Saints: marching out??? Whodat's view on relocation rumors.
The battle between the State of Louisiana and the New Orleans Saints has really blown up over the last few months of the off-season. Negotiations, which had been heating up since last June when the State had to reach deep to come up with the 15 million dollar subsidy the team was due under the current agreement, finally broke down in late April when Benson announced in an open letter to fans that he was breaking off talks with the State.
Last week, Stanley Rosenberg, BensonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s long-time friend and attorney, announced publicly to a San Antonio paper that Benson has begun talks with San Antonio and Albuquerque about relocation, and that he even received an offer of $1.2 billion from an investor in, you guessed it, Los Angeles. The State has shrugged it off as normal old Benson tactics, but fans seem increasingly concerned. Will the Saints move? Will Benson sell? Are San Antonio, Albuquerque, L.A., and private investors waiting in the wings to snatch the team away from New Orleans? Many fans are mad, mainly at Governor Kathleen Blanco, who they blame for the situation. Is Blanco really some dim-witted politician who doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t understand the importance of the Saints? Is she letting up-State anti-New Orleans sentiment get in her way? Has she played the class warfare card one too many times?
This is just one manÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s opinion but if youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢re looking for a culprit in this whole mess look no further than Tom Benson. LetÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s try to look at this rationally shall we?
Albuquerque, Investors, and San Antonio, oh my!
Think that there is any relevance to the fact that the relocation rumors surfaced less than one month after Benson broke off talks with the State? BlancoÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s harsh (and on-point) criticism of BensonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s failure to compromise, even after having received a proposal from the State guaranteeing over $400 million in revenue, and having a potential value to the team of roughly $737 million during the next 20 years, left Benson with no other option than to use scare tactics.
What youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢re seeing is two shrewd negotiators using what theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ve got. Blanco has public sentiment and class warfare ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ both of which she has used quite well .Benson has the only thing that might just trump that: fear - and he uses it better than most anyone else in the deep south. But will they move, you ask again. Or is Benson just bluffing? HeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s bluffing. Absolutely.
The idea that the Saints might move to Albuquerque is so clearly unfounded itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s almost laughable. As a metropolitan area, Albuquerque boasts a whopping 735,000 or so people, according to the 2000 census - just over half of the 1.35 million in the New Orleans metropolitan area. They also donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t have that extra million people surrounding the area that New Orleans has in the North Shore and Mississippi Gulf Coast. AlbuquerqueÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s average annual income is below national averages, and the city has a large Hispanic population ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ a group know to support a different type of football (or futbol).
Oh yeah, and thereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s one other small problem. Albuquerque doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t have an NFL stadium. Last time I checked, that was something that was kind of important to Tom Benson in his quest to ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“stay competitiveÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? with the other teams in the league.
But if you believe Benson and company, a smaller poor market city lacking the fan-base that has been loyal to one of the least successful franchises in history (on the field that is) for nearly 40 years, and without a stadium looks better right now than New Orleans. In reality, AlbuquerqueÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s demographics are so unattractive that the ARENA Football League passed at a chance to put a team in the city. The Albuquerque City Council has twice failed to pass a bill that would build a minor league baseball arena in the downtown area, but weÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢re supposed to believe that Benson is inches away from calling Ryder. Give me a break.
Frankly, IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢m not sure what is more laughable, the idea of the Saints in Albuquerque, or the thought that someone would offer $1.2 billion for the team. According to Forbes 2004 NFL Team Valuations List, the Saints are 26th, worth about $627 million.
When Dan Snyder bought the Redskins in 1999, he paid the ungodly amount of $800 million ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ for a team in the NationÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s capital ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ a team with history, success, and a far bigger following than the Saints. The currently pending Vikings sale was announced three months ago for $625 million. The Vikings have the same stadium woes as the Saints, but they also have a larger market and more successful history. Yet, Tom Benson wants you to believe that someone offered him $1.2 billion, twice what the team is worth and more than any NFL franchiseÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s current value, and he simply said he had to think about it b/c heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢d much prefer to keep the team in New Orleans if he can just squeeze a few million more dollars out of the state??? Sure Tom, if someone offered me $40,000 for my $20,000 headache of a car that can never seem to run right and always needs more money for repairs just to keep up with the other cars on the road, IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢d have to think about it also. After all, I love that car. Give me a break.
Tom Benson has a house in San Antonio. His friends are there. He has business interests there. The city has the Alamo Dome, a stadium that has seated 64,000 for college Bowl Games. The city is larger (1.4 million according to the 2000 census). They already support a successful professional basketball team. Oh no, they could be a real threat, huh?
According to many close to San Antonio, the Alamo Dome would require roughly $200 million in renovations to bring it up to NFL Standards. Whether ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“NFL StandardsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? are above or below the Super DomeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s current condition is unknown. Last I checked, San Antonio wasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t offering the Saints $170 million to renovate their stadium to add the suites Benson claims to need so badly just to stay profitable (PS ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ the Super Dome has 125 suites ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ current NFL average 137). And what would the Spurs think of renovations to what is currently their stadium? Think Jerry Jones would happily allow a third team in the state, in a city that is decidedly Cowboy-centric at present?
