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Volume 24 No. 117

Franchises

ESPN NBA analyst and former T'Wolves coach Flip Saunders on Thursday said that he has "signed a long-term deal" to become T'Wolves President of Basketball Operations and will "hold a minority ownership stake in the team," according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. Sources said that with Saunders in the fold, T'Wolves Owner Glen Taylor is "expected to take the team off the market." Taylor had been "looking for a buyer who would keep the team in Minneapolis." The Saunders news comes after the team earlier Thursday announced they were "not picking up the option" on President David Kahn's contract for next season after four years with the team. Kahn said, "It's always the owner's prerogative. I don't think it's appropriate to say whether it's fair or not. I'm very grateful for the opportunity that Glen gave me." Windhorst wrote Taylor's decision "brings an end to a polarizing reign for Kahn" (ESPN.com, 5/2). In Minneapolis, Sid Hartman writes there is a "possibility that Saunders might be able to put a group together to buy the team, something he has been working on" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/3). But NBA.com's Steve Aschburner on his Twitter feed reported he is "still hearing Flip Saunders' 'piece of action' equity stake in Timberwolves < 1% stake. More a sliver of $375M valuation franchise" (TWITTER.com, 5/3).

LEAVING ON GOOD TERMS?
Kahn said Taylor did not give "a specific reason" for deciding not to pick up the option on his contract. Kahn: "He feels very badly, I think, because of the injuries that we've had." He added, "Glen likes me a lot, and I like Glen a lot. It was a very warm conversation" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/3). Asked if he wanted to stay in the league, Kahn said, "I don’t know yet. When all speculation [the] last couple weeks started to incur, I had a call from inside basketball and from outside basketball. So I don’t know yet. I’ll stay here and attend to some affairs for now. There’s a lot to do" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 5/2).

RIGHT MOVES: In Minneapolis, Chip Scoggins writes Taylor's decision to bring on Saunders was "right," and news of a potential union between Saunders and T'Wolves coach Rick Adelman "brought renewed hope for this beleaguered organization." Saunders brings "competency and credibility," and T'Wolves employees "at every level can trust that Saunders knows how to evaluate talent." They felt the "opposite with Kahn," whose "arrogance just served to alienate people and make him an easy target for criticism" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/3). In St. Paul, Bob Sansevere writes Saunders "wasn't known for making outlandish moves or decisions the last time he worked for the Wolves and probably won't start now." That "already makes him a better executive than Kahn" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/3). Also in St. Paul, Tom Powers writes Saunders will be "welcomed with all the fanfare that accompanies a local hero." He "has a long history here." Taylor is "looking to ride off into the sunset," and this move "probably had as much to do with his wanting to leave the team in local hands as making a change." In that respect, Kahn "didn't have much of a chance" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/3).

BETTER OFF NOW? TRUE HOOP's Henry Abbott wrote there is "nothing everyone in the NBA agrees on, except perhaps that David Kahn was horrible at his job." But Abbott added, "Ask yourself this ... If Kahn's such an idiot, how come the Timberwolves roster is in better shape than your team, with affordable young talent, payroll flexibility and real upside?" Fans can call Kahn an "iconoclastic crank who's short of friends and long on big, pompous mistakes," but "don't call him the worst GM in the NBA" (ESPN.com, 5/2). In Minneapolis, Patrick Reusse wonders, "Have the Timberwolves screwed up personnel opportunities on several occasions in the past four years? Yes. Are the Timberwolves better off in May 2013 than they were in May 2009? Also, yes" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 5/3).

The cost of Blackhawks season tickets “will rise an average of 16 percent next season, with every ticket in the United Center becoming more expensive,” according to Mark Lazerus of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. The most expensive seats “will rise from $335 per game to $380 per game,” and the cheapest seats go from $28 to $36. Partial plans and single-game tickets “also will rise, but those prices haven't been set yet.” Hawks VP/Ticket Operation & Customer Relations Chris Werner said that the team was the “11th-most expensive season ticket in the NHL after being 29th in 2007-08.” But Lazerus notes with the waiting list “having just cracked 12,000, the Hawks won’t have any trouble replacing any disgruntled fans who give up their tickets” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/3). Werner said, "We've gradually been attempting to get our prices more in line with what's realistic for a team that's operating in a major market and delivering the type of product that we want to deliver." The full-season plan “will cover 40 regular-season games because the March 1 game at Soldier Field against the Penguins will be sold separately” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/3). Werner said, "We've made so many improvements in personnel and in the team in recent years that we're trying to remain competitive in a major market." The Blackhawks “have had 215 consecutive sellouts at the United Center dating back to the 2007-08 season” (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 5/2).

EPL club Manchester United recorded a 30% "increase in revenues in the third quarter on the back of more sponsorship deals," but the club also saw its wage bill rise by 25% "from player signings and wage demands," according to Roger Blitz of the FINANCIAL TIMES. ManU reported revenues of $142.5M (all figures U.S.) in "the three months to March 31, and adjusted its full-year projections" up $15.5M to $559.6M. It also "notched up its full-year projection for adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation" by $4.7M to $171.1M, after "lifting third-quarter operating profit" 22.5% to $38.9M. ManU's sponsorship deals were up more than 50% to $32.7M, "partly the result of a 10 per cent uplift from the sale of branded merchandise kit by supplier Nike." The period also "saw the signing of deals with two financial services companies and a social gaming operator." ManU's broadcast revenues "rose 28.4 per cent on the same quarter last year because it progressed further in the Uefa Champions League than last season." Similarly, match day revenues were up 27.8% due to "three extra cup games at Old Trafford than in the same period of the 2011/12 season" (FT.com, 5/2).

