More movement in the LA sports scene

September 19, 2012

Today the Los Angeles Times published an article noting that Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), my former employer, headed by billionaire Phil Anschutz, was looking for someone to buy out the rights to their Los Angeles based sport properties.  Included in this are the Los Angeles Kings of the currently locked out National Hockey League (NHL), the Stapes Center where the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers play (NBA), as well as the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer (MLB).  This move came as a surprise to me, as AEG had long been working towards building a football stadium in Los Angeles in order to attract a National Football League (NFL) team.  As the plans have stalled several times and have moved forward and backward several times, it could be that AEG has finally decided to give up on the project, and abandon all their other Los Angeles projects as well.

At the same time, this is not the first time that AEG has sold off sport properties.  The company was one of the main investors along with Lamar Hunt to help get the MLS started in the 1990’s.  AEG once held the three major market teams in the MLS, the Chicago Fire, Los Angeles Galaxy and New York/New Jersey Metrostars.  Since then they sold of the Chicago Fire, as well as the Metrostars.  The Metrostars were purchased by Red Bull for a price reported around $100 million, which many thought was a great deal for AEG to sell off an MLS franchise at such a high price.  Now it seems that AEG is moving away from the MLS and is selling off a lot of their sport properties.  Additionally, it could be a combination of getting out of soccer while they can, selling off a franchise from a locked out league, and the LA football stadium problems that has pushed them in this direction.

In either case, if AEG does sell of the properties it will be a major change in the LA sports landscape.

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Chris Paul and the Rottenberg Invariance Principle

December 9, 2011

Chris Paul was said to be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers from the New Orleans Hornets earlier today, then just tonight the deal was cancelled by the NBA.  This was done, because the NBA is currently the owners of the Hornets as they are currently searching for an owner to take over the franchise and keep them in New Orleans.  A lot of questions are being raised about why the trade was cancelled, some are saying that it was a big market team (the Lakers) leveraging a small market team (the Hornets).

I see it more of being Rottenberg’s Invariance Principle (which I have discussed on this blog before), which notes that players tend go to the team that values them the most, as long as there are not certain constraints.  In this case, the NBA stands out as a constraint that is preventing Chris Paul from going to a team that seems to value him more at the moment.  Of course, the fingers are all pointing at NBA commissioner David Stern, who has been a bit of a bad guy with the whole deal about the lockout, and now this.

Pundits, the media, fans, and even owners often talk about the big market teams raiding small market teams for players, but some would say that this is just the Invariance Principle in effect.


The NBA looks like it will be back just in time for Christmas

November 26, 2011

That’s right, after all the fighting between various groups that was highlighted in several posts here at the blog, the NBA owners and players association has come to a handshake deal after a 15 hour bargaining session lasting Friday and Saturday morning.  If the deal is accepted (they only have a handshake deal at the moment), the league is scheduled to begin play on December 25th, Christmas Day.  Reports coming in are saying that the first game will be a rematch of the finals, with Dallas playing Miami.  I don’t know if it the Holiday season that got the two groups together again to get a deal, but the owners are claiming that it wasn’t time or the calendar which was forcing them to get things done.  Really, it seems that the mounting financial pressures on both sides was what really helped get to the point where they are at now.  As ProBasketballTalk (NBC Sports) notes, the owners were not looking forward to losing an entire season of revenue, and the players were not looking forward to losing an entire season of salary.

So now that it looks like the NBA will be back, there is still the question of how long it will take for fans to get back into the league.  Research shows that attendance and fan interest in professional sport leagues tends to drop off after the league goes through a lockout.  And this was no short lockout, it lasted 149 days, and was the end point of almost two years of negotiations.  The NBA looks to overcome one big hurdle, but the new obstacle which may cause a drop in revenues is the lack of interest from consumers.  I’ll be curious to see how many people show up to games once it starts back up.


NBA losing sponsors

November 15, 2011

The NBA players association has decided to vote on decertifying.  There are still plenty of discussions about how this process will work out, but things are bleak, and most sport analysts and fans are writing off the entire season.  Lucky for fans of basketball, NCAA basketball has started and there are plenty of prime match-ups all week long.

But as the lockout now looks to be here for the long term (as if the previous few months wasn’t long enough), those who advertise and sponsor the NBA have begun to pull out their sponsorship of the league.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that MillerCoors has pulled out its sponsorship of the Milwaukee Bucks during the lockout.  The value of the deal is unknown, but it is known that MillerCoors spends over $100 million a year on sport advertising alone.  As the lockout proceeds, it is most likely that more and more companies will not want to associate itself with the league.  As fan perception of the league, its players, and owners is all down, it makes sense for companies to pull out.

This is probably only the beginning, and the league looks to lose a lot more revenue sources as the lockout extends.