The Dome renovation alone, along with the StateÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s pledge of $267 million in guaranteed payments through 2025 is worth $401 million, and thatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s if the renovations donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t make a single extra dollar for the Saints. The team estimates that the renovations would generate another $250 million. There is also an incentive that would allow the Saints to get paid even more based on team performance (no wonder Benson wants no part of the deal). All in all, the likely final figure is $737 million to the Saints in the next 20 years. Is San Antonio willing to meet an offer like that? And offset the huge costs that coincide with moving a sports franchise, pay BensonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s $81 million penalty to move the team before 2010, build him the brand new state of the art training facility that the Saints currently have, give him 100% of the concessions from every event in the goes on in the Alamo Dome, offer no sales taxes on tickets, and pay the team tens of millions of dollars each year just for its presence? I seriously doubt it.
The Los Angeles Factor
I believe NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue when he says he wants a team in LA by 2009. It wonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t be the Saints, though. LA has proven twice that the city couldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t care less about football. Given the involvement of the commissioner, thatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s not likely to happen a third time. You simply wonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t get the people of LA to back a team like the New Orleans Saints. If they wouldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t back the Raiders ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ one of the most storied franchises in the league, with one of the most eccentric owners, and the flat-out craziest fans ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ how in the hell can anyone expect them to support the debacle that is the New Orleans Saints? I expect the LA team to be an expansion team. It just doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t make sense to move a struggling team and supplant all that baggage.
But donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t take my word for it. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“And as far as L.A., the entire L.A. process is a league matter. We have not decided on a stadium site yet, much less a team.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬?
Tom Benson: A lesson in negotiating (and maybe bad faith)
At this point, I really donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t know how the State can believe much of what Tom Benson says. His statements, actions, and the reports about the team contradict so sharply, itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s almost comical.
For example: for three or four years now, basically since the Saints got the current deal to receive State subsidies to offset all of the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“lossesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? or ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“costsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? associated with playing in an older stadium, Tom Benson has been claiming that he simply needs a new stadium to keep up with the rest of the league. He says that he cannot be profitable in a small market with an old stadium. The numbers suggest just the opposite. According to Forbes, the Saints Operating Income, which essentially measures how much money a team makes after operating expenses (but before taxes and depreciation) was just shy of $30 million in 2002. That figure ranked the team 6th in the league in 2002. In 2003, the Saints slipped to 8th, but their Operating Income rose by nearly 50% to $43.1 million. So for two years the Saints were in the top ten in the league in income earned in a single season, all while Benson was claiming that he couldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t keep pace with the other teams.
As the current Dome renovation negotiations have gone on, the State has discovered that Benson football purchased a 122-foot yacht valued at as much as $20 million. The State has asked to see the teamÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s books, to verify that they really canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t make profits consistent with the rest of the league. Benson has refused, and this year Forbes is reporting that in 2004, the team estimates only $7.8 million in Operating Profit, which ranks them in the 20ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s. Ask yourself ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ other than these negotiations, what happened that could possibly have erased $35 million of income in a single year? Ticket sales werenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t down significantly from a season ago, though they were down (not $35 million worth), and really, that matters little b/c ticket revenue is shared evenly by all teams. So is TV revenue. The team got a larger payment from the State. So what happened? Did fans buy $35 million fewer t-shirts and hats? Maybe, but I doubt it, and even if so, how is that anyoneÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s fault but the teamÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s?
It doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t stop there. In late April, and throughout the negotiations with the State, Tom Benson has claimed to be loyal to New Orleans ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ to want to keep the Saints there long-term. In breaking off talks with the State, Benson said that both sides should simply honor the deal in place. Less than a month later, heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s supposedly shopping his team around to other markets! So was he lying when he said he wanted to keep the team in New Orleans? Or is he lying now about shopping it around? To me, this feels an awful lot like bad faith. But I understand why Benson is doing it. It worked for him in the past.
In 2001, Benson threatened to move the team to Mississippi where he said he could have a new state-of-the-art NFL stadium built. A few months later, the State paid him the money he wanted (the current deal). He is simply reverting now to the same scare tactics that worked last time.
Also, keep in mind that Tom Benson is the chairman of the NFLÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s Finance Committee. Do you seriously think a guy that canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t make his team any money and is constantly having to ask for hand-outs would be made chairman of a committee concerned solely with money? Tom Benson has one of the best sweetheart deals in the league right now ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ maybe the best. HeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s knows exactly what heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s doing, and now he simply wants to go back to the well one more time rather than have to do the things it takes to make his team profitable himself (like putting a good product on the field every Sunday).
