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Volume 24 No. 156


Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson yesterday said that he "hopes to meet with league owners a few weeks earlier" than the NBA's BOG meeting to "state his city's case for keeping" the NBA Kings, according to Bob Condotta of the SEATTLE TIMES. The NBA BOG is "not expected to vote on a sale of" the Kings to a Seattle group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer until mid-April. Johnson said, "I know there will be an end-of-March, early-April opportunity to go out and present to NBA owners." Johnson indicated that he "did not expect the NBA to give him any signal of approval at that time." Johnson, noting the BOG meeting, said, "Certainly, the final verdict will be April 18-19" (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/6). In Sacramento, Kasler, Lillis & Bizjak note the Think Big Sacramento task force trying to keep the Kings in town "revved up its publicity machine" yesterday by unveiling a "report arguing that Sacramento is a better NBA market than Seattle." Johnson's task force "rolled out a collection of statistics making the case that Sacramento offers the team a better TV and radio market with broader fan support." Seattle is "bigger and has a stronger corporate base." But Seattle would have to "split that support among four teams, including the relocated Kings." Sacramento "gives the NBA a monopoly." Task force leader Kunal Merchant said that "by that reckoning, Sacramento is actually a stronger broadcast market, with more TV households per team, and a stronger corporate base." Merchant said, "That 100 percent market share is a huge advantage." Sacramento City Manager John Shirey yesterday said that he "intends to bring a financing term sheet for a new downtown sports arena to the City Council for a vote at the council's March 26 meeting" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/6).

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD: Also in Sacramento, Marcos Breton notes Johnson has been "able to change the conversation about a Kings relocation that was described as a 'done deal' in the national press just six weeks ago by producing billionaire suitors who are willing to buy the team and keep them here." The presence of the ownership group led by 24 Hour Fitness co-Founder Mark Mastrov and Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle "and their big wallets not only creates a viable scenario for local ownership, it allows Sacramento to illustrate how this situation is different from other NBA relocations." Breton: "Does Sacramento have Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks or Nordstrom within its borders? No. Seattle is a great city with wealth Sacramento doesn't have." But if the NBA "votes with Seattle even if Sacramento's bid for the Kings is equal or close to the Emerald City's, the decision would feel less like a relocation and more like a hostile takeover" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/6).'s Ken Berger cited a source as saying that a relocation "fee of as much as" $75M has been mentioned internally among NBA owners. That would "change the game, and not necessarily in Sacramento's favor." The bigger the relocation fee, the "better the Sacramento deal would look to" Kings Owner the Maloof family. But, the "better the Seattle deal would look to the other 29 owners, who would share the relocation fee" (, 3/3).

Braves Owner Liberty Media recently filed a new financial report, which showed that the team's "revenue increased" by $17M last year, an 8% jump, according to Tim Tucker of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. The report showed that the Braves had revenue of $225M and "adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization" of $22M. Liberty reported that for '11, the Braves "had revenue" of $208M and adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization of a negative $6M. Part of the "reason for the big change in income stemmed from financial reporting associated with" the October '11 trade of P Derek Lowe to the Indians. Even after "taking that shift into consideration, the Braves’ adjusted operating income improved by another" $18M for '12 as the revenue increase "flowed to the bottom line." The increase in revenue was "much larger" than the $5M, or 2.5% jump from '10 to '11. The Braves are "one of the few U.S. sports franchises owned by a publicly traded company and thus one of the few that discloses its financial results" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 3/5).

TIME FOR A SING-A-LONG: In Atlanta, Melissa Ruggieri noted the team is "bringing back old-school hip-hop as well as classic rock and country for the Braves Summer Concert Series." Rap group Run DMC will perform after the June 1 game against the Nationals. The series also includes performances by the Steve Miller Band (July 13) and Big & Rich with Cowboy Troy on Sept. 1. Country singer Rodney Atkins "will croon the national anthem and perform before" Opening Day against the Phillies on April 1 (, 3/5).

Citi Field’s latest financial statements show that the Mets last season “averaged 28,035 a game, down nearly 7 percent from the 2011 season,” according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. Ticket receipts from the stadium’s most expensive 10,635 seats “fell nearly 13 percent" to $43.9M from $50.5M in '11. Advertising revenue also fell to $44.2M from $46.1M. Luxury suite revenue “took a small hit," dropping from $7.7M to $7.5M. But revenue “from concessions, parking and ‘other’ increased.” Revenue “fell overall," to $121.5M from $126.9M, and from $143.9M in ’10. The biggest expenses cited are the annual payment on stadium bonds of $42.7M and $22.6M “in what is called ballpark, ticket operations and maintenance.” Expenses overall “rose slightly” in ‘12, to $84.4M from $83.9M (, 3/5).

