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St. Louis Blues CEO Mike McCarthy is leaving the organization, according to a report from Jeremy Rutherford on Friday afternoon.
#stlblues CEO Mike McCarthy will be leaving the organization.— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) May 25, 2012
No details regarding the circumstances surrounding his departure have been released at this time, though the Blues' new ownership could be a factor in this move.
McCarthy was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Blues, the Scottrade Center and Peabody Opera House.
In other personnel news, assistant coach Scott Mellanby left the Blues on Wednesday. He wants to pursue a position in hockey operations.
The St. Louis Blues are under new ownership, which has made current team president John Davidson's future with the team a bit uncertain. Davidson says he'd like to stay with the organization but also would understand if the new owners wanted to pick their own guy.
Blues Prez John Davidson has a window in his contract that allows him to seek employment elsewhere following the ownership change ... (1/2)— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) May 24, 2012
JD says he'd like to stay in St. Louis but understands ownership has the right to pick who they want to lead. More in tomorrow's P-D (2/2)— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) May 24, 2012
In case you missed the press conference that the St. Louis Blues held today to introduce their new owner, Tom Stillman, the team has a brief synopsis on their website. For now, the most important thing that people are worried about is who exactly makes up the ownership group. It’s far more than just Stillman. It’s a who’s who of St. Louis business owners, all of whom have a vested interest in the city and this team.
•Thomas H. Stillman – Chairman & CEO, Summit Distributing
•Jerald L. Kent – Chairman & CEO, Suddenlink Communications, CEO, Cequel III
•Donn S. Lux – Chairman & CEO, Luxco
•James A. Cooper – Managing Partner, Thompson Street Capital Partners
•Jo Ann Taylor Kindle – President, Enterprise Holdings Foundation
•W. Stephen Maritz – Chairman & CEO, Maritz Inc.
•Edward M. Potter – Private investor
•Mr. & Mrs. Andrew C. Taylor – Mr. Taylor is Chairman & CEO of Enterprise Holdings, Inc.
•David L. Steward – Chairman, World Wide Technology, Inc.
•James P. Kavanaugh – CEO, World Wide Technology, Inc.
•John C. Danforth – Partner, Bryan Cave LLP, Former U.S. Senator, Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
•Christopher B. Danforth – Owner & CMO, Kennelwood Pet Resorts
•James L. Johnson – Senior Vice President, Stifel Nicolaus & Co.
•Scott B. McCuaig – Former President, Stifel Nicolaus & Co.
•John S. Ross, Jr. – President, Summit Development Group
•Thomas F. Schlafly – Partner, Thompson Coburn, Founder, The Saint Louis Brewery
Here's the full video of the press conference:
The St. Louis Blues will be holding an official press conference at 11:00 AM to introduce Tom Stillman and the other members of the ownership group that just purchased the Blues, Peoria Rivermen, part ownership of the Peabody Opera House, and the Scottrade Center lease. According to the press release, Gary Bettman will be in attendance, which might mark the first time in heaven knows how long he’s set foot in St. Louis.
Just when we thought we were in the clear.
The press conference will be aired on FoxSports Midwest as well as KMOX 1120. Presumably it will also be streamed live on the Blues site too.
Blues captain David Backes is excited for the new ownership. In a statement to the Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford, Backes had this to say:
“A guy that’s passionate, from the St. Louis area … he’s around the rink as much as the players are, he’s on road trips … what more could you want?”
It’s finally official — the Blues have a new ownership group made up of Tom Stillman and four other local investors. All of them are St. Lousians, which should add to the “caring” that’s going on. Hometown owners owning a hometown team? That’s a fan’s pipe dream come true.
The League announced today that the Board of Governors voted unanimously to approve the sale to Stillman’s group. The sale price was expected to be between $120-$130 million, and includes the Peoria Rivermen, a part of the Peabody Opera House, and the Scottrade Center lease.
A press conference is scheduled for tomorrow to introduce the new owners to the press and to the fans. Heads up — it might involve Commish Gary Bettman. Plan accordingly.
In a bit of an early leak for what is supposed to be today’s big announcement, a report has surfaced that the Board of Governors has approved the sale of the St. Louis Blues to Tom Stillman and his group. Jeremy Rutherford tweeted the news last night ahead of the official announcement that’s expected for later on today.
