Listen, you’re new in town – or at least most of you – so of course we try to give you a little benefit of the doubt, emphasis on little. See, we’ve been burned on this once.
Still, tried to warn you with my ever-so-helpful cheat sheet before your initial news conference, that your No.1 priority was to be forthcoming. Answer questions honestly and in a straight-forward manner.
Which it turns out, you immediately did not. That’s called a bad start. That’s called raising suspicions and making people nervous, which is exactly the opposite of what you need to be doing.
And now you have The Times’ T.J. Simers on high alert and rightly taking a bite out of you Wednesday: “The operative pitch so far has been one of deception.” You four out-of-towners will have to trust me on this one, you really don’t need Simers smelling blood.
But Magic Johnson and Mark Walter stood up there at that introductory news conference and repeatedly said the only income McCourt had in the parking lots was on any possible future development.
Which, of course, was not completely true. Three days later The Times’ Bill Shaikin reported that the team’s new owners would pay $14 million in annual rent for the parking lots to the entity half owned by McCourt.
Now ever since the sale came down it was known McCourt had a half interest in the surrounding property, so all you had to do was be up front about it. Nobody would have liked hearing it, but they were prepared. So he doesn’t actually get anything per car, he is apparently deriving significant annual income from the lease. Just don’t act like he’s not making any money off the deal.
“I regret we left that impression,” said president/co-owner Stan Kasten on Monday.
Hey, you can hope. Now maybe you think like Simers that this isn’t passing the smell test, or like Jon Weisman that it speaks more to simple fallibility.
But what should be clear is, there’s been an early failure to be candid. You can talk all you want about being transparent. McCourt promised that, and maybe you noticed how that turned out. Somebody is giving you bad advice.
Don’t dodge or play semantics with responses. Welcome hard questions that allow you to be plain-spoken. Do not feign at trying to conceal a thing. That’s how you earn the fans’ trust back.
So a few suggestions – see, still trying to help – to open up about:
1) Who owns what? Johnson said he owns about 3%. What about the rest? Fans deserve to know who exactly owns the team, who’s at risk.
2) Spell out the lease agreement. You misjudged the civic loathing toward McCourt and allowed him to stay, so like it or not, you have to answer questions about him.
3) Like what exactly does it mean McCourt has an economic interest in any future development of the parking lots? You build a hotel and he gets half of what? He has to put in half of the development costs? How does he get a return?
4) If a meeting is requested with reporters and editors of The Times with the new owners, make sure they all show up, not only two.
5) Have you talked to the NFL about a potential stadium in the parking lots?
6) If General Manager Ned Colletti and Kasten want to sign some player for $200 million, where does the money come from? Do each of the six owners have to put up a corresponding percentage of their interest in the team toward the contract? Toward stadium improvements?
And remember, benefit of the doubt comes with an early expiration date.