HEADING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: Indians CF Michael Bourn, who came close to signing with the Mets during the offseason, said the Mets are "headed in the right direction." He said, "Mets fans shouldn't have anything to be mad at. They're trying to move in the right direction. I can say that. I know that." Bourn indicated that he "considered everything from David Wright’s contract extension to who the Mets had coming up in their farm system and their future commitment to spending money." In N.Y., Anthony McCarron notes Bourn "firmly believes, as he said over and over again, that the Mets are not going to be hapless down the road." Bourn ended up signing with the Indians instead of the Mets due to uncertainty regarding whether the Mets would have kept "the 11th pick in the year's draft if they had landed him" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/6).’s Ken Rosenthal wrote, “Shame on the Rangers” if CEO Nolan Ryan “departs thinking that he lost a power struggle.” If that is “his perception, ownership is guilty, guilty, guilty.” The team would “survive just fine without Ryan: They have built a powerhouse organization.” But the “point is, Ryan helped save the franchise twice.” The “perception of a power struggle would haunt” the owners “who failed to broker a peace between Ryan and those who oppose him.” It would also affect President of Baseball Operations & GM Jon Daniels, “who -- fairly or not -- would be viewed by some as the guy who helped run Nolan Ryan out of town” (, 3/5). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said the “implication” he got after speaking with’s Richard Justice was that maybe Daniels “was a little bit jealous” of Ryan and “maybe ownership looks at the way Nolan Ryan treated Josh Hamilton because it looked like he pushed him out the door last year” ("PTI," ESPN, 3/5).

: In Miami, Dan Le Batard wrote of the Marlins, “It is bad enough when your customers don’t trust you to be competent; it is another thing entirely when they don’t trust you to be moral. But both?” The team “needed a front-office fumigator and brought in a public-relations firm instead.” But newspaper ads “don’t placate angry mobs.” There is “nothing” Marlins execs who “work in the fun-and-game business can say or do now that won’t result in shaking torches and pitchforks.” In the history of South Florida sports there has “never been an organization with this deep of a credibility problem” (MIAMI HERALD, 3/3). The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Tim Marchman wrote of Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria, “For all the grief he takes, Loria’s basic philosophy makes sense: Fielding a profitable bad team rather than an expensive mediocre one makes sense, and it's hard to see how it could possibly damage the game” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/4).

MARKED CARDS: The Cubs and Topps yesterday announced a partnership to create a Topps Archives baseball card set featuring current and former Cubs players. The player and design pairings are unique to the set. Cubs season-tickets holders as part of their ticket packages will receive the set, which will include a logo to differentiate it from the set made available to fans at four Cubs home games in ’13 (Cubs).

MLS Chivas USA’s fortunes are “regressing instead of progressing” nine years after the "American offshoot of one of Mexico’s most famous clubs made its MLS debut,” according to Nick Green of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. Home Depot Center was “dirge-like, with fans marking ... the lack of a credible soccer club to call their own" during the club’s home opener against the Crew on Saturday, instead of a “fiesta-like atmosphere produced by a fanatical Mexican-American fan base.” But MLS Commissioner Don Garber “urged tolerance when he met with reporters Sunday in Carson, observing that the previous day's game was the first for the club's new ownership group.” Garber said, "What I would encourage everyone to have is a bit of patience. They have an idea, they have a plan, and we're hopeful that plan will be successfully executed. I think they need to do better in the execution.” But Green asked if MLS “hasn't righted the listing Chivas USA ship in the past decade, how are things going to improve in four or five months, especially under the ownership of health supplement millionaire Jorge Vergara and his wife?” Locally, Chivas USA is “running on fumes.” A pre-Christmas “purge saw employees given pink slips en masse, leaving a skeleton staff to run and market the club.” The club also has “no local television contract whatsoever” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 3/5).

MIAMI BLUES: In Miami, Michelle Kaufman reported there have been “no formal meetings” between Garber and the Dolphins’ ownership group, and there is “no imminent plan to bring a team to South Florida, although this market will remain in consideration.” MLS Exec VP/Communications Dan Courtemanche “dismissed any suggestion that Garber is pushing for Sun Life Stadium’s proposed $400 million worth of renovations, or using possible expansion as an incentive to drum up support from taxpayers.” Courtemanche said, “We have a good relationship with RSE Ventures (Ross’ group) through our commercial arm, Soccer United Marketing, but we have not had any formal discussions with RSE or the Dolphins regarding a future expansion team in Miami. We believe we will have an MLS team in South Florida someday, but our current focus remains on securing an expansion team for New York” (MIAMI HERALD, 3/5).