Also, the official press conference regarding the sale will be scheduled for Thursday, May 10th. Hopefully Brett Hull will be on hand for some entertainment. Seeing as how it’s a media event, he probably will be.
According to Forbes.com, the Blues’ sale to Tom Stillman might be one of the hockey steals of the decade. For the Blues, the Peoria Rivermen, the lease to the Scottrade Center and part ownership of the Peabody Opera House, Stillman and his group will only be paying the low, low price of $120 million. That’s slightly down from the previously thought number of $130 million, and significantly less than the $190 million expected for the package last September.
Honestly, as the sale has gone on, the asking price has gotten lower and lower. Maybe Stillman’s early low-ball offers were on to something. Regardless of the purchase price, Blues fans are looking forward to a new era of ownership who is looking to build on this season’s success.
According to a report from the Post-Dispatch, a group is set to close on its purchase of the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday. That group is led by current minority owner Tom Stillman. Brett Hull may end up with a management position under the new owners.
A group led by Blues' minority owner Tom Stillman is expected to close on its purchase of the club Wednesday, sources have told the Post-Dispatch.
Hall of Famer Brett Hull is expected to be named to a management position under the new ownership. No other changes within the management staff are known at this time.
In welcome news, the Blues’ ownership question mark is about to be resolved. David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail is reporting that prospective owner Tom Stillman has his paperwork in order and ducks in a row, and is just waiting for the right time to make a purchase announcement. if the Blues keep playing like they are now, it could be as soon as next week.
Stillman has been actively perusing ownership of the Blues (along with the Peoria Rivermen, Peabody Opera House, and the lease on the Scottrade Center) since early January, when Matthew Hulsizer’s deal to purchase the team fell through. Shoalts mentions that this is perfect timing for the sale, considering that the financial situation under current owner Dave Checketts necessitates the NHL to pay the team’s bills, probably, as Shoalts speculates, via advances on the team’s share of league revenues.
NHL Deputy Commissioner promptly denied all of this, which is apparently his job considering how much he denied that the Atlanta Thrashers were going to be sold to True North Sports and Entertainment. If Daly denies it, it’s probably true.
At this weekend’s All-Star Game festivities in Ottawa, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman took some time from his State of the League Address to answer questions about matters around the league. After spending some time discussing a mystery third prospective buyer for the Phoenix Coyotes, Bettman moved on to another team for sale: the St. Louis Blues. In this case, the news was far less nebulous and far more optimistic.
The Blues are in the process of being sold to minority owner Tom Stillman and a group of investors who may or may not include former Blues great Brett Hull. The total purchase price is a very affordable $130 million (or thereabouts) for the Blues, their AHL Affiliate Peoria Rivermen, the lease on the Scottrade Center, and a large share of the newly renovated Peabody Opera House.
Bettman seemed very positive that something would be finished up in a timely manner in the next few months. As Sean Gentile of The Sporting News reports, Bettman had this to say on the team:
“Fans of the Blues have reason to be comfortable and excited about the future of the club,”
Finally, hopefully, Gary Bettman was speaking on the positive future of a franchise and not offering up platitudes.
Word has been going around the past couple days about Blues’ minority owner Tom Stillman making great strides towards getting majority ownership with his group of investors. Yesterday a spokesman for the group said that they were “reaching the finish line,” and it appears that line is within site.
Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweeted this earlier today in regards to the sale:
A group led by Blues minority owner Tom Stillman has signed a purchase agreement to buy the club, a source has told the Post-Dispatch.
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) January 20, 2012
Much like the situation with Matthew Hulsizer, a purchase agreement is not the same as a purchase, and it has to go through NHL and Board of Governors approval before finalization.
Since Matthew Hulsizer’s out on the “hey, I want to buy the Blues/whatever hockey team’s available” front, the Blues’ minority owner Tom Stillman now has an exclusive crack at buying the team. Per the St. Louis Business Journal, that negotiating period has begun, and Stillman has gathered a fairly good group of investors around him to make it happen.
The Journal’s article focuses on local sports medicine guru Dr. Richard Lehman. Lehman is a member of the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame, and is also part owner of the St. Louis Aces tennis team and the Florida Panthers. That last part’s important on two levels. One: Lehman actually has a decent relationship with the league (read: hasn’t done anything to lead them on/anger them) and two: you can’t be a part owner of two teams at once.
