Spurs Would Want Control: Should NFL Team Relocate to S.A., Shareholder Says

August 11, 2014

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By: Tom Orsborn and Josh Baugh, San Antonio Express News

In the wake of Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis’ whirlwind tour of San Antonio, sources with knowledge of the visit said Spurs Sports & Entertainment would be against the Raiders, as they are currently structured, relocating to South Texas.

SS&E is the holding company headed by Peter Holt that owns the Spurs, the WNBA’s Stars and the minor league hockey Rampage team. According to sources, it continues to studiously eye a venture into professional soccer.

Davis’ San Antonio stops included one to Holt’s home, said former Mayor Henry Cisneros, part of a who’s-who collection of local civic and business titans that reignited talk of whether San Antonio is a viable NFL market. Although Cisneros described Davis as a “big fan of the Spurs” who wanted to meet Holt to find out “how a winning franchise does it,” sources said business was also discussed.

Holt did not return phone messages requesting an interview, but Spurs shareholder Charlie Amato indicated that SS&E harbors concerns about its long-term financial health should it be forced to compete with another major league franchise for sponsorships, suite sales and ticket sales.

The solution, Amato said, would be for SS&E to have controlling interest in the Raiders or perhaps any other major league franchise that wanted to move to San Antonio.

“I would be more excited about the Oakland Raiders moving to San Antonio if the Spurs ownership group had the possibility of purchasing the team,” said Amato, chairman and co-founder of Southwest Business Corp.

Amato said that if SS&E controlled the Raiders, it would ensure that the football club would be well run by a management team that has proven marketing success in a challenging environment. A template would be available in the form of Tom Benson’s ownership in New Orleans of the NFL’s Saints and the NBA’s Pelicans.

“We have developed a successful culture under the leadership of Peter Holt and have 20- to 25-year employees who have the ability to manage both franchises and help lower the overall cost of running an NFL team,” Amato said.

“(The Spurs’ control) would make it more affordable and more appealing to the San Antonio market. … We are blessed with a great ownership group in which we park our egos at the door when we have our meetings, and Peter never abuses (us) by shoving things down our throats. I have been in other minority situations with other groups where it was a nightmare.”

A Spurs-controlled NFL team would also ensure that the football club would be culturally compatible with the NBA power, Amato said.

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine two more different franchises than the Spurs and Raiders. With the exception of their silver and black colors, the clubs have little in common.

The Spurs are the defending NBA champions, having destroyed the Miami Heat two months ago for their fifth league title in 16 years. The Raiders won three Super Bowls between the 1976 and 1983 seasons, but they haven’t been to the playoffs since 2002.

By any measure, the Spurs are one of the best-run franchises in all of sports, while the Raiders are considered one of the worst run in the NFL.

For years, the Spurs have filled their roster with good citizens. The Raiders, with their menacing “Black Hole” fans and the “Just win, baby” legacy of their late owner Al Davis, embrace their renegade image.

“It’s very important that another sports franchise that comes into San Antonio has the same high-quality culture that exists with the Spurs,” Amato said.

Billionaire B.J. “Red” McCombs also met with Mark Davis. Although a source said Davis appeared to be open to adding an equity partner, McCombs said it was uncertain whether the Raiders owner would want local ownership, should he decide to relocate to San Antonio.

The concerns of Amato notwithstanding, one industry expert believes that an NFL team could succeed in San Antonio independent of the Spurs’ control.

Bernie Mullin, chairman and CEO of The Aspire Group, an Atlanta-based global sports and entertainment firm with ties to the University of Texas, believes that NFL teams seeking to relocate should seriously consider moving to South or Central Texas.

“San Antonio is a very attractive market for the right sport — and football is one of those right sports,” said Mullin, a former NBA executive. “The San Antonio market and certainly the South-Central Texas market of San Antonio and Austin combined are ones that definitely warrant in-depth consideration for any major league team (other than the NBA) that’s looking to move to another market.”

The Aspire Group, which does ticket marketing, sales and service support for UT, recently concluded what Mullin termed a “very comprehensive study” for a major league franchise seeking to relocate that is not a member of the NFL. Among the global markets targeted were San Antonio, Austin and a combination of the two cities, Mullin said.

“The work we did indicated San Antonio and certainly somewhere between the San Antonio and Austin markets would appear to be extremely viable for the NFL,” he said.

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