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Volume 24 No. 116


The Sacramento-based group bidding for the NBA Kings has "reached a deal with the Maloof family to buy its controlling stake" in the team, with the agreement expected to be unveiled Friday, according to a front-page piece by Bizjak, Lillis & Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. A source said that if the NBA "approves the deal ... escrow is expected to close at the end of May." The source added that the Maloof family was "eager to 'turn the page' and was pleased it was able to sell to a group that will keep the team in Sacramento." The deal would set the team's "overall value" at an NBA record $535M. The source did "not say why the price values the team" at $535M, rather than the $525M figure the group had offered. Warriors Vice Chair and lead Kings bidder Vivek Ranadive confirmed the reported price was "about right." Sources said that in Sacramento, Downtown Plaza owner JMA Ventures has "begun the process of buying the Macy's men's store -- space that could be used for the arena being planned by the city to house the Kings." Bizjak, Lillis & Kasler report if a deal is approved, Ranadive's group would "buy the 65 percent share of the Kings controlled by the Maloofs" and their partner Bob Hernreich. After "absorbing debt associated with the franchise -- including the repayment of a $64 million loan the team owes the city of Sacramento -- Ranadive would pay roughly" $200M for the Maloof stake. Ranadive would "serve as managing partner" for the Kings ownership group (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/17). Ranadive on Wednesday said that his group had "put $341 million -- the original 65 percent share of the team under the $525 million valuation -- into escrow, a key requirement for the Maloofs to agree to a sale."'s David Aldridge notes NBA Commissioner David Stern had "worked with the Sacramento group for the past several weeks to make sure the Kings' offer could pass muster" with league owners. Ranadive will be the "first majority NBA owner of Indian descent" (, 5/17). Ranadive will "have to sell his stake" in the Warriors before he can officially take over the Kings (, 5/17).

STILL SLEEPLESS: In Seattle, Don Shelton wondered who is to blame "for Seattle not having an NBA team," and he wrote Stern during the sales process did "nothing to change Sonics fans' opinion" of him. Stern on Wednesday started a press conference announcing the Kings would stay in Sacramento "with a jab, intended or not (I think it was), at Seattle by saying he had to hurry because he 'had a game to get to in Oklahoma City.'” Many are "convinced that he worked behind the scenes to make sure the Kings didn’t end up in Seattle" (, 5/16). Also in Seattle, Nick Eaton asked of Stern, "Is he that clueless? Is he that out of touch? Was he just not thinking?" Eaton: "No, I’m inclined to believe Stern was as deliberate as he always is." Perhaps the OKC comment "wasn’t intended maliciously, perhaps it really was meant as just a joke -- but, boy did it pack a punch. A punch right in Seattle’s gut" (, 5/16). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said Stern "might as well have taken the Space Needle and stuck it to Seattle" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 5/16).

WASTED OPPORTUNITY? ESPN's Michael Wilbon said there is a 33% chance Seattle will get an NBA team in the next five years because Stern, who is retiring in February, "wants to go out with a team in Seattle." There is "talk out there about Milwaukee" relocating, as the team due to its arena situation seems a "little bit vulnerable." However, Wilbon does not "buy Indiana … or Charlotte being vulnerable now" to relocating to Seattle. But ESPN's J.A. Adande said if Stern "wanted a team in Seattle," moving the Kings "was his chance." Adande: "I'm not sure you're going to be able to find a duplication of the civic energy that's there right now." He wondered whether the "civic passion be there after this populace has been sold-out by Howard Schulz, hoodwinked by Clay Bennett and abandoned by David Stern" ("PTI," ESPN, 5/16).

CAPITAL LOSS: Former NBA coach Phil Jackson appeared on NBC's "The Tonight Show" Thursday night to promote his upcoming book "Eleven Rings," but he also discussed reports that he may have joined the Kings' front office had the team been bought by Chris Hansen's group and moved to Seattle. Host Jay Leno asked, "Would you have taken that job?" Jackson: "I had communication with the guy that's trying to make this move. It was serious talk. I thought he was a really good guy for the league. ... I won't be doing the job in Sacramento. I like Sacramento. Well, not that much" ("The Tonight Show," NBC, 5/16).

The Astros Friday afternoon are expected to announce Reid Ryan, son of Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan, will become the club's new President, replacing George Postolos, who resigned on Monday. Reid Ryan is currently the CEO of Ryan-Sanders Baseball, owners of the Triple-A PCL Round Rock Express and Double-A Texas League Corpus Christi Hooks. He also is a trustee of Minor League Baseball and the Baseball Internet Rights Co., the affiliated minors' digital partnership with MLBAM. Astros officials and the younger Ryan declined to comment on the impending appointment (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). In Houston, Smith & de Jesus Ortiz noted the process of naming Postolos’ replacement has been "handled by the business side of Astros operations," with Owner Jim Crane "directly involved in the search." Fan outreach and communication are "ongoing problems" with the team (, 5/16).