Lehman’d have to sell his stake in the Panthers to get his stake in the Blues, which is a decision that’d make sense from a location standpoint as well as consistency in team success – in theory. The Panthers and Blues are both on playoff runs right now, but the stability for the future as far as the team’s on-ice winning could be a concern. Home grown talent vs. a team cobbled together of free agents (well-cobbled, mind you) could be a draw for the good doctor.
Lehman could not comment to the Business Journal regarding the process, though he did offer this up:
Factor in one Brett Hull, and you have a dream team of guys waiting to purchase the team, at least to the fan base.
“We’ve been asked by the league to not say anything to the media regarding the specifics, but I can confirm that I’m part of this amazing group of local investors and that we look forward to getting a deal done.”
Apologies for the double up - this was supposed to go into this stream a few days ago and never did.
Memo to Matthew Hulsizer and Dave Checketts: when your bosses give you a deadline, pay attention to it. When you don't, as in the fact that Hulsizer and Checketts couldn't reach an actual agreement for purchase of the Blues, such tentative agreements get terminated. Not by Ahnold, of course, but by someone more terrifying: Gary Bettman.
As per Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the NHL, since the purchase agreement signed way back in October between Hulsizer and Checketts was not wrapped up in a way that was suitable to the league, was canceled. The financing of the thing was the rub. Hulsizer tried to restructure the loans and financing, but the league didn't like what they saw.
Not sure if Hulsizer's bid is still on the table or not, but the NHL probably won't be giving him much more time or much more of their patience. Enough of that was given to him last season when he was trying to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes, and then never did.
True Hockey's Andy Strickland is reporting that Matt Hulsizer signed a purchase agreement to buy the St. Louis Blues on Friday:
Multiple sources confirm Chicago Businessman Matt Hulsizer today officially signed a purchase agreement to buy the St. Louis Blues. The rumor of a signed purchase agreement has been ongoing but I'm told the documents were finally signed today.
Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has received confirmation of this report from his own sources, so it appears Hulsizer has gotten one step closer to owning a majority stake in the Blues. Rutherford calls league approval of the deal "a formality," noting that Hulsizer had been unanimously approved to buy the Phoenix Coyotes before that particular deal fell through last year.
After some discounting of aforementioned verbal agreements by various and sundry parties, it seems like there was something to the story after all. Matthew Hulsizer, late of the Phoenix Coyotes fiasco, apparently could sign a deal to purchase the St. Louis Blues some time today.
Dave Checketts has been under some pressure to sell the team fairly quickly, what with a $120 million Citigroup loan hanging over his head that has come due. This will not be an outright purchase of the Blues, but rather Hulsizer will fork up the cash to become majority owner, thereby covering at least that loan.
The Board of Governors already approved Hulsizer for the Coyotes sale before the City of Glendale and the Goldwater Group got into their spat over funding, so chances are good he’d be approved at the next BOG meeting in December to become the majority owner of the Blues.
The first game of the season deadline that Dave Checketts and the Blues set for the sale of the team a few months back seems to be do-able, if reports of a verbal agreement between him and Matthew Hulsizer are correct. According to Jeremy Rutherford, Checketts will be selling a majority stake of the team to the man who was formerly connected to the purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes.
It is of note that this deal is not legally binding and it won’t be until both sides complete a formal sale and the deal is approved by the NHL Board of Governors. The Board already approved one sale this year unanimously: that of the Atlanta Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment. If you’ve missed it somehow, the Thrashers are now the new Winnipeg Jets. Rest assured, however, that the Blues will not be moving to Saskatoon any time soon.
This situation could be a continuation of the familiar for Blues fans, as Hulsizer could be just purchasing a majority share in the tam, with Checketts to remain on-board. Considering the fact that Hulsizer has never expressed interest in purchasing an NHL team at full market value, that senario would not be unthinkable.
Perhaps Dave Checketts had a good reason for declining the bid of Calgary businessman Max Chambers and his group. According to some research done by the Toronto Globe and Mail, there’s actually very little to be known about this investor – and as we learned with the Atlanta Thrashers saga, unknown entities need not apply.
