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State Assembly Candidate writes open letter to Henry Samueli

May 30, 2014

State Assembly Candidate writes open letter to Henry SamueliIn light of $2 Billion winning Clipper bid, State Assembly candidate Karina Onofre asks Orange County resident Henry Samueli to consider partnership with Steve Ballmer
Irvine, California Wednesday May 30, 2014

Karina Onofre Candidate for State Assembly Wants to Bring the Clippers to Orange County!

Karina Onofre Candidate for State Assembly Wants to Bring the Clippers to Orange County!

74th State Assembly candidate Karina Onofre announced she has written an open letter to OC resident and Ducks owner Henry Samueli. “Orange County is still the right location for the Clippers”, said Onofre. “Members of OC Clippers Task Force have been hard at work. We hope Mr. Samueli, an Orange County resident, respected local business leader and successful professional sports owner, can help with a proposal to bring the Clippers to Orange County”, continued Onofre.

Last week Onofre submitted names of a blue-ribbon committee she created, to move LA Clippers to Orange County.
Members of Orange County Clippers Task Force are: Donald Craig, attorney and President of Orange County NAACP; Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait; Joyce Hall, Orange County Food Bank community philanthropist; Lou Rossetti, Executive Director of Apartment Association of Orange County and former District Director for Congressman John Campbell; Jeff Shanton, Orange County business owner and Lakers fan; Katherine Daigle, community activist and candidate for Irvine Mayor; Jeff Belle, Senior Advisor, Public Policy; S. Deacon Alexander, President of L.A. Black Panther Association and former Green Party candidate for Governor; Max Trueblood, airline analyst and twenty-two year Clippers fan; Mirna Burciaga, community leader, activist and restaurant small business owner; Efrain Nuno, business owner and founding member of ADELSA (Asociacion de Empresarios Latinos de Santa Ana); Edgar Sebastian Vasquez, Telemundo reporter, founder of InterAmericana sports league and small business restaurant owner.