The State has offered a renovated Dome, continue direct payments to the team, and add incentives that would allow the team to make more money if it wins. Benson declined such an offer. He claims to be losing ground on the other owners, and making next to nothing, but wonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t open his books to prove it. Forbes reports otherwise. He claims to want to keep his team in New Orleans long-term, but shops it around. He wants the state to honor the deal to him, but heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s willing to renegotiate, just so long as he makes even more money in a more one-sided deal. When the State offers him $400 million in guaranteed money to ease the burden of their current payment, he doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t want to negotiate. The team cites one economic impact study done by a professor at UNO that claims that the Saints have hundreds of millions of dollars of economic impact, but it ignores the many others that suggest that teams have nominal if any real economic impact on a market. Benson bought the Saints 20 years ago for $70 million. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s now worth $627 million, and heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s whining about not making money. Nearly 1000% return in 20 years isnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t enough. But he needs a new stadium to make money, right? Sure, just ask Forbes:
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“The New Orleans Saints play in the Superdome, one of the oldest stadiums in the NFL. But its old age doesn't prevent team owner Tom Benson from scoring big-time. In 2001, the Saints renegotiated their lease with the state of Louisiana and signed a 10-year agreement. According to this deal, the Saints must pay $186.5 million in annual payments starting at $12.5 million and ultimately rising to $23.5 million at the end of the 10-year period. Oh, yes, and the Saints pay no rent under the new deal - Touchdown!ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬?
Folks, something is rotten in the State of Louisiana, but itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s not the governor. To find it, just cruise on over to Airline Drive. YouÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ll find what stinks boogyinÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ all the way to the bank under a bright yellow umbrella.
Nice post WhoDat. Just one correction.
WOW! What a great article, WhoDat.
Benson is becoming as transparent as glass and you nailed him on it. I've said before that I don't really care for Blanco as Governor all that much, but she and her staff hve handled Benson very well.
Once again, nice post. Seems like you might have been storing this up since you haven't been able to post in a while. :D
Gee Scotty, how can you tell? LOL
I'm surprised no one disagrees. Blanco has been viewed as the devil for a while now by a lot of fans. I agreed that the state wasn't doing enough for a long time. Until I really did some research to see what was going on. For a while now, Benson's been giving me reason to change my mind.
I have been in the minority in that I have been on Blanco's side since the beginning, but I no longer live in the state so I never really saw it as my place to jump fully into that debate. I felt since Foster gave Benson that deal that the state was geting screwed, and here it has come to pass. I know though I have made several statements that Benson is motivated by one thing, greed. Plain and simple. His tactics are not as subtle as they used to be, cause each move in this chess game between he and the state is being played out in the public eye. Not even talking to the Governor when she asked for two meetings after the final offer from the state was announced? Classless. I about fell on the floor laughing when I saw the Albuquerque rumor. That had to be the worst angle ever. And someone offering 1.2 bil for the team? If that was the case, Benson would have sold already cause that is twice what Red is getting for the vikings, and would put Tom in the record books as having gotten the most in return for a sold franchise in any sport. So it is really getting ridiculous on Benson's side at this point. IMO, to blame Kathleen now is just unfair. What more can she do besides just give a greedy owner everything he wants, and financially ruin her state. I suppose she could pull a Mike foster and wait til her term is almost up and then give in to every demand and let the administration after hers figure out how to deal with it, but does anyone really want that?
Trying to make Benson look like a greedy white class owner- classless
Leaking a story on a multi-millionaire business man who owns several companies probably totaling near 1 billion dollars in value owning a yacht- classless
Trying to make the state burdens and economic woes on one of the biggest companies and maybe the biggest economic boost in the state as part of their problem- classless
Starting negotiations out on "possibly building a stadium" when she has NO intentions what so ever to even think about building a new stadium NOR waiting for the results of the study that she SPENT tax dollars on doing.- classless
I'm not saying Benson isn't at fault with a few things or a new contract shouldn't be negotiated on but bottom line is that Blanco has gone about the negotiations all wrong with benson this whole time trying to make him publicly look like a bad guy and now he's pissed with her and really doesn't have an urgency to deal with her and I don't blame him.
Lot of thought went into your post -- I agree with you -- Benson is merely posturing -- he is getting a great deal from the state == has fans willing to stick with him no matter how long we have had mediocre products --- He moves somewhere else and he better win qucikly -- Now -- his position gets a lot better if we have a very good season -- more pressure for Blanco -- but all in all your thoughts on where he has been moving are correct -- I think San Antonio has the best chance but its a longshot at best
awesome post amigo. send a copy to poydras ave.
Wow, what an thoughtful and well put together post. I guess blackandgold.net is back open for business!
benson's bluff needs to be called............
he is all about money,,,,,,,,,,,not the saints.............
perhaps a true saint will step forward and buy this puke sheet of an owner out and keep us in our misery for the next 100 yrs........
i've had enough boogie to last me a life time............the only boogie i'd like to see is benson's azz boogying out of town after the sale to keep the saints here..........as far as the saints go, if they should ever go, i will never take another team under my wing and in my heart.........the saints are the first and last............smitty
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