Sports Execs, Media Remember Lewis Katz' Involvement With Nets, Devils, YES Network
The Yankees yesterday "honored long-time minority owner LEWIS KATZ," who also once owned the Nets and Devils, "with a moment of silence," according to Jason Rubinstein of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Katz, who was 72, died on Saturday night "along with six others when his private jet crashed in Massachusetts." The team in a statement said, "Lewis had a huge heart and was always there when someone needed help." Rubinstein writes Katz will "be remembered for his hot-and-cold relationship" with late Yankees Owner GEORGE STEINBRENNER (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/2). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Charles Levinson notes Katz partnered with investment banker RAY CHAMBERS to buy the Nets for $150M in '98. He "was also part of a group that purchased" the Devils for $175M in '00. Katz "worked to merge the Yankees and the Nets" to form YankeeNets, and used the single entity to create YES Network. The partnership "later collapsed amid failed efforts to build a basketball arena in Newark." Katz sold the Nets in '03 for $300M to a group led by Forest City Ratner Chair & CEO BRUCE RATNER and "remained an investor in the team" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/2).
NET LOSS: In N.Y., Stefan Bondy notes Katz -- following the Nets' consecutive NBA Finals appearances from '02-03 -- became the owner of the "most successful basketball team in this area since WILLIS REED was playing" for the Knicks. Nets Assistant GM BOBBY MARKS said, "He was only around for a few years, but he gave us really good stability." Bondy notes the "familiar memory to most was Katz" at the '00 NBA Draft Lottery, when he "vibrantly celebrated the Nets winning of the No. 1 pick" that eventually became F KENYON MARTIN (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/2). In New Jersey, John Brennan notes Katz in April said that he had "lost money on both the Nets and the Devils," but had "made it big" with the sales of YES to Fox Sports in '12 (Bergen RECORD, 6/2). Also in N.Y., Harvey Araton writes Katz' ownership group in '98 "promised to make [the Nets] the people’s franchise." The plan "detoured and eventually dissolved, but it was under Katz’s highly visible ownership that the Nets enjoyed their greatest success as an NBA franchise." Nets VP/PR GARY SUSSMAN said, "He was always around, very approachable guy, no airs about him." Ratner said that friction in YankeeNets relationship "developed between Katz and Steinbrenner, whose capricious behavior was troubling for Katz." Ratner: "The Nets were losing money, Steinbrenner wasn’t happy, and he and Lew didn’t get along. And while the whole thing with Newark was sincere, I think Lew and Ray Chambers started to realize that the financial aspect of it just wasn’t possible." Ratner added, "When he sold me the team, he was actually fed up with what was going on. It wasn’t what he thought it would be, and he was relieved to get out" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/2).
LEAVING A LEGACY: Red Sox OF SHANE VICTORINO, who "grew close to the Katz family during his time" with the Phillies, tweeted a picture of himself with Katz and his son, DREW. Victorino wrote, "Love you like a dad! You taught me the value of helping others and giving back!" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/2). NBA Commissioner ADAM SILVER in a statement said, "Lewis was a trusted friend and valued member of the NBA family. He was a visionary businessman who touched the lives of so many with his tireless pursuit of innovation and enterprise" (NBA). NBA President of Basketball Operations ROD THORN said of Katz, "He was one of the more philanthropic people I've ever met." ESPN N.Y.'s Ian O'Connor wrote Katz was "not a perfect steward of the Nets, but in the wake of his death his legacy as an NBA owner should be framed by victory, not defeat." He was "the antidote to his bumbling predecessors, known as the Secaucus Seven" (ESPNNY.com, 6/1). Flyers Chair ED SNIDER in a statement said, "He was like my brother. I'm devastated and still in shock." NHL Commissioner GARY BETTMAN also issued a statement, saying, "Lewis was, pure and simple, a great guy who highly prioritized his family and his friends" (NJ.com, 6/1).