From the article:
The trouble is, next to no information on either of Chambers’s alleged companies can be found. There were no telephone numbers or addresses available nor was Chambers listed in the telephone directory.
Someone whose business involves checking out potential buyers of professional sports teams said he asked several people in Calgary, including some bankers, about Chambers. No one had ever heard of him.
Oh, well that doesn’t bode well. The article gets deeper, mentioning that Chambers has also tried to buy a CFL expansion team, along with the WHA 2 league’s Jacksonville Barracudas and the Orlando Seals. The sale fell through because Chambers didn’t pay the $100,000 deposit on the teams. It sounds like fans who were upset at Checketts for not taking the offer that Chambers’ group made jumped the gun a bit. Unless he walked into the office with a suitcase full of bills, I’d be hesitant in accepting an offer from him too.
I suppose a better phrase’d be “former prospective buyer,” because after stating to the public – even secretly – that their offer’s been turned down, I doubt that Dave Checketts and Co. will feel like working with them anymore.
The Blues are apparently heck-bound to sell the Blues, Peoria Rivermen, and the lease agreement on the Scottrade Center for $190 million, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. With ten initial prospective buyers submitting bids, the denial of one twenty million dollars below the asking price doesn’t seem shocking. Max Chambers, the Calgary businessman who sent in the bid, was surprised that Checketts didn’t accept it.
In this economy, many low bidders are expecting an automatic acceptance of low bids because no one’ll bid any higher. Sure, that’s a possibility, but it also is a possibility that a slightly higher bid could come in. It’s difficult to pass judgement on a situation without being able to compare Chambers’ bid to the others submitted, but if others were higher, then it makes sense that Checketts’d decline this one.
The offer is still on the table for now from the group that boasts former NHLer Bryan Trottier as the front guy. Chambers is giving the offer ten more days before a resolution’s reached or else he is planning on withdrawing the bid.
Consider this out of left field: according to reports, there's a new interested owner in town. Max Chambers, who is a Calgary businessman who once flirted with purchasing the Phoenix Coyotes, has an investment group put together to explore a purchase of the St. Louis Blues. Who's the frontman for the group? Former NHL star Brian Trottier. Trots played for 15 years for the New York Islanders, winning four Stanley Cups before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins to win two more before retiring in 1994. Trottier also inexplicably coached the Rangers for less than a season before being fired 54 games in for generally being the perfect example of talent on the ice not translating into talent behind the bench (see: Gretzky, Wayne).
Chambers apparently has financing in place that would help him get a sale done ASAP if necessary. The franchise's asking price - which includes the Peoria Rivermen and the lease terms for the Scottrade Center - is around $180 million.
This should concern Blues fans, however - who had an experience with the Lauries in what happens when people interested in one sport settle for hockey:
Little is known about Chambers, an oil man, other than his brief flirtation with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2009.
An article in the Toronto Globe & Mail listed Chambers among the groups "kicking the tires" with the Coyotes, who have since been taken over by the NHL.
In the article, Earl Scudder, a lawyer for former Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes, indicated that Chambers was "more interested in buying an NFL team."
Hopefully he's changed his mind since then and is 100% in it to buy a hockey team - or else Trottier's part of his group to make that facade more real.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, minority owner Tom Stillman's quest to become majority owner might have hit a snag over the price point. Tom Stillman originally put in an offer for the team in April that was only $110 million. He bid again, possibly at that same amount. Checketts and SCP Worldwide believe that the Blues have a value of around $180 million, and other sources place the value of the team, the Peoria Rivermen, and the lease to the Scottrade Center at around $200 million. If Stillman attempts to shortchange the owners value, his chances for purchasing the team might be closer to nil.
This attempt to lowball might be part of the reason that Matthew Hulsizer hasn't submitted a second bid. Despite this, both gentlemen are considered in the gameplan. If no one submitted a bid today that's satisfactory, it's expected that the current owners will entertain other offers until one is found that they approve of. The price will probably be influenced by the purchase price of the Dallas Stars - parties interested in that team have been rumored to have expressed interest in the Blues.
Due to confidentiality agreements, SCP Worldwide and Dave Checketts can't specifically say which interested parties submitted official bids for the St. Louis Blues, Peoria Rivermen, and the Scottrade Center lease. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has confirmed though that minority owner Tom Stillman, who is heading a local group of investors, was one of those who submitted a bid. Stillman is the owner and CEO of Summit Distributing, a local beer distributorship.