UNCHARTERED TERRITORY: In London, James Ducker notes ManU has "identified about 80 untapped markets in which to strike sponsorship deals, as the club step up the expanse of their burgeoning commercial operation." In the "eight years since the Glazer family’s takeover at Old Trafford, commercial income has soared" from $74.3M to $178M for the "nine months to March 31 and is likely to break" the $233.2M "barrier for the first time by the end of their financial year on June 30." However, ManU believes that it has "yet to scratch the surface in commercial terms, with such revenues -- up 31.9 per cent on the corresponding three months last year -- expected to account for more than 50 per cent of turnover within the next two years." Exec Vice Chair Ed Woodward said that there was “'no update' as far as talks with Nike over the renegotiation of their existing kit deal." Woodward also "declined to offer a breakdown of the value of the eight-year sponsorship deal struck last month with Aon, which will give the insurance giant naming rights to the Carrington training complex and sponsorship of the training kit and overseas tours from July 1" (LONDON TIMES, 5/3).

NHL team owners "provided more than $3 million to politicians, PACs and independent expenditure groups during the 2012 election cycle," according to Sunlight Foundation data cited by Louis Serino in a special to PHILLY.com. Owners contributed "more than three times as much" to Republicans, as more than $2.7M of the contributions went to "conservative causes compared to $680,000 to Democratic causes." Five teams -- the Flyers, Lightning, Wild, Blue Jackets and Sabres -- gave "exclusively to conservative campaigns." Only the Avalanche and Ducks "did the same for liberal causes -- but their combined donations amounted to a relatively paltry $7,500." Sunlight's survey found 10 clubs whose owners or employees "gave more than $100,000 during 2012 election cycle and four teams that breached the $200,000 mark," including: the Blues, Kings, Sabres and Sharks. Four teams "didn't contribute anything" -- the Stars, Devils, Islanders and league-owned Coyotes. The seven Canadian NHL teams were excluded from the survey "because it's illegal for non-citizens to underwrite U.S. campaigns" (PHILLY.com, 5/1).

ELECTION CONTRIBUTIONS BY NHL TEAM OWNERS
TEAM
CONTRIBUTIONS
TEAM
CONTRIBUTIONS
Blues
$674,518
Penguins
$72,022
Kings
$413,300
Capitals
$67,800
Sabres
$266,600
Blackhawks
$56,507
Sharks
$244,453
Wild
$54,150
Hurricanes
$186,437
Flyers
$42,500
Red Wings
$184,000
Ducks
$14,000
Rangers
$168,100
Avalanche
$5,000
Lightning
$151,955
Stars
$0
Predators
$146,356
Devils
$0
Bruins
$110,080
Islanders
$0
Blue Jackets
$90,000
Coyotes
$0
Panthers
$75,300
 

In DC, Rich Campbell cites an AP report Thursday that indicates 79% of Americans "favor keeping the ‘Redskins’ name,” while 11% “believe the name should be changed. Eight percent were unsure while 2% did not answer. The last national poll on the subject “showed 89 percent support of the name.” That survey was “conducted in 1992 by The Washington Post and ABC News.” The recent poll was conducted April 11-15 and “included interviews with 1,004 adults.” It has a “margin of error of 3.9 percentage points” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 5/3).

STORM BREWING? In Raleigh, Luke DeCock notes Hurricanes Owner Peter Karmanos “might actually spend the money it takes” to make his team Stanley Cup competitors. The team ranked 20th in the NHL in payroll this season, and the Hurricanes are “moving into a new division full of free-spending major-market teams.” Team President & GM Jim Rutherford said that the Hurricanes “will try to keep pace with their new peers as the cap drops from $70.2 million to $64.3 million.” Rutherford: “We’ll probably be at about $60, $61 million next year. Now we’re getting into that area. We know we had to do that with the change of divisions” (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 5/3).

LEFT IN THE DESERT: In Phoenix, Sarah McLellan notes Coyotes G Mike Smith, who becomes an unrestricted free agent July 5, could be the “latest star -- and most painful exit -- in the Coyotes’ ownerless nightmare if he chooses more money and stability elsewhere.” If the Coyotes “operated under normal circumstances, it’s likely Smith would be signed by now.” The team has “hinted as much, but the lack of ownership -- once again -- has stalled negotiations” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/3).

KICKING UP THEIR GAME: In Portland, Allan Brettman notes the MLS Timbers “registered their 39th consecutive sellout” Thursday night against the Revolution, and instead of “easing off the throttle, Timbers management said it has shifted into a different gear, seeking to retain the faithful and reach out to the uninitiated.” The team's sales staff “includes a four-person core that keeps track of the 15,250 season ticket holders, putting to use customer-relations techniques that would be as applicable to a community theater group as it would an MLS team.” The marketing staff earlier this year “launched a campaign to bring new fans to Jeld-Wen Field.” The Timbers have a 97% season-ticket renewal rate, which team officials "say is the best in the league” (Portland OREGONIAN, 5/3).