Davis finds bank to lend him Vegas stadium cash, still needs okay for Raiders’ sweetheart lease

Looks like Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis may have finally found someone to lend him a pile of money so he can take advantage of an even bigger pile of public money and build a football stadium in Las Vegas:

Bank of America will back the $1.9 billion Las Vegas football stadium sought by Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis, paving the way for the team’s move to Southern Nevada, he told NFL owners Monday…

Bank of America’s $650 million stake will be a loan and will not include an equity stake in the team or the stadium.

So, advantage Davis in his ongoing battle with former partner Sheldon Adelson over the stadium they once dreamed of together. (I mean, not literally dreamed the same dreams while asleep, that would be freaky.) It was never entirely clear why Goldman Sachs backed out of lending Davis the money, unless it was out of solidarity with Adelson (which seems awfully non-profiteering of the vampire squid, but maybe), but having a bank that’ll let him borrow $650 million so that he can access $750 million in Nevada tax money is an important step for Davis.

It’s not the final hurdle, though, as he still has to get the Nevada legislature to approve a lease, and his initial proposal is terrible for taxpayers in that he’d keep all stadium revenues and pay only $1 a year in rent, (something that the stadium authority blames on needing to keep the stadium bonds tax-exempt, ha ha ha ow) and also terrible for them in that it has an open-ended “top-tier” state of the art clause that could end up costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars more. Not that either of these are likely to be the main stumbling block with the legislature — they’re more likely to get pissy that their pal Adelson is no longer involved — but it’s something Davis needs to work out before he can take advantage of his new Bank of America card, and it ain’t over till it’s over.

 

 

Proposed Vegas Raiders lease includes “top-tier” clause, this really is the worst ever

I almost included this in the last post, but then I figured it really deserved its own item, because oh man, they’re not really considering this, are they?

The Authority or its designees shall have the obligation to, and shall, provide, perform and take, or cause to be provided, performed or taken, such actions, at the Authority’s expense, either directly or through the Manager, as may be necessary or reasonably advisable to operate and maintain the Stadium and Stadium Infrastructure in a safe, clean, attractive, and first-class manner similar to and consistent with other premier, top-tier NFL facilities (the “Expected Facility Standard”) and in compliance with all Applicable Laws.

That’s from Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis’s proposed lease with Nevada for a Las Vegas stadium, and yes, it’s a state-of-the-art clause, requiring the state to maintain a stadium in “top-tier” condition on its own dime. I.e., the same kind of clause that let the St. Louis Rams escape their lease and move back to L.A. after 20 years.

Now, a couple of caveats. First off, unlike some other state-of-the-art clauses (cough Cincinnati Bengals cough), this one doesn’t spell out a wish list of items like “holographic replay systems” that the state would have to provide if other NFL teams got them. And it’s only about “operations and maintenance,” so doesn’t specifically talk about capital improvements (though it also doesn’t rule them out). And there’s no specified penalty for violating it that I can find, though being considered in breach of contract is never a good thing. And this is only Davis’s proposal, so there’s still room for Nevada’s lawyers to red-line through the worst bits.

That said, don’t ever sign open-ended state-of-the-art clauses, people! At best, this would be an invitation for Davis to, say, declare that he can’t possibly operate a top-tier stadium without a scoreboard that stretches to Utah, and threaten to sue to break his lease and move the team if taxpayers don’t build him a new one. One hopes that even if the local rich guy rejoins the deal, Nevada officials will still balk at agreeing to this — I mean, one doesn’t hope too hopefully, given how eager they were to approve $750 million in tax money for a stadium in the first place, but even that doesn’t justify a blank check for future upgrades, right? Right?

Goldman pulls out of Vegas Raiders deal, Davis now faces Adelson’s way or the highway

Remember way back yesterday, when I noted that billionaire Sheldon Adelson pulling out of the deal to build a Las Vegas stadium for the Oakland Raiders didn’t necessarily kill those plans, because Raiders owner Mark Davis had Goldman Sachs lined up as a backup financial partner? Well, that didn’t even last a day:

Goldman Sachs, the banking giant the Raiders told NFL owners would finance part of the $1.9-billion proposal even without Adelson’s involvement, pulled away from the project Tuesday.

