’s efforts to make amends to fans" for the lockout and the "new 24CH television reality series that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the Habs," according to Brenda Branswell of the Montreal GAZETTE. Canadiens Exec VP & COO Kevin Gilmore "acknowledged fan anger over the lockout." But he also said the team is blessed to have fans "whose fandom run generations deep." Gilmore said that with the Canadiens, it is "one of those unique situations in sports that exists in a few places in the world -- such as Manchester United or the New York Yankees -- where the fandom is cultural, multi-generational and familial." He said, "That’s something that we value but we never take for granted because with that comes a much greater pressure to succeed." The Canadiens' plans last summer for short video segments on its phone app and website "morphed into a three-platform format for the 24CH reality series, which airs on RDS." Gilmore said that reaction so far to the series "has been really positive and the ratings were very high." He said that while the team "doesn’t want to delve into players’ personal lives," the Canadiens wanted to "make sure they gave young fans, and old ones, the ability to connect with the players on a more personal level because it’s important." Gilmore: "When you’re trying to talk to your fans and preserve that affinity for the brand it’s important that they connect not just with the brand but with the players that ultimately drive the success of that team that they’re cheering for" (Montreal GAZETTE, 1/30).
Arena Football League officials yesterday met to "discuss a series of problems that raise concerns" about the Chicago Rush's "immediate future," according to Danny Ecker of CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS. The team has "not yet signed a contract or put down a deposit to play at Allstate Arena, its home field, even though the season is scheduled to start in seven weeks." Phone lines at the team's office "haven't worked for weeks, and the Rush canceled a series of team and cheerleader tryouts." A source said that the Rush's four full-time employees have "not been paid in nearly two months." The Rush are "scheduled to open their 2013 season against the Iowa Barnstormers on March 23." Many Rush players and coaches, who are contract employees paid during the season, have "spent the last couple of weeks calling and emailing Scott Bailey, the team's director of player personnel, for updates on the team's status." The source added that Bailey also "hasn't been paid since Dec. 1 and hasn't been able to answer most of their questions." Fans "still trying to get tickets have contacted Rush representatives, who are working from home, through the team's Facebook page or their personal emails." Another source said that the league's officials are "considering reclaiming ownership of the team to salvage the 2013 season if the financial situation is not resolved soon." The Rush's ownership situation has been "turbulent since the league emerged from bankruptcy in 2010." The Rush are owned by Testarossa Entertainment Owner Julee White (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 1/31).