Astros Owner Crane Says Team Will Fight Bankruptcy Case Against CSN Houston
Astros Owner Jim Crane yesterday said that the team "will fight efforts by creditors to drive Comcast SportsNet Houston into Chapter 11 bankruptcy," according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Astros General Counsel Giles Kibbe said that "elements of Comcast/NBC Universal have acted improperly by throwing partnership disputes into federal bankruptcy court." U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Marvin Isgur yesterday set Oct. 28 to "hear arguments by the Astros that the case should be dismissed and arguments by Comcast/NBC Universal affiliates that an interim trustee should be appointed to oversee the network, which is owned by the Astros, Rockets, and Comcast/NBC Universal." Crane and Kibbe said that CSN Houston "is solvent, that the case does not belong in bankruptcy court." They said the Astros "are not going to let those folks (Comcast/NBC) bully us around.” Barron noted it is "uncertain as to how the bankruptcy filling will affect efforts to gain carriage for CSN Houston." Crane and Kibbe said that they "believe that the goal of Comcast/NBC, which owns about 20 percent of the company, is to gain full control of CSN Houston by wiping out the Astros’ 46 percent share of the company and, through bankruptcy court reorganization, tying the team to a lesser rights fee that Crane said would damage the Astros’ chances of making enough money to field a competitive team." Comcast/NBC offered last week to "buy the Astros’ equity in CSN Houston, but the Astros refused and made a counteroffer that Comcast/NBC turned down." The Astros "made a second counteroffer but have yet to receive a response."
COVERAGE PLAN: Crane said that if the Astros "are able to receive their broadcast rights back from Comcast/NBC, he has a plan to have games fully distributed next season." He "did not say who would be his partner or partners in this venture." Kibbe said that the Astros had to return 46% "of their monthly rights fee payments for May and June to keep the network financially solvent and have not received any payments for July, August or September." He said that the Rockets "received their full rights fee, which was paid during the months the team was playing games" (CHRON.com, 9/30).
SO LONG, FAREWELL...: The CHRONICLE's Barron reported CSN Houston President & GM Matt Hutchings resigned yesterday. Hutchings will become COO of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment in Denver, where he worked as President & CEO of Altitude Sports & Entertainment, the RSN that airs Nuggets and Avalanche games, before "returning to his hometown of Houston to launch CSN Houston." Comcast Sports Group Senior VP/Production, Programming & Station Operations Tom Stathakes "will work directly with the local production team while retaining his corporate responsibilities" (CHRON.com, 9/30).