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.

NFL meets to discuss Raiders, Chargers moves, doesn’t decide squat because why rush into things?

The NFL’s stadium and finance committees met yesterday as promised, and while nothing really was decided about either the Oakland Raiders‘ possible move to Las Vegas or the San Diego Chargers‘ possible move to Los Angeles, we have some hints of where things are headed. And as befits a league run by a bunch of rich guy who decide things by arguing about who has the biggest balls, the outcome looks to combine one helping of naked avarice with two of farcical train wreck.

Yesterday’s joint meeting was apparently mostly focused on the Raiders, with league VP Eric Grubman later telling the L.A. Daily News’s Vincent Bonsignore that team owner Mark Davis has made “impressive” progress on a stadium deal there. Which, yeah, we noticed, but has the NFL made any progress on deciding whether to approve the move?

Okay. Has Davis at least made up his mind about whether to take Vegas’s $750 million subsidy offer and go in with billionaire Sheldon Adelson on a stadium there?

Okay! So no news at all, really, other than “check back later.”

There are still two big unknowns in the Raiders-to-Vegas potential move: First off, the NFL needs to decide on what relocation fee Davis would be charged, which the league still hasn’t discussed, though they have hired the same consulting firm that picked $550 million out of a hat for the Rams‘ move to L.A. to figure it out. And second, Davis has to hash out a deal with Adelson on how to split revenues and costs, which they apparently still haven’t been able to put their heads together on. Adelson no doubt thinks he has Davis over a barrel since he has few other options for getting ahold of $750 million in public stadium cash, which is probably why the NFL deployed Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II to say this yesterday:

“I think the Raiders are looking at this potentially going without Mr. Adelson,’’ Rooney, chairman of the league’s stadium committee and one of the NFL’s most influential owners, told reporters in New York after league meetings on relocation and stadium issues.

Davis told the Review-Journal, “I have nothing to say right now.”

That sort of could make sense, maybe: If a Vegas stadium is viable for Adelson, then it’d be viable for some other developer as well, and Davis is the one with the rare commodity in an NFL team. Or he (or Rooney) could just be trying to drive a hard bargain with Adelson to get more money flowing into team/league coffers. Davis has until February 15 to decide on whether to file for relocation, and the NFL could always decide to extend that deadline if they want, so that leaves plenty of time for haggling.

On the Chargers front, meanwhile, the reason for the stasis is way more hilarious: It looks like team owner Dean Spanos doesn’t really want to move to L.A., and the other NFL owners don’t really want him to move to L.A., but the two sides are engaged in a massive game of chicken to decide whether the league will pay him to stay put. Per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora and his patented unnamed sources (though other outlets are reporting similar things):

There are some grave concerns among owners and the league office about the potential of having two teams in Los Angeles — the Chargers can exercise an option to move to L.A. next week, and sources said at this point they have no reason not to — and any subsidy offered to Chargers owner Dean Spanos would be born of those economic fears more than anything else…

The Rams have had a rough first season in Los Angeles and are already engaged in a coaching search, and the ratings in that market were not what some might have hoped for, as well. … Spanos has resisted leaving in the past and has his own concerns about the deal brokered with the Rams, one that would essentially make the Chargers a tenant to Rams owner Stan Kroenke at the stadium in construction scheduled to open in 2019, and there is sense among other owners that even a weak deal to stay in San Diego could carry the day.

There’s a lot to unpack there, but basically, if we believe La Canfora or whoever’s feeding him this stuff, Spanos doesn’t really like the deal being offered by Kroenke to move to L.A., but is trying to use the threat of taking it to extract some cash from the league to help him pay for a new stadium in San Diego. And the NFL can’t do much about it, as it already gave Spanos an option to move to L.A. last year when it approved the Rams move, and set the relocation fee to boot, meaning it can’t throw any roadblocks in the way of a Chargers move, just offer Spanos bribes not to go through with it.