According to most Blues fans, that makes Stillman the desirable guy to sell the team to. I'm sensing that they hope for an overlap between Stillman's two interests. Sadly, I do think that the return of Nickle Beer Night'll be a pipe dream.
It's not known if Matthew Hulsizer was one of those who submitted a bid, but Jeremy Rutherford mentions that one group requested to forgo the bid process and just make an offer. It's assumed that's Hulsizer's group. He might be waiting for a bargain - he refused to foot the total bill for the Phoenix Coyotes - but considering that the Blues are expected to go for around $200 million, he might be waiting for a while.
Robert Caporale, founder of Game Plan LLC (the group in charge of facilitating the sale of the Blues) said this to the Post-Dispatch:
"We'll review (the offers), make judgments, make comparisons and then we'll go back to everyone and give them a reaction to their proposal," he said. "We don't want to slow down the process, but until we get these detailed proposals, it's hard to predict how long it will take to get a binding contract with a buyer. But we hope that we could get it done within a couple of weeks."
The bids from the buyers interested in purchasing the St. Louis Blues are all due today to Dave Checketts and Game Plan, LLC. As mentioned before, nine process letters were sent to interested parties informing them that the 22nd was the date that their bids needed to be in in for review.
Someone who will not be submitting a bid for the team is Matthew Hulsizer, the businessman who was previously interested (and declined to) purchase the Phoenix Coyotes. Andy Strickland has mentioned that he won't be submitting a bid, yet if none of the bids submitted today are to Checketts' liking, Checketts can still exercise the option to send Hulsizer an offer on the team.
The Blues, who are for sale along with their AHL affiliate Peoria Rivermen, the lease terms to the Scottrade Center, and possibly the Peabody Opera House, are expected to fetch around $200 million. Hulsizer wanted public assistance to purchase the Coyotes when their listing price was cheaper and included fewer properties.
In what could be filed away in the "no duh" category of news, the economic uncertainty following the debt downgrade and the stock market's roller-coaster ride might be making investors a bit hesitant about plunking down cash. Specifically, it is making them hesitant to plunk down the $120 million required to cover the bank debt on the team, according to the Globe and Mail.
Does this mean that the team won't get sold? Of course not. Estimates are still on for a deal to be completed to sell the team to someone - anyone - by the start of or slightly after the start of this season. It just means that it'll take a bit longer, or possibly a bit more bargaining, to get the deal done. In a market where any big purchase is a Herculean effort, selling a house is next to impossible. Selling two hockey teams, leasing rights, and an opera house isn't going to be a walk in the park. What is separating the Blues from the rest of the pack is that there is no municipal drama (Phoenix) no impending threats of bankruptcy (Dallas), and a ton of interested buyers who can legitimately afford the team (Atlanta). The struggles to sell might sound like a bad thing, but out of the teams for sale, the Blues are possibly in the best position to be sold.
According to an update on the ownership situation from Jeremy Rutherford, the Peabody Opera House is now included in the sale of the St. Louis Blues if someone wants it. The Peabody Opera House, for people unfamiliar with the situation, originated as the Kiel Opera House in 1934, was closed when the Kiel Auditorium was demolished to build what is now known as the Scottrade Center. The St. Louis Board of Aldermen voted in 2009 to subsidize the purchase and renovation of the Kiel by Sports Capital Partners, and the building was renamed (after the Peabody Energy Company) and will re-open in the fall of 2011.
The purchase of the Kiel was seen by many St. Louis sports fans and businesses as SCP's interest and investment in the city. Unfortunately, it's now shifted to something that's on the market if someone wants a great concert venue. That could be a draw for some, as both the Scottrade Center and the Peabody Opera House are two solid revenue generating venues that would be very appealing for someone interested in acquiring a St. Louis entertainment conglomerate - and who wouldn't be?
Along with the Peabody Opera House, the Blues, their AHL affiliate Peoria Rivermen, and the lease to play in the Scottrade Center will all be included in the asking price, which is expected to reach around $200 million.
According to Andy Strickland of True Hockey.com, Blues owner Dave Checketts has taken some steps to expedite the sale process of the team. He's sent nine process letters to interested individuals or groups stating that they all have until August 22nd to submit formal offers.