FIRST THINGS FIRST:'s Brian McTaggart wrote one of the "front-burner issues for Reid Ryan figures to be helping to get Astros games back on TV for a majority of the Houston market." Ryan was the "brainchild" behind this year's exhibition games at the Alamodome in San Antonio that drew "more than 80,000 fans for two games" between the Rangers and Padres (, 5/16). In Houston, Jerome Solomon writes the Crane regime was in "desperate need of a face-lift." Hiring Ryan "doesn't erase all the wrinkles, blemishes and scars, but at least for now, Crane and Co. can put on a happy face." Ryan is "considered to be one of the bright young business minds" in MLB. He "knows baseball. He knows Texas. He knows Houston" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/17).'s Richard Justice wrote the hiring is a "stroke of genius" by Crane. It "makes sense on so many levels that it's difficult to know where to start." Ryan has been in "charge of two of the best-run teams in the Minor Leagues," and he also has "plenty of his dad's charm and people skills." He will bring a "sense of stability and calm to a front office battered by turnover and uncertainty" (, 5/16). In Ft. Worth, Randy Galloway writes there is a "bit of irony" in the hiring, with the "local turmoil that went on with Nolan over the off-season." Rangers ownership had "urged Nolan to be grooming a successor in Arlington, and finally he gave the owners a name: Reid Ryan." But at least "one major owner balked on Nolan’s idea." Reid Ryan will "not be working in Daddy’s shadow and there can be no nepotism rumblings." In a "twist, the relationship between Nolan" and Crane is "not considered friendly" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/17).

MADE FOR TV:'s Jon Heyman cited sources as saying that Postolos had been "'at odds' in recent months" with Crane. Much of the "source of that friction was said to stem from the Astros' TV deal, which is currently in limbo." Sources suggest that Postolos was "forced out, though the announcement was couched as only a resignation." The current Comcast SportsNet Houston TV arrangement has been the "source of bad publicity, as only 40 percent of Houston area homes are currently able to get the games." Crane has been "expressing consternation over the TV plight since opening day" (, 5/16).

The Blue Jays prior to this season moved their Triple-A affiliation from Las Vegas to Buffalo, and while the move has had “business implications for both teams," there has been a "more profound effect for the Bisons, where both the team and Buffalo’s beleaguered downtown core have new opportunities for marketing and making money,” according to Morgan Campbell of the TORONTO STAR. The Bisons’ arrangement with the Blue Jays means more visitors "are Canadian.” Bisons VP & GM Mike Buczkowski said that within “24 hours of announcing their Jays affiliation, the Bisons received 100 season ticket orders from fans in southern Ontario.” Canadian fans on Opening Day “helped swell attendance to 15,852, the best figure for a weekday game since 1999.” The team is "set to start advertising on roadside billboards in cities between Hamilton and the border" to try and draw more Canadian fans. Also, to “accommodate Jays fans the club now accepts Canadian dollars." Buczkowski said that through the first month of the season, 25% of purchases at the team’s online store “come from Canada, roughly twice the normal rate.” Vendors at Coca-Cola Field “similarly report that a quarter of the cash they handle is Canadian.” Buczkowski said that the deal with the Bisons is “meant to draw western New Yorkers to the Rogers Centre” just as the Bills “hope to use the Bills in Toronto series to establish themselves as a regional team with a fan base beyond Buffalo’s shrinking market” (TORONTO STAR, 5/17).

The independent Atlantic League Long Island Ducks have "become a viable option for talented players looking for one last shot" at the majors, according to Albert Chen of SI. Long Island has "become the unlikely island of baseball misfits" -- there are former All-Stars like P Dontrelle Willis, former first-round picks like C Ramon Castro and "former mega-hyped prospects" like P Ian Snell, 1B Ben Broussard and 2B Josh Barfield. There currently are eight "former major leaguers on the 25-man roster," and the team last month "signed Cooperstown-bound Vladimir Guerrero to man rightfield." The Ducks "have a history of taking in strays," as former MLBers Juan Gonzalez, Carlos Baerga, Edgardo Alfonzo, Carl Everett and John Rocker all "have passed through." Baseball's youth movement "continues at full throttle," but teams such as the Ducks "represent the other side of the story: Veterans are being forced into early retirement." Players on the team "make between $1,000 and $3,000 a month," and there "are no charter flights, just long bus rides." Castro said, "People always told me that this was the best way back to the major leagues, and that's why I'm here." But Chen notes the "odds are stacked against him: Over the last 14 years just 14 Ducks have taken wing from Central Islip back to the majors" (SI, 5/20 issue).