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Volume 25 No. 64

Franchises

Sources said there were NFL owners who were not okay with the other bidders in the process
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David Tepper, who is set to purchase the Panthers for a reported $2.275B, will be "very involved in the business side" of the team, according to sources cited by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Tepper is unlikely to "make any major changes to the organization," but he will "take over day-to-day operations" when he officially is part of the franchise ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 5/16). The Panthers are currently without a club president on the business side (THE DAILY). The MMQB's Peter King said he applauds Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson and the NFL for "taking less” in the sale, because this will "ensure them not leaving Charlotte" ("PFT," NBCSN, 5/16). ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith: "The NFL seemed hellbent on moving beyond some of the things that ailed them last season, mainly the protests involving Kaepernick and the residual effects that followed." He added, "If you're trying to move past that, why would you bring in or give a majority ownership stake to an owner who has spoken out publicly against the president, who hijacked the whole narrative for himself and his constituency, and you're in the bible belt" ("First Take," ESPN, 5/16).

JUDGING THE SALE: THE MMQB's Albert Breer wrote Tepper's purchase was a "weird one," as the sale of the team "didn't exactly go according to plan." A source said, "You look at what the Nets and Rockets went for, and this is a high-profile East Coast team, and it didn't turn into an auction the way these things usually do." The source added, "Tepper's always been super disciplined, and he told the world he was going to be super disciplined on this one, and he waited them out and won." Breer noted there were NFL owners who were "not OK with the other bidders." South Carolina businessman Ben Navarro’s practices "came under scrutiny, so much so that he hired a PR firm to manage the damage." But one owner said that liquidity, structure and partners "became a bigger issue for Navarro than anything in his past" (SI.com, 5/17). 

NBA CATCHING UP? FS1’s Jason Whitlock said it was "kind of shocking" when he saw the Panthers' price was close to what the sale of the Rockets and Clippers brought in, but he said he does not believe the Panthers "sold for as much money as they possibly could." He said the NFL owners "wanted David Tepper fully in their fraternity." Tepper has been an investor in the Steelers, which Whitlock said is a "path to get into the full fraternity group of NFL ownership." Whitlock: "They cut a deal that made sense for him and didn't get as much money as they could have." FS1’s Colin Cowherd: "The NFL in this country is a much bigger deal, but if you're talking about selling something and the global outreach, that's where the NBA makes up a lot of ground.” FS1’s Mark Schlereth said, “You're talking about Houston, the fourth biggest market in the United States, and we’re talking about L.A., the biggest or second biggest market in the United States." He asked of the Panthers, "We're talking about a much smaller market. If it was the Houston Texans or we were talking about the L.A. Rams? If we were to sell those two, what would those franchises be worth?” (“Speak for Yourself,” FS1, 5/16).

PASSING THE EYE TEST: In N.Y., English & Kosman note Tepper’s Appaloosa Management firm in Q1 "increased its stakes in gambling stocks" such as Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts Int'l, but his casino involvements "pose no problem" for the league. An NFL spokesperson said, "This was vetted to the satisfaction of ownership and was not an issue in 2009 when Mr. Tepper became a minority owner of the Steelers" (N.Y. POST, 5/17). In Charlotte, Erik Spanberg notes Tepper "may broach the subject" of his Panthers purchase on Sunday at Carnegie Mellon Univ., where he will be the "commencement speaker." Tepper displays a "puckish, sometimes prurient, humor." Some critics have already asked "whether it is a good idea to bring such sensibilities to a franchise -- and league -- grappling with #MeToo issuess ranging from harrassment to the treatment of team-employed cheerleaders." Tepper is also "unafraid to get political" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 5/17).

PUTTING DOWN ROOTS: In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen writes, "If I’m Tepper, the first assignment I give myself is to get to know the organization." Get to "know the city and region in which the Panthers operate." Get to "know the people that make Charlotte go." Sorensen: "Be visible. And meet some of the fans that devote their money and their emotion to the team" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/17). The CHARLOTTE OBSERVER's Kevin Siers in an editorial cartoon weighs in on Tepper's purchase of the Panthers (THE DAILY).

Colts have more than 12,000 tickets to sell for each of their 10 home games, including two preseason games
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The Colts have renewed just 82% of its season tickets for '18 compared with 87% last year, which "equates to 3,000 fewer," according to Scott Olson of the INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. Colts COO Pete Ward said, "It's honestly better than many of us expected, after going 4-12." Olson noted the Colts have "more than 12,000 tickets to sell for each of their 10 home games, including two preseason games." For more than a decade during Peyton Manning's playing days, the Colts "had season ticket renewals well above" 90%, only dipping to 87% following the '11 season -- the year Manning was out with an injury. After former coach Chuck Pagano "jump started the Colts to an 11-5 season" in '12, season-ticket renewals "jumped to" about 95%. The team's "poor on-field play isn't the only reason keeping some season-ticket holders from renewing." Ward said that players "kneeling in protest during the national anthem is a factor." Ward added that the number of seats "sold to new season-ticket holders (not renewals) stands at 1,330, nearly double the 700 sold for last season" (IBJ.com, 5/16)

NICE SEATS: USA TODAY's Maureen Groppe reports Lucas Oil Founder Forrest Lucas "paid for Vice President Mike Pence to attend" the Colts game he walked out of last year after some players knelt during the national anthem. Pence reported "receiving from Lucas two tickets worth $774 for the October game held at Lucas Oil Stadium." Pence also received three tickets to Super Bowl LI in Houston that "were valued at $15,000." Those seats "were courtesy" of Texans Owner Bob McNair (USA TODAY, 5/17). 