The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Graham Parker writes about MLS’ efforts to add a second N.Y. team under the header, “Soccer’s Battle For New York.” For the NASL N.Y. Cosmos, the “collective structure of MLS is a potential hindrance.” The “possible sublimation of Cosmos broadcasting, image and clothing rights to MLS -- as might be demanded by the league's collective structure -- make it easy to see the attraction of the laissez-faire model of the new NASL.” Cosmos COO Erik Stover said, "We're focused on building a proper soccer club and being competitive on all levels. For us, we feel that the leadership that's in the NASL, and certainly the expansion opportunities that we have, find us with a group of like-minded people." NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson said, “In the NASL the onus is on the local owner to build his club, and the strength of the league will be determined by what those owners do. Our entry fees are fairly low; it's not a big deal for us. Our revenue stream doesn't depend on franchise fees." Parker notes conversations between MLS and NASL on potential technical partnerships “were brief.” Peterson said, "We're not interested in becoming a reserve league -- or a minor league is what it should be called. We're interested in building franchises up in our cities and becoming the relevant professional soccer teams in our cities. ... We're trying to accomplish a lot of things and it doesn't include us developing players” for MLS (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/6).

DEEP FREEZE: REUTERS’ Tom Pilcher reported EPL club Chelsea "will freeze ticket prices in all competitions next season for the sixth time in eight campaigns.” The freeze "covers season tickets, individual matches and entry to the hospitality lounges." Chelsea CEO Ron Gourlay said, "Economic conditions remain tough for many people, and the club would like to thank our supporters for the consistently very good attendances we have had throughout this season" (REUTERS, 3/4). The AP reported the freeze comes "amid fan discontent at Stamford Bridge” (AP, 3/4).

SUFFICIENT CUSHION: The PA's Carl Markham reported EPL club Liverpool Managing Dir Ian Ayre is “confident the robustness of the club’s commercial operation will help them overcome any shortfall from a lack of European football,” such as the UEFA Champions League or Europa League. Ayre said, “It's good to see that even in a year where we have a downturn in fortunes by not playing European football, we can bolster our revenues by performing in other areas.” The club’s financial figures “do not include” the record US$37.7M-a-season six-year sponsorship deal with kit manufacturer Warrior, which “came into effect last summer and could net the club a similar amount through associated merchandising.” Ayre said, "We've had record sales of their products throughout this year. We've also seen new sponsors come on board, notably Chevrolet and Garuda Airlines” (PA, 3/5).

HAMMER TIME: The GUARDIAN’s Owen Gibson reported EPL club West Ham accounts show that co-Owners David Gold and David Sullivan have “sunk a total" of $52.8M into the club since June '11. The extent to which the two “gambled on returning to the Premier League at the first attempt was revealed.” Gold said that he was “confident that the saga of the club's move to the Olympic Stadium will be concluded by the middle of this month.” The account figures, which “cover the year that West Ham spent in the Championship before winning promotion back to the Premier League through the play-offs, show that the club made a loss” of $38.5M (excluding one-off costs) in the year ending May 31, 2012. The impact of relegation “meant a sharp fall in turnover” by $51.9M to $69.7M, “mainly as a result of a reduction” of $40M in centrally distributed TV and sponsorship money from the EPL (GUARDIAN, 3/5).

T'Wolves Owner Glen Taylor on Monday said there is "nothing to" speculation that former coach Flip Saunders could replace team President of Basketball Operations David Kahn. Taylor said, "I haven't talked to anybody about it. It came out of nowhere." Taylor said of a recent meeting with Saunders about a potential ownership stake, "His thought was to introduce me to some guys who might be interested. Of course I met with him. He was working with some guys who are in basketball. That never materialized" (, 3/5).

PUTTING A CAP ON IT? The Capitals yesterday sent e-mails to season-ticket holders "notifying them that prices will not increase" for the '13-14 season at Verizon Center. The Capitals "had raised the price of most season tickets for five straight years," and last year "raised most season ticket prices by what they said was an average of 8 percent." The team this season "has struggled to stay out of last place in the Eastern Conference" (, 3/5).

THE NASHVILLE SCENE: In Nashville, David Climer writes it is "high time for whoever's in charge at Titans Central to explain to the PSL-holding, ticket-buying fans what's going on." Owner Bud Adams, who is "parked deep in the heart of Texas, isn't taking ownership." And "nobody on [the] premises has the authority to speak up." The franchise is "a rudderless ship, with no port in sight." Thus, the Titans are "losing the connection with their most important asset: a city that has embraced them and supported them." The Titans need "a lot of things ... but the biggest one is a person who can pull all those parts together into a cohesive unit while also connecting with the public" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 3/6).

BUZZ POWER: In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell noted the "campaign to reclaim the Hornets name for Charlotte's NBA team has a handful of TV advertisements aimed at urging" the city of Charlotte and Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan to "change the name back." The ad is the spawn of Charlotte-based groups "Bring Back the Buzz" and "We Beelieve," which started as a "grassroots campaign on social media sites." The ads, sponsored by family-owned Charlotte business Blackhawk Hardware, were "uploaded to YouTube a few weeks ago." The two groups are the "two flag-bearers of the name-change movement, and the site listed on the advertisements has links to both sites" (, 3/4).