The arrangement with Goldman Sachs was contingent on Adelson’s partnership with the Raiders in the development, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation. Without Adelson, the person said, there isn’t any deal.

It’s not entirely clear here whether Adelson leaned on Goldman not to do the deal without him (he says he didn’t), or Goldman decided that retaining the support of Nevada elected officials was too dicey without Adelson, or Goldman never wanted to do the deal without Adelson and Davis was just an idiot for assuming they would. (Actually, most of the scenarios here involve Davis being an idiot.) Either way, though, this presents a huge stumbling block in the way of Davis cashing in on Nevada’s promise of $750 million in public money toward a stadium, which at least one legislator is threatening to revoke if the Raiders owner can’t work something out ASAP:

The political fallout Tuesday included a suggestion by Aaron Ford, majority leader in Nevada’s Senate, that public money for the stadium could be diverted for other purposes if the situation isn’t quickly resolved.

“If progress is not made toward financing the stadium project in a timely fashion, we will introduce legislation to create the jobs that were promised and contemplated by stadium construction,” Ford said.

All the leverage is back in Adelson’s court, in other words, if he wants to resume his demands for a large cut of team revenues and possibly of ownership as well. You have to figure he’ll at least try, because he’d be stupid not to — though there’s enough stupid already floating around this deal already that a little more wouldn’t be all that surprising.

Adelson backs out of Raiders deal, jeopardizing Vegas move either lots or not at all

And speaking of “you can’t fire me, I quit” ultimatums, squintillionaire casino baron Sheldon Adelson responded yesterday to Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis moving ahead with a Las Vegas stadium lease proposal without consulting him by saying fine, he doesn’t want to play Davis’s old reindeer games anyhow:

Billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has backed out of a deal to help construct a $1.9 billion stadium for the Oakland Raiders, throwing the team’s proposed move to Las Vegas into jeopardy…

“It’s clear the Raiders have decided their path for moving to Las Vegas does not include the Adelson family,” Sheldon Adelson said in the statement. “So, regrettably, we will no longer be involved in any facet of the stadium discussion.”

Adelson blamed conditions named in a 117-page proposed stadium draft agreement, which the team presented at a meeting of the nine-member Las Vegas Stadium Authority last week. He said the draft proposal, which called for terms including $1 annual rent, control over field scheduling and exclusive naming rights for the team, sent “shockwaves” through the community and was a surprise to his family.

“We were not only excluded from the proposed agreement; we weren’t even aware of its existence,” he said in the statement.

This is not entirely unexpected, given that Davis had already indicated he was preparing to pursue the deal without Adelson, even going so far as to line up Goldman Sachs as a financing partner if need be. (Sure, he’d have to repay Goldman Sachs on their loan, but Adelson wanted a cut of revenues or maybe part-ownership of the team to repay his own investment, so potato-potahto as far as Davis’s bottom line is concerned.) And that proposed lease, released last week amid headlines about how Davis only wants to pay $1 a year in rent and keep all the stadium revenues for himself, didn’t mention Adelson at all, so there’s really no reason for anybody to flip out about this.

Flipping out, of course, is precisely what some people are doing:

Elected officials including Clark County Commission chair Steve Sisolak, who had spoken with Adelson earlier on Monday, said the development put the future of the move in jeopardy.

“This is not a wrench in the wheel, the wheel fell off,” he said. “This is an enormous setback in my opinion.”

(It’s “wrench in the works,” not in the wheel, which would be — oh, never mind.)

