Sure, James L. Dolan might think that owning the New York Knicks is a “living hell.” But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to stop doing it.
Crain’s New York reported in late June that Dolan — the long-time, largely reviled owner of the NBA’s Knicks and the NHL’s New York Rangers, as well as the executive chairman of the Madison Square Garden Company — was “exploring a spin-off that would separate the Knicks and the Rangers from the rest of Madison Square Garden.” Moving the two teams into a new, different company would, according to Aaron Elstein of Crain’s, “offer [Dolan] the chance to whittle down his stake easily if he chooses.”
That option, the thinking went, might seem appealing to the 63-year-old Dolan, who has in recent years spent an increasing amount of time and attention on JD & The Straight Shot, the bluesy roots-rock band that he started as a goof to entertain employees at a company function but has since turned into a going concern with a half-dozen studio albums and a slew of touring slots opening for arena-filling acts like The Eagles, The Allman Brothers Band, The Dixie Chicks, Jewel and Keith Urban. (That Dolan owns many of those arenas, or frequently does business with the people who do, seems notable.) As such, the Crain’s report sparked some hope among long-suffering Knicks fans that Dolan might really consider stepping away from the team after a two-decade stewardship that has included twice as many head coaches (12) as playoff appearances (six), only one postseason series win, the worst season in franchise history and more weird moments of stunning dysfunction and controversy than you can shake a fedora at.
Well, bad news, rap dudes. Jimmy D. doused any lingering embers during a Thursday appearance on New York Fox affiliate WNYW-TV’s “Good Day New York” morning show — which was primarily a JD & The Straight Shot performance, natch — saying that rumors he’d be interested in selling either the Knicks or the Rangers are untrue:
“No, we’re not going to sell,” said Dolan […]
When asked where the rumors started, Dolan simply replied, “Not from me.”
This is, of course, pretty staggeringly unsurprising.
After all, despite being a league-wide laughingstock for virtually the entirety of Dolan’s tenure at the wheel, the Knicks continue to print money. In Forbes’ latest round of valuations, the Knicks were valued at an estimated $3.6 billion, tops in the NBA and No. 7 among all professional sporting franchises in the world. Die-hard fans and casual observers alike pack the Garden regardless of whether the Knicks are any good, and the recent $1 billion renovation of the World’s Most Famous Arena has helped goose revenues even further; Forbes reports that the price to rent a luxury suite at the Garden “can run more than $1 million annually.”
Factor in the sweetheart deal that saves Dolan and company roughly $40 million per year in property taxes on MSG, and the “cash cow” MSG Networks — which holds the local broadcast rights to the hometown teams’ NBA and NHL games, and thus “has pricing power to charge Rangers and Knicks fans rising programming costs and is immune to the Netflix threat” — and Dolan’s sitting on an absolute goldmine, one that continues to fill his coffers year after year after year. If you can reap the benefits of that kind of asset regardless of how it performs, and you still get to Gulfstream around the world to play “Guitar Hero” with Don Henley or whatever any time you want, then why would you sell?
Dolan’s long since proven willing to deal with the “living hell” of Knicks fans describing his reign as an embarrassing post-apocalyptic wasteland of basketball mismanagement, so long as he gets paid and gets to play. Barring a drastic, Wilponian change in his net worth, it’s difficult to see any of that changing any time soon.
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