NBA on the verge of shutting down for the year?

November 14, 2011

Sure looks that way.  The players have just rejected the owners latest offer.  Derek Fisher the Union player representative is on television, quite emotionally talking about the issue.  He is announcing as we speak that the players have rejected the offer and will file an antitrust suit against the NBA and its owners.

Things looked positive on Friday, and everyone (even myself to some extent) were thinking that a deal was possible.  It turns out that the two sides couldn’t come together after the weekend, and it looks like this might be the end of professional basketball in North America until Fall of 2012.

I think a lot more people might pay attention to college basketball this winter/spring as the premier sport to pay attention to, alongside the NFL.


Will the new NBA season proposal hurt London Olympics Basketball?

November 11, 2011

The final deadline that David Stern put into place for the union to accept the owners proposal about the CBA or else things would get progressively worse.  Yet, the two sides are still at the table, which seems to indicate either than David Stern’s threats convinced the union, or that this was a shallow threat and that both sides have ignored as they made progress in talks.  In either case, things seem to be moving in a positive manner in the NBA CBA negotiations, though both sides still have distance between them.

The players are still moving towards decertifying the union today, and agents don’t like the new proposal either because it takes away their power.  Of course this means that many agents are telling the players to not agree to the new deal, and keep fighting the owners.

David Stern has proposed that if the deal gets done soon, the NBA could play a 72 games season (only losing 10 games off the schedule), including full playoffs, and would end only about a week later than the previously proposed season.  So how do you get in that many games in that little of time?  You obviously give players a much tougher and grueling schedule.  As ProBasketballTalk notes, its pretty much a schedule packed like sardines in a can.

This causes some issues I think.  First, with a tight schedule and shorter rest periods, players are likely to be more prone to injuries and fatigue.  This could actually be costly for some players who are required to play certain number of games for bonuses in their contract.  Really by playing a 72 game season, the NBA owners really look like they are trying to recoup as much lost revenue as possible.  If you look at tennis this year, there has been an increase in the number of injuries because of them playing one of the toughest schedules in history.

Then comes the Olympics.  Now that NBA stars play in the Olympics, it becomes worrisome that some NBA players might have to play a very hard schedule and then head to the Olympics with less time to rest and prepare.  I wonder if this might effect basketball at the Olympics in a negative manner.  Many star players might choose to sit out (or be injured) to just try and recover in time for the next season.  While it is only one week in difference from the previous cycle, the scheduling and number of games in such a short amount of time is the real issue.  The body can only handle so much.


Does America really care about the lockout?

November 10, 2011

A few interesting tidbits as the NBA labor talks continue.  I would like to point out that the deadline set by David Stern has passed, and they are still in sessions, which seems to hint that the deadline wasn’t the final offer as Stern made it out to be.

While not the best of science, the Poll Position polling company decided to conduct a poll on whether Americans really care about the NBA lockout.  While they only surveyed a small sample, they did find that 76% of those responded that they didn’t miss the NBA.  12% didn’t care either way, and another 12% stated that they missed the NBA.  If we extrapolate these numbers with a back of the envelope calculation, about 36 million of America’s roughly 300 million individuals miss the NBA.  That is a pretty large group of individuals who would like to see the NBA back and playing again.  In sports economics we often look at fan demand, attendance and viewership of sporting contests.  While it is probably the case that more Americans prefer to see the NFL than the NBA, the lockout does seem to be preventing a significant portion of the population from seeing games that they would like to see.

In an article of Forbes.com, Patrick Rishe notes that the losses the owners are claiming are not necessarily the truth.  Forbes estimates of revenues and team values are never perfect, but they are estimating that the league actually is not losing as much money as they are claiming.  It is noted that with the current estimates they are saying about 17 of 30 teams in the league have lost money, and that this is attributable to the structure of the league.  Dr. Rishe calls for stricter salary caps and steeper luxury tax to help fix some of the economic issues he sees in the league.  While neither the Forbes numbers nor the owners numbers are usually one’s we can fully believe, there are many who may lean towards the direction of Forbes.  Owners in professional sports leagues have been notorious for hiding profits, and reporting losses for their teams.  This helps to support the claim that owners are always saying they are losing money and that they need to lower salaries and have a larger piece of the revenue split to make up these costs.  The NBA has shown some franchises having very large yearly losses, but as long as teams keep their books hidden from the public eye, we will always have to doubt the owners argument.

Former Toronto Blue Jays VP Paul Beeston once said:

“Under generally accepted accounting principles, I can turn a $4 million profit into a $2 million loss and I could get every national accounting firm to agree with me.”

Hat-Tip (H/T) to vortex forum user “Surfing on a Rocket” for the link to the poll article.