K. Mennem 7:17 p.m., June 17
Small World: An Interesting Deal between Casey Wasserman and Tom Gores
If the effort to build a new, taxpayer-subsidized downtown stadium for the Chargers ever gets to the serious stage, the topic of naming rights is certain to come up.
Qualcomm got quite a bargain back in 1997 when the city council agreed to remove the name of the late and revered Union-Tribune sports writer Jack Murphy from the Mission Valley venue, replacing it with the cell phone giant's monicker and logo for 20 years.
The council also agreed rename a nearby street for the company, all in exchange for a mere $18 million.
Qualcomm's cash was used to make up for a gaping financial hole that had developed in the council's $78 million stadium expansion plan when a referendum drive launched by concerned citizens forced a planned bond issue onto the ballot.
Afraid of losing the referendum election, then-mayor Susan Golding and a panicked city council decided to unceremoniously dump the bond proposal and instead turn to Qualcomm and its head Irwin Jacobs--overjoyed with the bargain that had fallen into their laps--to make up for the deficit.
Since then, the naming rights business has gone through boom and bust, but the recent agreement by Farmers Insurance to pay a reported $700 million for 30 years of naming rights to a new L.A. football stadium has set a high bar.
Apparently such is not the case in the basketball business, where people who work for Tom Gores--who controls the San Diego Union-Tribune through his Beverly Hills-based Platinum Equity--are so far playing down the notion of renaming the Palace of Auburn Hills, home to Gores's newly acquired Detroit Pistons.
"It's not an area we're really targeting," Gores's New Palace Sports and Entertainment president Dennis Mannion told the Detroit News. "The whole of the property is to make things better for the fans."
Gores has just retained the Wasserman Media Group "to align The Palace with corporate partners," according to the paper, but Mannion says that's mostly for other projects, not naming rights.
Interestingly enough for Chargers fans and U-T readers, in addition to his relationship with Gores, Wasserman Media Group owner Casey Wasserman, 36, just happens to be a key player in Philip Anschutz's plan to build Farmers Field in downtown L.A., the project that is causing consternation here over the possibility that the Chargers owning Spanos family might just relocate the team to the new venue.
Pictured: Casey Wasserman