Friday, June 18, 2010

NY Post and 680 The Fan Reporting ATL Spirit Looking to Sell Unwanted Possessions

(updated below)

(updated again below)

(very very importantly updated again, this time with very telling details)

A-ha! So the provenance of that 680 report is famed Murdoch tabloid the New York Post. They sez:

Today the National Basketball Association has a 2009-10 champion, but for the Atlanta Hawks the real battle has just begun.

The Atlanta Spirit, the group that controls the team, has put it on the block and, in recent days has started to solicit buyers for the franchise in a package with the Philips Arena where the team plays, according to sources with direct knowledge of the process.

The Spirit is also selling its Atlanta Thrashers franchise of the National Hockey League.

Over at the AJC, Jeff Schultz chimes in:

The only new thing the New York Post brought to the table this morning was its report that both teams and Philips Arena are all for sale in their entirety. Similar stories have surfaced before. Each time the Spirit ownership has issued denials (once all could finally sign off on a statement, which took hours to days).

Um, no, dude. We've known for some time now that the ATL Spirit are "looking for investors," but that's a far cry from a report claiming that the comical sports package they own is now up for sale "in [its] entirety." The detail about the Thrashers being sold separately is also more concrete than things we've heard in the past.

Meanwhile, the Spirit send out this email:

ATLANTA – (June 18, 2010) – Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon, two of the principal partners of Atlanta Spirit LLC, the parent company that owns the Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Thrashers and Philips Arena operating rights, have released the following statement regarding the rumored sale of the teams and arena:

“As has been shared publicly for more than a year, we are interested in finding minority investors and have engaged a firm to assist us in that effort. We have no plans to move either team, and remain committed to the Hawks, the Thrashers, Philips Arena and the city of Atlanta.”

Oh hey look, standard foam-rubber PR speak that tells us nothing! I've heard of such things, in stories.

Our friend Mr. Speaker tweets us:

Guys, they are simply looking for minority investors to make up for Belkin's share of the pie. Radio has distorted truth.

IS THAT SO? The Spirit's claim--that they're merely looking for minority investors---could well be true, but the gist of the 680 report (as opposed to the New York Post report) was that "sources close" to the Spirit say that everything is for sale.

So who, really, is the distorting the Troof: the Spirit or News Corp. or 680? We report, you decide.

UPDATE: Over on the Twitter, Mr. Speaker makes the point that 1) the Post is hardly known for its accuracy and scooping, and 2) anyone can piece together a report that bases its reliability on certain unnamed sources.

I shan't argue with point 1, but on point 2: over the course of this blog's life I've written several times about my hatred of anonymous sourcing, but it seems to be de rigueur for hockey journalism (no less than every other form of journalism today outside of a few intrepid/crazy war correspondents), so whatcanyoudo?

Additionally: it's worth remembering that 680 the Fan did break the story of Kovalchuk's imminent departure before anyone else did. It too was based on nameless but reputedly reliable sources.

UPDATE II: Ben Wright has posted the Spirit statement to his Blueland Blog. Otherwise, he's mostly silent. Nary a debunking Tweet. Perhaps he's...EERILY silent?

I also wonder why this came out on a Friday. You know what they say about Fridays, right?

UPDATE III: Something interesting about the NY Post article I thought I'd point out. The author of the article is Josh Kosman, who is not a sports journalist but a financial journalist. He writes about equity, credit, mergers & acquisitions and so on. Basically he's closer to the financial world than to the sports world, but that division is probably arbitrary, as the sports world is only an offshoot of the financial world.

Anyway, point is: Kosman and the New York Post know about this, and the AJC doesn't, because Kosman and the Post have contacts in the New York financial world. The Spirit have apparently hired the Raine Group, an NYC investment bank, to sell the teams. According to their LinkedIn profile, they are "A boutique merchant bank focused on advisory and investing in the global media, entertainment and sports industries. Specific sector focus: online gaming, digital media, sports, live entertainment, and content (music, film, television, education, etc.). Offices in New York, Los Angeles and Beijing."

