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News Corp. Emerges as Third Bidder for Dallas Stars

"Heya sonny, I'm buyin' yer team!"
"Heya sonny, I'm buyin' yer team!"

If you thought the ownership situation surrounding the Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers was already complicated, then it's about to get worse.

This entire mess is now more convoluted than even the most confusing David Lynch movie.

As the auction for the Texas Rangers nears (it's to be held on Tuesday, August 3rd), more prospective bidders are coming out of the woodwork as potential buyers. On top of the fan favorite group of Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan -- Jim Crane and Mark Cuban are supposedly gearing up for a bid. As everyone was wringing their hands over the war between Cuban and HSG, news emerged that News Corp. was interested in purchasing the Rangers and could possibly making a bid of their own on Tuesday.

News Corp., for those that don't know, is the corporation that owns Fox Sports -- which includes Fox Sports Southwest. Supposedly the company is looking into bidding for the Rangers because it's worried about losing the local television rights to the Rangers, and possibly the Dallas Stars.

There's speculation that Mark Cuban, whose interest in the Rangers has recently peaked, is looking to start a Dallas media company that could possibly become the local television home of the Mavericks and Rangers -- if he purchases the team. If the Mavericks and the Rangers jump ship from FSN, then there's a good chance the Stars might as well. The money behind these television contracts is insanely important to the Rangers and the Stars, so any speculation as to a change in these future contracts is fairly significant.

Apparently News Corp. is starting to panic a bit.

Mike Heika at the Dallas Morning News confirms this afternoon that News Corp. is now one of three bidders for the Dallas Stars -- joining Bill Gallacher and Tom Gaglardi as prospective buyers for the team. Apparently the going theory is that the reasoning behind attempting to purchase both the Rangers and the Stars is for News Corp. to ensure that they retain local television rights for at least one of the teams.

What's interesting is that the current contract doesn't expire for another four years, so it's not like there's a pressing need now to get these rights squared away as soon as possible. Maury Brown put it best:

The deal with FOX Sports SW doesn’t run out till mid-decade, so as sports consultant Mark Ganis said, "it's a bit like the tail wagging the dog,"

There's always the possibility that if News Corp. does end up owning the Stars, then we'd see a significant increase in local programming for the team. That's a plus. However, if you want me to be honest, I just can't help but feel having Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. owning the team is far from a good thing.

For one, unless Rupert Murdoch himself get's personally involved, we go from having an impersonal and stand-offish owner in Tom Hicks to a completely faceless corporation owning the team. That is the last thing this franchise needs right now, especially considering the public relations disaster this past summer has been between the team and its fans.

The Dallas Stars need an owner who can come in, with a big smile on his (or her) face, and show just how committed they are to hockey and to this team and that they will stop at nothing until the Dallas Stars are back on top in the Western Conference. I'm not saying we need an owner who will just start freewheeling and overspending, but this team desperately needs an owner that is somewhat emotionally invested in the outcome of each game and each season.

The Dallas Stars need an owner who is high-fiving and cheering from the owner's box,  not one that sitting in corporate conference room at the head of a board of governors.

There's also the fear that ownership like News Corp. could continue the restrictive budgets we've seen the past few years. Sure, it will rise a bit but I doubt that -- without the emotional investment -- that News Corp. will be willing to spend and lose money now in order to start winning, to make changes and bank on revenues increasing as the fans return.

One last thing, sort of unrelated.

I know the Stars have pro shops all over the metroplex in their Starcenters, but if they truly want to regain fan support and increase revenue the team needs to explore ways to get more merchandise out among the fans. I went to three Dick's Sporting Goods and two Sporting Authority stores two weeks ago in Dallas, and I was appalled at the lack of Stars gear there was for sale. Of course you had the obligatory Cowboys section, but there was significant amount of Rangers, Mavericks, Texas Tech and Texas Longhorns gear as well. The Stars, if I was lucky, had just one rack.

That's just sad.