Spanos’ option expires on Tuesday, which means something has to give really really soon. (He’s reportedly called a team staff meeting for this morning to discuss an undisclosed matter, which is presumably that he’s set to announce a move.) So, of course, yesterday’s meeting steadfastly avoided talking about the Chargers at all:

Just like the Rams decision did, it looks like this one is going to go down to the wire, and be decided by something stupid like egos or which NFL owners are Facebook friends. Both teams moving is still a likely scenario, but at this point I really wouldn’t rule anything out.

Oakland okays talks about giving Raiders $350m for stadium, pretends it didn’t just do that

The Oakland City Council and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors both approved the term sheet for opening negotiations on a new Raiders stadium yesterday. That’d be the plan that would provide $350 million in public land and cash, with no clear indication how the money would be repaid, and so of course one of the elected officials voting for the plan said this:

“To me, it’s worth taking the next step because we’re not committing taxpayer dollars to do it,” board President Scott Haggerty said.

Some days, I really don’t know why I bother.

The county supervisors voted after a three-hour hearing in “a room sparkling with sports celebrities,” according to ESPN. Among those was prospective stadium investor Rodney Peete, who appeared in one game for the Raiders in 2001 and so of course said this:

“I was lucky enough to play for 16 years. I played for six different teams, and we’ve all played for different teams. But we’re all here, fighting for the Raiders,” said former Raiders quarterback Rodney Peete, who is [Ronnie] Lott’s development partner.

Anyway, Oakland now has its counteroffer (or at least the framework for an idea for a counteroffer) to try to convince Mark Davis not to give Sheldon Adelson what he wants in order to move to Las Vegas, or at least to convince nine NFL owners to block a Vegas move while Oakland talks continue. It’s a bidding war that, like all city-vs.-city bidding wars, is not likely to end well — unless Lott and Peete can figure out how to build a $1.3 billion stadium and somehow generate enough new revenues from it to have themselves, Davis, and Oakland all turn a profit. Hey, hope springs eternal!

Schaaf stadium plan would give Raiders $350m in subsidies, unclear on how to get it back

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s plan for a new Raiders stadium may be a bit on the amorphous side, but that’s not going to stop the Oakland City Council and Alameda County Board of Supervisors from voting on it — or at least a “nonbinding term sheet” to start negotiations toward it — tomorrow. And according to the East Bay Express, that term sheet, if enacted, would put Oakland taxpayers on the hook for $350 million in infrastructure spending and free land:

  • $100 million in private bonds, to be repaid by “new, direct City ‘but for’ taxes generated by the stadium.”
  • $100 million in city Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District bonds, to be repaid by “City ‘but for’ taxes” as a result of “the ancillary mixed-use development.”
  • 105 acres of land on the Coliseum site, plus possibly the 10 acres currently occupied by the Oracle Arena and 15 acres set aside for an A’s ballpark “if no longer needed for the reserved uses.” Schaaf estimates the value of this land — and if you’re wondering which land, the 105 acres or the full 130 acres, that’s an excellent question — at $150 million.

That bit about “but for” is interesting, if only for rhetorical reasons. Taking future tax revenues from a new development project and kicking them back to help pay for the project is traditionally known as “tax increment financing” — but that’s getting a bit of a bad rep, in part because sometimes the new tax money fails to show up and the public is left holding the bag, and in part because it’s really hard to tell when you’re committing tax money that you might have been able to get even without the subsidy.

That latter issue is known as the “but-for” problem, which is why it’s interesting that Schaaf has chosen that very term to describe her proposal. The implication is that this isn’t that bad old TIF stuff, it’s money that totally wouldn’t exist without the stadium project, for reals. Except that it’s still really hard to tell that, especially in Oakland’s case: If a new stadium weren’t built and the Raiders stayed, they’d be generating some tax revenues for the city at the Coliseum, and if the Raiders left and the Coliseum site could be redeveloped in total, there would certainly be tax revenues as a result. Just calling taxes “but for” doesn’t make them so — and the term sheet doesn’t specify how the but-for would be calculated.