The process letter lays out everything each group must submit along with their formal offer to buy the hockey club. For example each group will need to show their primary source of capital as well as the members involved in their group among other things. Game Plan LLC, Dave Checketts, and the NHL will review all of this before they reach an agreement with a new Owner.
It's pleasant to see rational, intelligent, and methodical steps being taken by both a team's owner and the NHL itself to ensure a successful sale of a long standing and successful NHL franchise with a large and dependable fan base. What is less surprising to see is that Matthew Hulsizer is losing interest. The Chicago businessman was involved with a lengthy attempt (some might say tease) to buy the Phoenix Coyotes. His purchase of the team fell through when public watchdog group The Goldwater Institute threatened a lawsuit over the use of public bond money to subsidize the purchase of the team.
A purchase agreement has already been written and is available for the interested parties to see. If any of them woud like to modify the agreement, they must do so and it - along with their completed proposal - is due in writing to Game Plan LLC by August 22nd.
You have to admit, for any one sale in the NHL that goes down quickly and a bit, shall we say, "off," there're many more that seem to be run properly and calmly. The sale of the Dallas Stars pops into mind, or the sale of the Buffalo Sabres. The Blues' impending sale also can be classified as one of those very transactions. It hasn't been a press hog, and the most it's appeared in the papers has been recently.
There's good reason for that, as Checketts (who will not stay on in any ownership position) and the people interested in purchasing the team have only spoken to the press when it's appropriate. No rumor mongering, no speculation, just a bunch of "hey, this's what we're doing, and this is when we expect to have it done by." No one ownership candidate has come out on top yet, and I suspect that we won't know who the team's new owners are until close to the end of this saga, or the end itself.
The bidding process should begin within the next few weeks, and the Blues'll take it from there. I suspect that Checketts will handle the bidding process the same way as the rest of this situation has played out - quietly, from behind closed doors.
Looks like the sale of the Blues'll be complete at the start of this season - or maybe a little later - out of necessity. Dave Checketts has been granted an extension on repaying the $120 million loan he has out with Citigroup. He missed the June 30th payment on that loan because of the sale process.
Citygroup has stated that Checketts has 60 days to make the payment required on the loan, or the team will go into default. With as many as five interested buyers in the team, however, chances of that happening seem slim. In contrast to TSN's supposition that the team, the rights to play in Scottrade Center, and the Peoria Rivermen will fetch more than $190, an unnamed source in the New York Post says that he expects the deal to be closer to $140 million.
Apparently with the pending sale of the Dallas Stars to Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi, the former interested parties have moved on to the other franchise for sale - the St. Louis Blues.
The Blues, who along with the AHL's Peoria Rivermen and the lease on the Scottrade Center, are valued at an estimate $165 million. Matthew Hulsizer, who was the leading candidate to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes, was assumed to be the largest interested party in the Blues, along with current minority owner Tom Stillman.
With the increased competition comes the chances for the cost of the team to exceed $190 million, according to TSN. This would be more than the recent price that the Buffalo Sabres fetched when they were purchased by businessman Terry Pegula earlier this year. This would mean a healthy $40 million profit turned on the $150 million that the Blues cost Checketts and his partners initially.
The demand for the team coupled with the team's sell-out streak and smart management should be a wake-up call for some of the commenters on the TSN article. Not every team for sale is going to move. Dallas isn't going anywhere, and neither are the Blues. We've been through this Saskatoon stuff before.
After pulling out of the lengthy process to purchase the beleaguered (and league owned) Phoenix Coyotes because he couldn't get the deal from the City of Glendale that he wanted, Matthew Hulsizer has apparently set his sights on the St. Louis Blues, according to the Globe and Mail.
Hulsizer, you may remember, was expert at trying to get Glendale to front part of his cost of the purchase of the Coyotes by using $100 million municipal bonds. Of course, the Goldwater Institute wasn't having any of that, and by blocking the use of those bonds made it difficult for Hulsizer to get the 'Yotes at the discounted price that he wanted to. He pulled out of negotiations with the urging for Phoenix fans to "keep the faith," but he left more uncertainty than before.