The issue here is less whether Davis can find somebody else to throw a few hundred million dollars in cash his way in exchange for future payments (that’s exactly why places like Goldman Sachs exist) than what it means politically to lose Adelson, whose connections were what enabled the Raiders to get their $750 million stadium subsidy offer from the state of Nevada in the first place. And while the subsidy legislation has already passed, Davis and the state still need to negotiate that lease, so it’s a bad time to be losing a powerful local friend — something you’d think Davis would have thought through, if you assumed that sports team owners think more rationally than the rest of us, which is probably a bad assumption.

In any event, this is a worthwhile time for Nevada elected officials to remind themselves that the Vegas Raiders stadium plan really is a godawful one, especially when you consider not just that $1 a year rent but that Davis would get all naming-rights, ticket, and even concessions revenue, while the state stadium authority would be on the hook for all operating expenses and even any property taxes, per the team’s proposed lease. While backing away from a deal because Sheldon Adelson isn’t involved in it is usually the exact opposite of what I’d recommend, this might be a good time to make an exception.

Raiders owner to Vegas: Thanks for $750m, how about I keep all revenues, pay $1 in rent?

If there’s one key point I’ve tried to hammer home about how elected officials should approach stadium deals, it’s: Don’t just focus on the headline number for construction costs! It’s the lease details, stupid! Otherwise you can end up giving up hundreds of millions of dollars on the back end, via lost parking fees or future maintenance expenses or what have you.

The Nevada legislature clearly hasn’t been listening to me, because Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis just revealed details of his lease demands for his new Las Vegas stadium, and they are, shall we say, the kinds of things you might have wanted to talk about before approving $750 million in subsidies:

  • The Raiders would pay $1 a year in rent.
  • The team would receive 100% of naming rights from the stadium.
  • The team would receive 100% of advertising sales at the stadium.

How much of an additional subsidy would this be? While there’s no established baseline for fair-market rent, let alone a fair-market split of naming rights, I’m told the state was expecting to get an $8.2 million cut of those revenue streams to help defray its own costs. Giving that up is worth about $130 million in present value, so if we consider that to be a new ask, then the Raiders’ total subsidy would now stand at $880 million.

Of course, if the state was really counting on that money, it might have wanted to ask for it, you know, before approving the first $750 million. The Nevada Stadium Authority is scheduled to begin discussing Davis’s lease demands next month; if they end up rejecting them and telling him to take his team and go play in the street — not likely, but could happen — that might be the best outcome for all concerned, except for Davis, obviously.

Raiders to file papers to move to Vegas, it is said (by someone [we can’t tell you who])

So on Saturday morning (updated again on Sunday), NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport had this to report:

The Raiders will file relocation papers to move from Oakland to Las Vegas, according to sources familiar with their thinking. … The stunning move, one that should be made official in the coming days, is expected to add a new city to the NFL’s ever-changing landscape. The Raiders would need 24 votes from the league’s owners to formally make the move, a vote that will come this spring…

As for the support from the room of owners, it’s described as making progress and gathering momentum. There isn’t nearly the opposition some anticipated originally. And it continues to build, with some of the most prominent owners vocally in favor of it.

Number of named sources cited: zero. Citations are to “sources familiar with [the Raiders’] thinking,” “sources,” and that passive-voice “it’s described as.” So what we know for sure is that somebody wants the world to know (or think) that the Raiders are all set to move to Las Vegas, and that the NFL is set to approve it.

Anyway, we’ve known for a long while that Davis wants to move to Las Vegas, or at least that he says he wants to. (Notwithstanding that he still doesn’t know who he’s going to build a stadium there with, after getting $750 million in public money to help with the costs.) Does this mean the move could be official in another couple of months? That this is an attempt to shake down Oakland, or even once-and-maybe-future Davis stadium partner Sheldon Adelson, for a more Davis-friendly deal? What kind of relocation fee would Davis have to pay for moving from an old stadium in a large market into a new stadium in a fairly small one? All good questions to ask Rapoport’s sources — here, go to it.