Text of Orange County Clippers Task Force letter to Henry Samueli:
Dear Mr. Samueli,
I want first to congratulate you on another great Anaheim Ducks season, with the best record in the NHL before bowing out in the 2nd round of the playoffs to the Kings; the Ducks are among professional hockey’s best.
I’m a member of Orange County Clippers Task Force, to move Los Angeles Clippers to Orange County. Our leader Karina Onofre is also a candidate for State Assembly 74th District in Orange County. I want to reach out to you, so together, we may join a broad cross-section of OC community leaders, elected officials, business owners and Clippers fans to present a boni-fide proposal, to bring the Clippers to Orange County, and to Anaheim, the most likely location.
I note yesterday’s news of a $2 billion winning offer for the Clippers by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. I hope your valuable franchise location and extensive sports management experience will help you to pursue a partnership position with a new Orange County Clippers organization.
I took great interest in your enterprise and initiative to bring Sacramento Kings to Anaheim in 2011. Your willingness to assist the Maloof organization with a loan demonstrates how much you would sacrifice to bring an NBA franchise to Anaheim. Had Sacramento’s civic officials not shown such great leadership, we’d most assuredly have watched the Anaheim Royals prepare for the 2014 NBA draft.
That said, I want to present a brief summary of the Clippers in Orange County, to flesh out pertinent details which pertain to the team’s future relocation to Anaheim.
When Honda Center was built and the Ducks were acquired by Disney as an NHL expansion team, there was lots of hope about the Clippers as a star attraction to this new venue. Regrettably, Donald Sterling had little interest to sell, but “The Anaheim Pond” officials still offered room to the Clippers as a tenant. Sterling refused their offer, as he wanted to mingle with Hollywood glitterati, but was willing to call the OC a “home away from home”, and agreed to play 6 games a year in Anaheim.
During ’95-’96 season. The Clippers sold out all games in Anaheim, while their crowds were sparse in LA. The NBA was so impressed with these turnouts, a possibility to relocate to Anaheim became lead topic for Board of Governors annual meeting. Pond officials set-up a champagne-on-ice meeting with Sterling to sign all necessary documents. Legend has it, before getting started, Sterling mentioned he needed to use the men’s room, and would be “right back”. He never returned from his restroom visit, and the Clippers continued to play in LA with abysmally low attendance.
In 1999, the Lakers and Kings each signed 25 year leases to play in Staples Center. Surprisingly, the NBA allowed the Clippers to join them when AEG was willing to sign only a 6 year deal. Disparity between “real” teams and Sterling’s forlorn franchise clearly showed where the Clippers stood in LA’s sports pecking order.
In 2004, with a year left on their lease, negotiations hit a snag; AEG Chairman Tim Leiweke said Staples Center might be better off with five concerts instead of hosting the Clippers for an entire season, due to a lease he considered too favorable to the Clippers. Southern California media buzzed with the inextinguishable hope the Clippers might finally move to Anaheim. As it turned out, the squabble was simply a negotiating ploy for the Clippers to sign a new Staples lease.
This brings us to the present. As OC Clippers Task Force enthusiasts, committed to bring the Clippers to Anaheim, we present the following hurdles which must be addressed:
THE LEASE The Clippers’ Staples Center lease has nine years remaining on it. Previous Clippers lease saw the team pay only $1.5 million annually in rent. Assuming similar current lease rates, a lease buyout at Staples Center isn’t out of the question. As a bottom-line business, if AEG is offered a buyout which makes financial sense, Staples Center may be better off with the Clippers as ex-tenants.
LAKERS TV CONTRACT During Kings-to-Anaheim relocation campaign, a high-ranking Lakers official mentioned their TV royalty payment contract with Time Warner Cable could be reduced by 10% if another LA team were to relocate to Orange County. This might have to be factored into a financial strategy, if a similar relocation-penalty applied to the Clippers.
That said, with Clippers as the 3rd rank LA team, it would make sense that TWC would reduce the 10% amount, as less viewers would obviously mean less lost advertising revenue. If the Clippers were to relocate to Anaheim, TWC and the area wouldn’t lose a team, but rather move from one local venue to another. A Laker-TWC penalty might not affect the Clippers in the event of an OC move.
As you’ve successfully negotiated network deals for the Ducks, what do you know about the Laker deal? Is it possible a Kings-to-Anaheim scenario applied only to the 2nd team in the region, and not to a Clipper relocation?
PRACTICE FACILITY Donald Sterling built a $50 million Playa Vista practice facility seven years ago. This facility has become a barrier to any hopes he himself would entertain the possibility to come to Anaheim. The practice facility plays a big factor in any negotiations to sell the team.
It’s rumored this practice facility won’t come with the team purchase. Rather, Sterling may lease it to anyone else willing, including the new Clippers organization, to pay whatever high rate he charges.
During Kings-Honda Center negotiations, City of Anaheim was reputed to offer a new practice facility, if the team relocated to Anaheim. It’s possible a similar deal could be structured to attract the Clippers. Certainly positive negotiations to include this deal point, in addition for City of Anaheim to upgrade Honda Center to NBA standards, might also bring a more reasonable Donald Sterling to the negotiating table, to offer market-rate lease rates for his practice facility.
WHAT DEAL MAKES THE MOST SENSE FOR YOU? It is important to build a relocation proposal which works for you, for City of Anaheim, and obviously for the current Clippers owners. What financial package, either in conjunction with a syndicate or by yourself, would you want to offer?
With your Ducks franchise, a controlling stake in Honda Center and possible ownership of the Clippers, is it possible that a new owner syndicate would be willing to share all three entities–the Ducks, Honda Center, and the Clippers? It’s been suggested on several occasions your affinity for the game of basketball exceeds your love for hockey, and that you even play basketball on a regular basis. Would a tradeoff, as you could own a portion of the Clippers in return for another new owner to own a piece of the Honda Center and/or a share in the Ducks, be a workable bidding plan for you?
SUMMARY As you know from your long-time residency, the Clippers will find a new home in Orange County where they can play–and win!–in an atmosphere of dignity and racial harmony. Anaheim’s new ARTIC hub across from Honda Center will offer increased LA-Anaheim rapid transit. Currently, the Angels have a $7 roundtrip “Angels Express” Metrolink deal for LA fans. A similar Orange County Clippers transit incentive could be easily fashioned.
I don’t see LA going to the mat to keep the Clippers in town. LA will always be a Laker town. The only reason why the Clippers still exist in LA is due to Donald Sterling’s intransigence to move; with a change in the offing, I hope you see huge opportunities to empower the Clippers to move to Orange County.
The NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball have a total of 90 teams. Lakers and Clippers are the only NBA teams which share facilities; including the NFL, only the Jets and Giants share, and even the Jets made the effort to secure their own facility but lost out when NYC lost an Olympic bid.
Rather than paint an OC Clippers move as LA’s loss, it should be promoted as a popular cross-town regional rivalry, which has always been great for all professional sports teams. NYC has the subway series (Mets vs. Yankees) plus the battle of the boroughs (Nets & Knicks). Chicago has the north side/south side (Cubs vs. Sox); Bay Area has the Bay Bridge series (Giants vs. A’s). And of course, the Southland has dual freeway series here (Angels vs. Dodgers, Kings vs. Ducks)!
Sports writers and fans alike talk about how often the Clippers games sell out now, but I must remind them of over two decades of low attendance. For the Clippers, Staples Center has never had a home court feel to it. Clipper fans still have to get off at Chick Hearne station if they take the train to the game. They have to cross Chick Hearne Court to the arena; when they do, they walk past statues of Kareem, Magic, Jerry West, and…you guessed it…Chick Hearne. I say we turn the tables in Anaheim. Right in front of Honda Center, in addition to a statue to Ducks all-star Teemu Selanne, let’s memorialize the long-time voice of the Clippers, Ralph Lawler, when he retires!
NOW is the time to act. As crucial as your active participation is to this transaction, one person can’t do it alone. As the voice of OC, Orange County Clippers Task Force stands ready to help in any way we can. While a LA resident, my heart belongs in Orange County, where I graduated from college, and have faithfully supported the Angels and the Ducks for the last two decades, along with the Clippers.
Funds must be committed, packages need to be delivered, meetings set up, deals negotiated and papers signed! Let’s get to work!
Thank you for taking the time to consider our proposal. Let’s hope at the end of the day, we can all come to a great solution for all involved, so the Clippers can rightfully call Orange County their new home. -Max Trueblood, member of Karina Onofre’s Orange County Clippers Task Force
Karina Onofre (714) 360-2011

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