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Volume 24 No. 156


Sacramento's "drive to keep the Kings took a dramatic detour Thursday as a new lead investor emerged for the team and the city missed its self-imposed deadline for wrapping up a deal for a new arena," according to a front-page piece by Kasler, Bizjak & Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. The dual developments "suggested that Sacramento was still laboring to finalize its plan to keep the Kings from moving to Seattle." Warriors Vice Chair Vivek Ranadivé was "unveiled as the man who will lead the bid for the team itself." He "takes the reins from" 24-Hour Fitness co-Founder Mark Mastrov. A source said that Mastrov -- whose "initial bid was described as inadequate by the NBA -- will remain a major partner in the bid." Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle was "continuing to negotiate a deal with city officials on a new arena at Downtown Plaza." But in a "somewhat unsettling development for the city, officials were unable Thursday to complete the so-called term sheet outlining the city's subsidy and other elements of the deal." The item is "scheduled for a City Council vote" on Tuesday. City Manager John Shirey "conceded that if the negotiations aren't wrapped up soon, he might have to postpone the vote until April 2 -- the night before Sacramento is supposed to go before the NBA owners' committee." But while there is "no agreement yet, Shirey revealed some of the likely arrangements with Burkle." To recoup the $9M the city's general fund "normally gets from parking each year, the city would rely on arena ticket surcharges and additional tax revenues generated by the building and surrounding development." The city would own the arena but "plans to lease it to the Kings for 35 years." Shirey added that Burkle is "considering building a hotel nearby." Ranadivé's emergence "appears to fortify the Sacramento bid." He joined the Warriors' ownership in '10 as "part of a group that narrowly outbid Mastrov." A source said, "Mark is the person who brought Vivek in" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/22).

STILL WORK TO BE DONE: Shirey said that top city negotiators and reps of Burkle were still talking Thursday about the "financing of an arena at Downtown Plaza and that those talks were expected to continue." He said that the sides "have not reached an impasse." In Sacramento, Ryan Lillis noted Shirey would "not say what sticking points remain between the sides" (, 3/21). NBA Commissioner David Stern two weeks ago said of the Sacramento offer, "Unless it increases, it doesn't get to the state of consideration." In Seattle, Bob Condotta wrote the Sacramento "hope is Ranadivé's inclusion in the group will solve that issue, though it is thought that the Seattle group would be able to increase its offer" (, 3/21).

SURPRISE MOVE:'s Ken Berger wrote Ranadivé's candidacy could be "boosted by his existing ownership relationships." Also, Ranadivé would be the "first majority NBA owner from India, a market the league is committed to exploring and expanding into the next decade" (, 3/21). Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears said Ranadivé's move is “very, very surprising.” Spears said Ranadivé “just joined the Warriors two years ago and now all of a sudden you’re jumping to get to the Kings." Spears added if this “doesn’t work out, it's going to be odd.” Spears: “It really is different to see an owner that’s already a part-owner of a team decide to go down the street and try to put his money to save another franchise who the Warriors, I think, would love to help them pack their bags.” He added, “This is a strong group, (but) the guys in Seattle have more money. ... I can see the guys in Seattle maybe rising up the price a little bit and it's a mess, man, it's a complete mess because the Maloofs owe the NBA money, owe the city money. This is like ‘Days of Our Lives’ of the NBA” (Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 3/21).

Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan's status as "Charlotte’s biggest celebrity -- and perhaps the hardest one to spot around town" may be changing thanks to his mandate that the Bobcats "become more involved in the community’s social fabric," according to Mark Price of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Jordan "led by example Thursday by making appearances at three high schools in three hours, announcing a series of surprises for participants in the YMCA’s Y Achievers mentoring program." One announcement included a $200,000 gift to the program "from the team and its broadcast partner, Fox Sports Carolinas/Sports South." Meanwhile, Bobcats players and staff "fanned out for a day of service at six Charlotte-Mecklenburg elementary and middle schools." The community activities are "part of a new push to improve the Bobcats’ reputation for anemic community involvement efforts, something that has bothered Jordan since he took over as majority owner from Bob Johnson." Jordan said, "It means more to the community when they see you taking the lead in the charge. ... It's about showing that my words are not hollow." Price writes the organization "hasn't managed to endear itself to the community" like the NFL Panthers. Bobcats VP/Community Affairs Kim Henderson said that her "once-nonexistent" department now has a staff of four. Price writes Henderson's ambitions "are great," which is what led to "a Wednesday night affair that brought community relations executives from 130 corporations and nonprofits together for a discussion of what the team can provide in the way of community support" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/22).

Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment is “a company with needs, and perhaps the biggest need of all is vision and the leadership to implement it,” according to Michael Grange of Change starts “at the top, and if they gave out MVP awards for sports executives,” former AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke “would have his share.” Reports surfaced on Wednesday that Leiweke “was in Toronto the day before and may have met with MLSE about taking over the top job.” But a source said, “I don’t think he was here and if he was he wasn’t here to meet with MLSE. And it would be strange for him to be here and not reach out to them.” Leiweke is “close” to MLSE Chair Larry Tanenbaum “through their roles as governors with both the NHL and MLS, but Tanenbaum is not currently in Toronto.” A source said, “He’s an obvious candidate for the job. Even if you had a one per cent chance of getting him you’d be stupid not to talk to him.” Former MLSE President & CEO Richard Peddie said, “I think Tim Leiweke is the No. 1 sports business guy in the United States. And I say that to mean he’s going to have options.” Grange wrote Leiweke would represent “the rare executive voice with first-hand knowledge of how winning franchises manage themselves” (, 3/21). In Toronto, Dave Feschuk writes MLSE aiming to land Leiweke “could easily be spun as wishful thinking.” Leiweke is a “coveted free agent,” and MLSE is “sure to be among a host of suitors.” This is “not to say he’s been offered the job or even interviewed for it.” It is seen as “a sure thing that MLSE will reach out to Leiweke to gauge his interest,” as he would provide “rare energy and connectivity.” But a “key question is whether Leiweke is overqualified to run MLSE” (TORONTO STAR, 3/22).

Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan, in a Q&A with FORBES' Brian Solomon, discussed the “lessons he learned in his rookie season, from coaching hires to cutting edge statistics to the business of selling tickets in Jacksonville.” The following is an excerpt of the Q&A:

Q: We’re in the offseason of your first year. How are you feeling about the Jaguars right now?
Khan: It was quite a liberating experience what happened last year. … If you are honest with yourself and the team and the fans, there’s only one thing to do when it’s 2-14. When it’s 8-8 you can be conflicted as to how much baby and how much bathwater there is, but here there was no baby -- it was just water.

Q: It sounds like the business side came naturally, but on the football side you put too much trust in the people who were already there.
Khan: If you have [the] best of everything, you wouldn’t need sales people. But (on the business side) we’re not selling victories. We’re not selling whether we have Tebow or don’t have Tebow. We’re selling a great experience and hopefully a victory. But on the football side it’s like being a doctor. The first thing is do no harm.

Q: Being much more involved this year, were you looking for different things in your new GM?
Khan: Yes, absolutely. I put a lot of time into it. On the football side getting the general manager was the most important thing. I talked to just about everybody, from wise old men of the NFL to some of the people who were still working who weren’t conflicted to a number of the owners who I respect. Getting their insight and permission to talk to their GMs to see who they would encourage me to talk to. … We want to have two people reporting to me: (team president) Mark Lamping from the business side and the GM from the football side. The coach is reporting to the GM, but -- practically -- working with him. They have to be on the same page and have the right personality, and frankly, they even have to be physically located next to each other.

Q: Was that not true with the previous combination?
Khan: No. They were on almost opposite ends of the stadium. That’s how the culture was. They also had a lot of closed doors. To me, you have to have glass doors to see who’s there, people walking in and out -- have visual command. We went through this in industry. More transparency where you could stand up, see where people were, have a cup of coffee, exchange ideas.

Q: Moving over to the business side, you obviously think it had a much better year than the football side.
Khan: There were three games that we took tarps off. A year ago we were 29th in ticket sales. We finished 20th in ticket sales. The London experience is turning out to be everything and more than I thought. The game is sold out, we got marketing rights in London, which is the first time that’s happened. Just as we speak, we’re hiring a dedicated sales and marketing representative for the Jaguars in London. The ticket revenue for a London team is about 44% higher, so playing that game is better. … Sponsorship-wise we’ve done well. … We expect to have record season ticket sales. … We’re moving forward now with getting the state to upgrade the stadium with a big scoreboard, the biggest in the business.

Q: What worked best in terms of reaching out to the fans?
Khan: The feedback we’ve gotten from fans is from changing over the sales organization. We added more people where every season ticket holder has a contact to call. We did a lot of cold-calling on businesses in Jacksonville and the greater Jacksonville area -- which, you may find amazing, had never been done before.

Q: You’re working on bringing in the new scoreboard. How important is updating the stadium itself?
Khan: I think it’s vital. It’s a publicly-owned stadium and there are a lot of events other than us. The stadium, the scoreboard is not the cutting edge state of the art and you need that. The city needs that to attract a BCS game, the Florida-Georgia game and a lot of other sports. … The high revenue teams are the ones that overall have success. … For us strategically, and for the future viability of the franchise, we have to get our revenue up, whether it’s from London, from raising ticket prices, better food -- you got to give people a reason to spend money and they think it’s a good value (, 3/20).

White Sox VP & CMO Brooks Boyer said the organization “commissioned a study that allowed us to understand our pricing a little bit better." Boyer: "Some of the things, whether it’s around baseball or around pro sports in general, you it hear time and again they’re pricing out the average fan, and we wanted to make sure that we attack that." He added the team is offering family group rates and inexpensive upper-deck tickets because “we wanted to be able to take away any sort of excuse of not being able to come out to the ballpark and we think these prices.” Meanwhile, Boyer said of the team's new TV ads, "There’s a great tradition in baseball when you make an impact on the game you always do the interview after the game, and if you made a significant impact on the game you get a pie in the face. That's what we have done. We were able to convince some of our younger guys and some of our older guys to take a pie to the face" (“Sports Talk Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 3/21).

GOOD EATS: The White Sox this season will debut an expanded concessions menu at U.S. Cellular Field. Concessionaire Sportservice will feature their new menu offerings on the ballpark's 100-level and 500-level, including Bull's BBQ, created by former MLBer Greg Luzinski. Also featured is the new Comiskey Burger, which is described as a Chicago Dog incorporated into a cheeseburger (White Sox).