Raiders could have new evil billionaire to partner with on Vegas stadium

Wednesday’s NFL meeting about the Oakland Raiders‘ possible relocation to Las Vegas was a big bust as far as actual news goes, with the exception of Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II’s cryptic statement that “the Raiders are looking at this potentially going without Mr. Adelson.” We now have some indication of what that was all about, though, as a Las Vegas stadium authority consultant reported yesterday that Raiders owner Mark Davis thinks he has another option for raising money if he can’t come to an agreement with casino baron Sheldon Adelson:

“The team’s presentation highlighted its research that the Las Vegas market can support the team, that bringing the NFL to the market aligns with the league’s strategic goals and that Goldman Sachs is committed to financing the project with or without a third party,” [Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis] said.

“The Raiders told the committees that there is no deal in place yet with the Adelson family and that the team is pursuing approval with no third-party involvement,” Aguero said. “However, if an accord with the Adelson family is reached later, the team would bring that back for league approval.”

This makes sense: If building a Las Vegas stadium (with $750 million of it paid for by taxpayers) is a good deal for Adelson, it’s likely to be a good one for Goldman Sachs as well. Though it’s important to note that Goldman would only be the financier here — Davis would have to borrow the money and repay it later. Still, if he’d rather make annual loan payments than share revenues and potentially team ownership with Adelson, sure, go for the vampire squid, or at least pursue it as an option so you have some leverage with your prospective partner.

The big question is whether that $750 million is still on the table if Adelson is no longer involved. I’ve looked at all the reports on the legislation and been unable to tell whether the money is contingent on it going to Adelson, or if it’s just free-floating money that can go to anyone looking to build an NFL stadium. It would certainly be ironic if Adelson ended up putting in all this lobbying effort, including buying the local newspaper, only to get shoved unceremoniously aside. Though if you believe the scuttlebutt that Adelson only did this to block hotel tax money from going to a convention center that would compete with his, maybe he won’t care so much, especially after the convention center got its money anyway.

And yes, all this is a dumb way to decide which cities get pro sports franchises. In case you were wondering.

Oakland’s $1.3B stadium plan for Raiders: Get NFL to reject Vegas move, figure out details later

Finally, we have some details — sort of — for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and former-NFL-player-turned-developer Ronnie Lott’s stadium plan to keep the Raiders in Oakland. And it looks like this:

  • $600 million from Lott’s investment group
  • $300 million from Raiders owner Mark Davis
  • $200 million in G-4 funding from the NFL
  • $200 million in “infrastructure” spending by the city of Oakland and Alameda County

That comes to $1.3 billion, and you can certainly build a respectable stadium for that. The unanswered question, though, is: Who would get the revenues from the place? The San Francisco Chronicle report indicates that the public money “would be repaid from revenue generated by the stadium project,” and further that “the city and county would share some percentage of non-football revenues at the stadium,” though that might be targeted for paying off the remaining $95 million in debt on the Oakland Coliseum’s 1990s expansion. And what about football revenues? Would Lott’s group want some of those (probably), or be content with proceeds from building a retail development project around the stadium (probably not, since they’d have to pay for that separately from their $600 million in stadium expenses)? Is there enough money in this whole thing that everyone could possibly be made whole? (I really doubt it, since there not being enough revenues to go around is what made the previous private developer’s plan crash and burn.)

All this isn’t really any more detailed that the rough sketch that had been floating around before Schaaf announced it last week, so it’s not really clear what she had to gain from—

The hope is that the show of support will be enough for the NFL owners to block the team’s move to Nevada and open the door to the locals talking directly with Davis, which he has refused to do as long as the Las Vegas deal is on the table.

Oh, right. So take this less as actual stadium plan, and more as “Hey, NFL owners who may be having second thoughts about this whole ‘put a team in Vegas and hope that tourists buy season tickets thing,’ don’t listen to Davis when he says Oakland doesn’t care about him, we’re giving you an out if you want to vote no!” Given that NFL owner votes are known to be swung by ridiculous things, it’s not the worst gambit, really.