The Beijing Thrashers!


j_barty_party said...

He may very well have done so, but Kincade is still a douche of epic proportions. Perhaps he just guessed right on the timing? Don't see Dudley tipping his hand on something like that.

But anyway, another point to remember, which always gets forgotten in this mess, is that the Thrashers are tied to the naming rights deal with Philips. While they are not tied to the lease the same way the Hawks are, what potential buyer -- of either franchise -- would want to own either team without that guaranteed stream of revenue ($9.5 M each year) coming in to help offset some of the operating expense? Even half of that is still a pretty decent subsidy for a separate owner of the Thrash.

There is also documentation somewhere, but I can find it on-line, stating the ASG signed a no-move covenant with the NHL for a period of at least 10 years and they still have 5 years to go. Someone else wrote, either Phil Foley of the Examiner or Custance of TSN, that the covenant was for 15 years. Plus, you got Bettman going on record with the AJC saying they are committed to keeping hockey in Atlanta.

Now, I'm not averse to selling the hockey team to one solitary owner who would actually run the Thrashers as a singular entity committed to winning and spending commensurately with such a goal. But in this economic climate (the NJ Nets were extremely lucky), who in their right-mind, other than Balsillie, wants to own one of the least desirable franchises in terms of investment growth potential in the entire NHL??

Just a lot of doubts surrounding something that has been speculated ad nauseam in many other unreliable news sources.

Big Shooter said...

Speaker, so quick to discount this but weren't you the one that basically had the team sold to that fake movie guy the minute you heard the report? Do you secrectly work for the ASG? Heeennnggghhh???

Mortimer Peacock said...

So...John Kincade can't possibly get scoops because he's a "douche of epic proportions?" Curious.

That sounds perilously close to the "Anyone I dislike can't ever be right about anything EVER" fallacy.

Wayne stuck in AL said...

My big question is how did the New York Post get their hands on the story ahead of the AJC? Do they have "inside sources" at Goldman Sachs (the people supposedly vetting additional owners)?

Face it, the Thrashers are the "red-headed stepchild" of Atlanta sports.

Mortimer Peacock said...


The AJC has a pretty dismal record of reporting on big things involving the Thrashers. Whether it's because they simply don't know what's going on or they're too too timid to report I don't know.

For all my poking at the NY Post, their sports section is probably the one section where their journalists are generally spiffy and on top of things.

Mortimer Peacock said...

Actually, now we know for sure why the NY Post has this story and the AJC doesn't. See Update 3.

j_barty_party said...

Shooter - I reckon you're joking because I was one of the first on Bill's blog to debunk the whole Stephen Rollins bullshit rumor.

Morty - I didn't say that Kincade didn't get it right. Just that he was a douche. I'll have to defer to you in your eternal wisdom for the truth to that nugget. But that is besides the point as I doubt it was Kincade who actually "broke" the news story re: the big sale. Since when has Chernoff & King Chump been right about anything concerning hockey? Hell, when was the last time they even talked about hockey? I wouldn't know cuz I stopped listening to ATL sports radio several months ago.

Oh well, at least Kincade loves us!

Big Shooter said...

I'm just spewing nonsense on a Fri afternoon hoping to start a virtual words fight.

Sadly, I failed.

GoPuckYourself said...

Maybe that referee from Mali can buy the Thrashers with all the money FIFA gave him to fuck us over today in the Slovenia match.

I'm bitter. Time to drink. Have a good weekend, folks.

Mutton Sourdough said...

And what TBC post is complete without some Asian spam comments... Must've been the euphemism used for "John Kincade" that cued them into it this time.

Mutton Sourdough said...

Oh, and when was Jim Baldandsilly ever in his right mind? Shouldn't that criterion exclude him as well?