It has been assumed that Hulsizer has wanted to get into the mix for another team that was for sale. The Dallas Stars have just announced that Chuck Greenberg has been approved as a potential buyer for them. It seems that the sale of that team's moving along nicely. The only other visible, on the market team is the St. Louis Blues, so it seems natural that Hulsizer would be interested.
Hulsizer recently went on a tour of Scottrade Arena with owner Dave Checketts, and is asking for a selling price of $160-$170 million, according to an unnamed source. Hulsizer would be interested in keeping Checketts on as a partner, presumably because of his knowledge and history with the franchise.
The mention of Hulsizer concerns me for one reason - the length and the complexity of the negotiations for Phoenix. The situation out there's been muddled for a while, not least of all because of Hulsizer's seeking of city support.
With the Blues, he would also be purchasing the Peoria Rivermen AHL franchise.
The Blues' ownership situation has never been as dramatic as that of the Phoenix Coyotes' or the Atlanta Thrashers'. There hasn't been the protracted search for an owner, the bankruptcy threats, and the public gnashing of teeth that seems to have gone on for an eternity in Glendale. There hasn't been the suddenness and the urgency of the Thrashers, nor has there been a contentious ownership group that has been more interested in suing each other and their own law firm than turning a profit on the ice.
No, since the announcement by team President and 20% owner Dave Checketts in March of this year that the Blues were actively searching for investors to replace Towerbrook's 70% share of the team, it's been a fairly quiet, behind the scenes kind of production. It hasn't been very public, it hasn't gotten a lot of press - because there hasn't been much drama. Checketts just could no longer afford to pump money into the team, nor could Towerbrook Capital Partners. That was that. Did they have to sell right that moment? No. They've been able to operate the Blues, albeit on a bit of a shoestring budget, fairly well since then. There hasn't been any obvious repercussions on ice, as the Blues never slummed it for free agents and prospects - they just had to be smart with their money, and they have been.
Perhaps these miserly ways are what have kept this issue from blowing up like other beleaguered teams in the league. Honestly, very little has been said about it in the press since Checketts' announcement other than a basic "we're still actively looking." It's been nothing but professional, and despite some fans' reservations or even anger at Checketts, most have been understanding of the process and of the issue.
Recently, though, rumblings have started to happen regarding the Blues' and Checketts' financial strength. It began last month with a tweet from Mike Ozanian, Forbes Magazine's sports business guy:
That's it. No story to go with, no evidence, not even Mr. Unnamed Source, Esq. was there to back this up. Personally, I doubted this. Despite Ozanian's correctness that the Thrashers were moving to Canada, this repeat of the Blues to Saskatoon nonsense was too much. After all, a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, and the nut for the impending move of the Thrashers was so bit that the squirrel version of Hellen Keller would have found it in under ten seconds.
Needless to say, this tweet surprised many, worried some, and got numerous others upset at Ozanian's basic lack of internet reporting/Twitter skills. Despite the oddness of a team that had 41 sellouts last season up and moving, the fact that he mentioned the Blues like this led some to wonder about the sale process. Was it starting to fall through? Was there a problem?
Recent news reports are starting to show that yes, Checketts is hitting a few bumpy patches. Checketts is trying to raise equity in the team, but has only been able to raise $50 million of the needed $250 million (which strikes me as a lot of equity for a team appraised by Forbes at around $165 million). Ozanian struck again after this article was posted, this time using Mr. Unnamed Source's cousin, Mr. Unnamed Sports Banker:
Well, ha, Mr. Banker. There's apparently $50 million worth of equity. So there.
But in all seriousness, why is Checketts trying to raise equity? To keep from defaulting on a $120 million loan from Citygroup, perhaps? The words "default on a loan" oftentimes lead people to jump to the conclusion that a bankruptcy is coming. While those two do often go together, that's not necessarily the case here. He plans to get an extension on the loan, and these plans - and that extension - are bolstered by the fact that there are three interested buyers out there, somwhere, willing to plunk down money to help hockey in St. Louis grow.
Do the budget problems hurt the Blues? Of course. Bernie Miklasz is spot on when he says that there's a potential for budgetary woes to hamper the Blues' progress into a playoff contender. But with the end in sight according to Checketts, and the line up basically solidified, the Blues still have managed to wade through this off season, and they've come out smelling like roses. No drama, no relocation, no NHL intercession.
The Blues are lucky. This could be so much worse.
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