Adelson tells Davis to get his filthy hands off his $750m, could blow up Vegas Raiders deal

Last week, following the Nevada legislature’s vote to approve $750 million in subsidies for a stadium to bring the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, I wrote that “the only people who can save Nevada from this expense now are the other 31 NFL owners.” Which seemed true at the time — but then, I hadn’t considered the possibility of the recipients of the $750 million turning against each other over how to split the loot, but that’s exactly what seems to be happening:

“I negotiated to bring in the Oakland Raiders, an NFL football team from Oakland, because they don’t have a stadium there, that I would build a stadium and rent it out to the Oakland Raiders,” Adelson said on Wednesday during a travel technology conference in Tel Aviv.

Adelson, who succeeded this month in getting legislation passed to enable the construction of the stadium, said his problems now involve negotiations with the Raiders.

“They want so much,” he said. “So I told my people, ‘Tell them I could live with the deal, I could live without the deal. Here’s the way it’s gonna go down. If they don’t want it, bye-bye,'” he said.

What the hell, man! I understand that lease talks can be difficult — especially when you’re deciding how to split a ten-digit stadium construction cost, plus the revenues that would help pay it off — but seriously, you didn’t think to work any of this out before asking the legislature for $750 million? The Adelson-Davis partnership always seemed like a marriage of convenience — Adelson wanted to grab any available state hotel-tax cash before it was spent on a convention center expansion, while Davis wanted a city that would offer him lots of stadium money like Oakland was refusing to do — but you’d think they’d at least have talked about the terms of a prenup.

Whether Adelson is genuinely ready to blow up the whole deal or is just trying to shake Davis down for a bigger cut of stadium revenues is unknown. (And it could be both, really.) But this is not the kind of development that is going to make those other 31 NFL owners say, “Hey, Las Vegas, welcome to the club!” There are clearly more twists and turns to come, but a Las Vegas Raiders franchise suddenly seems a lot less likely than it did yesterday morning.

Mark Davis: Oakland doesn’t love me, I’m gonna go eat $750m in worms

When you’re a sports team owner trying to get your fellow owners to okay your move to a new city that’s waving a $750 million check in your face, it’s not so bad a strategy to try to burn your bridges with your old city, just in case. And Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis is clearly a man who knows his way around a can of lighter fluid:

“Oakland was in the driver’s seat if they could’ve put together anything,” Davis said Wednesday at the NFL’s fall meetings, after updating his fellow owners on his desire to relocate to the gambling capital. “They came up with nothing.

“Las Vegas has already done what it is supposed to do and we have to bring it up to the National Football League and get permission to move to Las Vegas.”

Yeah, screw you, Oakland! You didn’t offer Mark Davis a $750 million check, instead only saying you’d pay for maybe $200 million worth of infrastructure! Who wants a measly $200 million, amirite, guys?

(For her part, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf issued a statement following Davis’s press conference: “If Oakland is going to be successful in offering the Raiders and the NFL a viable alternative to moving to Las Vegas, I have to stay clearheaded. I cannot afford for us to be thrown off our game because Nevada lawmakers have deemed it appropriate to put $750M in public money towards a private sports facility. While I’m committed to keeping the Raiders, I will not enter into a bidding war with Nevada using public funds.”)

Anyhoo, no NFL owners tipped their hand following the meeting on how they plan to vote — Houston Texans owner Robert McNair said, “These things are still so fluid until they nail everything down we don’t know what we’re looking at. We’ll wait until we have a full package,” which is a really long way of saying “Reply cloudy, ask again later” — so we may well be waiting a few months while everyone hashes out their positions here. (Plus what everyone can agree on as a relocation fee.) Davis has said he plans to have the Raiders play in Oakland the next two seasons anyway, which is going to go oh so well after he just announced he’s moving the team and gave the middle finger to his old city. How is Sports Twitter responding to this?

Wait, what? Mark Davis made his presentation to his fellow owners in a long-sleeved white t-shirt? Maybe how he’s perceived by Oakland fans isn’t this guy’s biggest worry.