All this would hopefully be cleared up at Tuesday’s council and board of supervisors meetings, but given that they’re just voting on a term sheet to set up future negotiations to decide on actual legislation, my fear is that any discussion of specifics will be kicked back to those behind-closed-doors stadium talks. For now, then, all we can say for sure is that Mayor Schaaf is proposing $350 million in public subsidies for a Raiders stadium, and isn’t clear on how taxpayers would get that money back. I’m not sure that’s enough to get her kicked out of the Gang of Four, but one hopes it’ll get her a talking-to from some of her fellow mayors who’ve been holding the line on stadium subsidies, only to see her cave somewhat as soon as the specter of a team leaving town (maybe) reared its head.

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.

Oakland mayor announces that Raiders stadium plan framework concept is mumble mumble something

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced a thing yesterday:

The mayor of Oakland announced that the city has reached a framework agreement with the Ronnie Lott group for a new stadium, with the hopes of keeping the Raiders in Oakland.

“It is exciting that we have reached a conceptual framework agreement with the Lott group,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf.

So what exactly would that be, a “framework agreement” with a developer to build a stadium for a football team that isn’t actually party to the agreement? Schaaf’s office hasn’t actually announced anything — and her press spokesperson didn’t respond to my queries — but NBC Bay Area’s Ray Ratto sums up the state of things as follows:

That stadium is considered by most experts, including Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf, to run in the neighborhood of $1 billion, with the city and county’s contribution limited to infrastructure improvements that are loosely estimated now at around $190 million, to be generated by some new tax or taxes as opposed to access to the general fund.

So: The city and county will put in maybe $190 million for infrastructure, which it will get from somewhere, while the developers will put in $1 billion, which it will earn back by charging the Raiders something. Or maybe getting an equity stake in the team. None of which has been worked out yet with team owner Mark Davis.

Maybe someone on the board of supervisors or city council, who would have to vote on this, can shed some light?

Alameda supervisors discussed the proposed deal behind closed doors Tuesday morning, but Supervisor Scott Haggerty, the president of the board, downplayed Schaaf’s comments that the county was close to voting on Lott’s proposal. Haggerty said the city has not released information supervisors have requested. He would not say what that information was.

Well, then. Maybe Schaaf and Lott have actually agreed on something, but if so, they aren’t saying what it is, and even then, it may not matter unless Davis agrees to have the Raiders play there. She got her name in the paper under “getting things done” headlines, though, so I suppose that’s a short holiday work week well spent if you’re a mayor.

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.

NFL decision expected sometime on Raiders, team to play somewhere in interim

Journalism can be a big game of telephone, especially in the social media age, and that’s what appears to be happening with NBC Sports’ Mike Florio’s report yesterday on the NFL’s voting timetable on an Oakland Raiders move to Las Vegas, in which he wrote:

As one source with knowledge of the inner workings of the process told PFT on Sunday, a decision is expected within the next six to nine months.

Okay, that doesn’t tell us much. Except that since Las Vegas officials were counting on a relocation vote at the league owners’ meetings in January, there is now much freaking out:

Yeah, that’s not actually what Florio said at all. The league owners could delay a vote until mid-2017, or they could vote sooner than that. They could demand a sky-high relocation fee, or they could not. All we know right now is that some NFL guy Mike Florio knows doesn’t know what’s going to happen or when, which puts him in the same boat as the rest of us.

In other news, Raiders owner Mark Davis has said he intends to keep the team in Oakland for two more seasons, but also is reportedly looking at playing temporarily at Sam Boyd Stadium in Vegas, and given that he has options to play at the Coliseum the next two seasons but also can opt out of them, this also tells us absolutely nothing. Except that everyone involved seems to be intent on keeping their options — and leverage — open, all of which is to be expected. Except for that “purple monkey dishwasher” remark.