Marlins attendance figures are "more than 4,000 fewer" than that of the Rays
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The Marlins averaged 10,676 fans per home game at Marlins Park through yesterday, "by far the worst in the majors, and a 15-26 record didn't have fans scrambling to jump on the bandwagon," according to Steven Wine of the AP. Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said, "There are a lot of good things we've seen. Obviously no one is happy with the win-loss record. But there are a lot of positives." He added, "We've gotten a positive reception with what we're trying to do. But the bottom line is, we want more people to come. We're not happy with the number of people in here. A lot of that goes with how we perform" (AP, 5/16). Jeter said, "I have no patience. (But) I've been preaching patience." In Miami, Adam Beasley notes Marlins attendance figures are "more than 4,000 fewer" than that of the Rays. Jeter: "We're going to constantly try to improve the attendance here" (MIAMI HERALD, 5/17). In Ft. Lauderdale, Matthew DeFranks notes the Marlins attendance figures "would be the lowest across baseball" since the Expos "averaged 9,369 fans in their final season" in Montreal before moving to DC. The figure is "staggeringly low, in part, because the team changed the way it reported attendance figures." Instead of "counting all tickets distributed (including giveaways and heavily discounted ones), the Marlins are announcing tickets sold." The change in procedure has "resulted in four announced crowds smaller than 6,000." Yesterday the Marlins "announced three newly hired" execs who will be "responsible for boosting fan support." Jeter: "We wanted to improve. We had some quality individuals that we’ve added to this organization" (South Florida SUN SENTINEL, 5/17).

SENSE OF URGENCY: DeFranks also notes the Marlins are "on pace for a 103-loss season, which would be the second-worst record in franchise history." The Marlins have "not had a winning season" since '09 and the team has "not qualified for the playoffs since it won the World Series" in '03. Jeter said, "You understand that it’s going to take time. We’re trying to fix something that’s been broken. I’ve said it over and over again, it’s a team that hasn’t made it to the postseason since 2003. We have to fix that, but I also get the sense of urgency. Everyone always tries to ask me, ‘How long will it take?’ As soon as possible" (South Florida SUN SENTINEL, 5/17). 

Execs among the company spent several months reviewing how the Oilers are run
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Oilers Entertainment Group has "laid off about 30 workers under a 'new vision' focused on its sports and entertainment operations that stops work on global expansion," according to Gordon Kent of the EDMONTON JOURNAL. A late-April staff memo lists 20 people who were "let go from such areas as security, ticketing, communications, IT and administration." The memo said that execs "spent several months reviewing OEG's vision" and decided to "focus on their core business" of running the Oilers and the WHL Edmonton Oil Kings, live entertainment, Rogers Place and the mixed-used development Ice District. OEG in a statement said, "These are the things that will drive revenue and results for the company and ensure we are successful moving forward. What that also means, for the foreseeable future, we have ceased our efforts related to new business or global expansion." Meanwhile, Kent notes tenants will "start moving into the Ice District's 66-storey Stantec Tower this fall, while the 54-storey JW Marriott hotel-Legends condominium tower, which held a topping-off ceremony last week, is scheduled to open next year." Most of the public plaza "will also be ready" in '19 (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 5/17).

In Houston, Jack Witthaus noted the Rockets are "expecting big attendance numbers next season after sporting the best record in the NBA this year." In March, season-ticket holders saw a less than 7% "increase on average in cost after renewals for tickets were sent out." Rockets Chief Revenue Officer Gretchen Sheirr said that season-ticket costs "range in prices due to seat location and number of seats." She "declined to disclose how many season tickets were sold or what percentage of seats in the Toyota Center are held by season ticket holders" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 5/14).

BEN THERE, DONE THAT: In Michigan, Peter Wallner noted former NBAer Ben Wallace was "formally introduced as part-owner" of the NBA G League Grand Rapids Drive. Team President Steve Jbara said Wallace is the "largest minority owner" in the franchise. Wallace has "spoken with season-ticket holders, met with community groups and even shot baskets a few times with fans." He gives the Drive "valuable exposure" (MLIVE.com, 5/16).

FOR THE KIDS: In Las Vegas, Gilbert Manzano notes the Raiders "partnered with the ECO City Gallery at Discovery Children’s Museum to unveil a Kids Construction Zone exhibit." The informative exhibit is a "replica of the stadium the Raiders are building for the NFL team that is expected to open" for the '20 season. The Raiders will "cover the full expenses for third grade students at Title I schools to see the exhibit at the downtown museum" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 5/17).