Cablevision Systems Corp. chairman Charles Dolan's
vast media and sports portfolio may have worked against his bid to purchase the New York
Jets National Football League franchise.
And soon, that very portfolio may soon be undermined by
competition for the cable rights associated with several other New York teams' games.
Dolan lost his attempt to acquire the 30-year-old football
franchise to Johnson & Johnson heir Robert Wood Johnson IV, whose bid was unanimously
endorsed by the league's finance committee last week.
While the bids from Dolan and Johnson were said to be about
even at around $625 million, sources said Dolan would have had a hard time gaining final
approval from the league's owners, who were concerned about his media relationships
League rules forbid corporations to own football teams
because it feels they would use the teams to serve other purposes outside of developing
winning ballclubs. While Dolan signed several stipulations that would have kept him from
mixing the team with his Cablevision sports assets, league owners still harbored concerns
about his ownership proposal.
Johnson, who doesn't have any broadcast or cable
media-ownership ties, was more acceptable to the NFL owners than Dolan.
"The philosophy is that it's better to have an
owner that's completely dedicated to the team and to make sure that [the
owner's] focus is to provide great football competition," an NFL executive said.
Dolan -- who also fell short in efforts to buy the
NFL's Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns -- said in a prepared statement that
he was "disappointed" about not getting the Jets franchise. He added that his
primary motivation for seeking the Jets "was to field a team that could compete for a
championship and make Jets fans proud."
Meanwhile, Dolan's Cablevision may soon face
competition for New York-area sports rights from George Steinbrenner, owner of Major
League Baseball's New York Yankees.
Steinbrenner's new YankeeNets, which also controls the
New Jersey Nets National Basketball Association team, is close to finalizing a deal to
purchase the New Jersey Devils National Hockey League franchise, sources close to the
The group has signed a "nonbinding memorandum" to
purchase the successful hockey franchise, and it hopes to complete the deal soon, sources
With the Yankees, Nets and Devils under one roof,
Steinbrenner could start a new regional sports network to compete with
Cablevision-controlled Madison Square Garden Network and with Fox Sports New York, which
is partly owned by Cablevision.
The Yankees' deal with MSGN ends after the 2000
season, while the Nets' and Devils' deals with FSNY end after the 2001-02 and
2006-07 seasons, respectively, sources said.
Representatives from YankeeNets would not comment on the
Devils deal or on the potential for a competing regional sports service. Representatives
from MSGN also would not comment on the matter.
YankeeNets could also create a regional
sports/entertainment network similar to Turner South, in which the pro games are combined
with movies and local news and programming, Pilson Communications president Neal Pilson
"They can provide a much stronger service if they have
movies, regional news and local programming to go along with the pro-sports product,"