Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has called a 4 p.m. "informal meeting" with the media at which he is expected to announce subtle but important changes to the way the Dolphins do business with their fans and media, according to a source close to Ross.
Ross, who has been searching for investors to become minority owners in the team, may unveil some of the names of the people involved on that front.
The source said Thursday afternoon that Ross has been speaking to several people in the entertainment industry. Singer Jimmy Buffett, a Key West resident, and Miami Sound Machine founder Emilio Estefan are among the entertainment people Ross has discussed including in his ownership group.
It is not known if Ross has signed letters of intent or has closed the sale of minority portions of the team with Buffett or Estefan.
Ross is expected to confirm he is getting advice from former U.S. Open chief and former United States Tennis Association CEO Arlen Kantarian. Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue also has advised Ross but not in any official capacity.
Kantarian, who serves on the board of directors at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, is said to be advising Ross on how to reach out to a broader range of fans on game days. Kantarian has been advising Ross to reach out to the "new media" and to turn the game day experience into one that entices more than hardcore Dolphins fans.
Kantarian, who was responsible for similar initiatives while running the U.S. Open, has advised Ross to expand the Dolphins fan reach to non-football fans and people visiting South Florida as well as living in the community. During Kantarian's tenure, the U.S. Open became the largest annually attended sporting event in the United States.
CBS News and Sports president Sean McManus told the New York Times that Kantarian has a "real promotional flair and flamboyance in presenting an event. The U.S. Open was always a big sporting event in New York, but now it's an 'in' entertainment and sports event."
Ross is said to want to take a similar step with Dolphins football games. He is expected to speak about that at the media gathering.
Ross will not touch the football operations side of the Dolphins. He understands football czar Bill Parcells does not need nor want the way the football side does business to be changed in any way.
But the new owner, who made his fortune as a commercial real estate developer, is expected to make the Dolphins game day experience and business side seem "glitzier," according to a source at HK Management, which represents Buffett.
The Dolphins are expected to become more celebrity friendly and more celebrities are expected to be invited to every home game. In that regard, Ross has enlisted the help of Bernie Yuman, who founded Say Entertainment Inc. (aka Bernie Yuman Management) in Henderson, Nev.
Yuman is best known for serving as the agent for the animal act Siegfried and Roy. He is also the manager for former boxer Muhammad Ali. Yuman (seen with Ross at a Dolphins home game last season) directed calls to his office back to the Dolphins public relations department, a clear indication he is connected to the team.
The Dolphins will soon unveil their marketing strategy for 2009, meant to push ticket sales and create buzz about the team. That could also happen as early as today.
Ross said in his last media availability that he is not raising ticket prices this coming season.