If Commissioner Gary Bettman didn’t believe local ownership was important to St. Louis hockey fans, he does now.
How often does a new Owner get a standing ovation his first day on the job? This was more a celebration opposed to a press conference. It might go down as the most unique press conference I’ve ever attended.
The only thing missing was Miller Lite and Pearl Vodka.
You could feel the emotion in the air as Tom Stillman officially accepted the torch as the new controlling partner of the St. Louis Blues.
There were no scripted catch phrases or promises, just genuine honesty as Stillman spoke to the people. He talked about the importance of enhancing the relationship between the organization and the alumni, his love of hockey and passion for the Blues.
He somehow managed to get the words out as he introduced his wife Mary and three children. Recognizing his Father-in-law and former U.S. Senator John Danforth wasn’t any easier. At this time everything clicked, it became more than just a purchase of the St. Louis Blues.
Stillman did sneak in a dose of reality, there’s work to be done. Getting the Blues on solid financial ground is no easy task. It’s been tried before only to see it fail over and over again.
Will this be different?
The Blues have never made money in their existence and I wouldn’t bet on this changing anytime soon. This Ownership group would love to change the trend and the first order of business is controlling the losses.
There are ways to accomplish this.
This Ownership group has credibility in the community, something the previous regime was lacking. All of these investors run thriving businesses with a track record of success.
We all know St. Louis is extremely communal, sometimes to a fault, but we can’t act like it doesn’t matter. Whether you like it or not it’s difficult for outsiders to blend in. I don’t always agree but this is the way it is.
Each investor is either a season ticket or suite holder inside the building. More importantly they’re taken serious in the community and have the ability to get other prominent people to support the Blues.
They’re decision makers and people who make a difference in the community. If this group can’t make a financial dent in the organization then there may never be hope. None of these individuals would’ve invested without believing the Blues have turnaround ability.
This Ownership group is made up of Blues fans first, no one accidentally landed a piece of the team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more investors added down the road.
This level of reach has never existed in the history of Blues Ownership. It’s been accurately pointed out that these investors simply assisted in securing the purchase and didn’t sign up to fund losses. While that’s true, let’s not assume they’re going to sit back and let this thing fail. You don’t find too much failure on the resumes on any of these people.
The Blues will be shedding plenty of payroll this summer and there will be money available to add a player or two. Suddenly the Blues are a decent destination for free agents following a 109 point season. They may not compete with high revenue clubs for prized free agents but let’s not assume their going to be bottom feeders either.
Bettman Had no Choice…
We all know team performance defines the brand. This organization has been here since 1967 and has always been a fabric in the community. Branding the franchise isn’t the issue.
Creating a workplace where people want to perform needs to be re-established. It’s hard to succeed when you’re working not to make a mistake. You can’t be creative without taking risks and this is something that needs to be looked at. People want to feel like they have a voice inside the walls of the franchise and from what I here the workplace lacks synergy and communication from one department to the next. I even overheard an usher yell “I can finally relax” to Stillman as he walked by.
I’m not going to ignore the positives Dave Checketts and Mike McCarthy brought to the franchise as owners. In a lot of ways the franchise is better off today than it was when they inherited the team six years ago.
Then again there are areas that need to be corrected and we can’t ignore that either.
Bettman credits Stillman’s persistence in him persevering over the competition. One thing about Bettman, he has the ability to steer these things however he sees fit. If he thought Checketts or Hulsizer owning the team was in the best interest of the city, Stillman would have never been given a chance. Bettman sensed the overwhelming support for local ownership and he deserves credit for opening he door.
Stillman is a very unassuming guy. He’s as normal as any owner you’ll find in professional sports and brings very little ego to the table. The players like him and people compare him to former Owner Michael Shanahan.
Many were surprised Dave Checketts did not appear at this morning’s press conference. He did provide me with the following statement.
"It has truly been an honor to have been the principal owner of the St. Louis Blues for the last six seasons. I take a tremendous amount of pride in what we have accomplished on and off the ice over that time and believe the organization is in a much better place now than when we arrived. There are no better fans in the National Hockey League than in St. Louis and I would like to thank them for their continued support, encouragement and patronage.”
Among the Blues Owners is David Steward, one of the most successful African American business leaders in America. Steward is Chairman, World Wide Technology, Inc.
Chris Kerber did a very solid job emceeing today’s presser.
Bettman says the actual sale price is much higher than what’s being reported. He’s including the take back equity belonging to Sports Capital Holdings LLC which is made up of TowerBrook Capital Partners, SCP, and Stillman.
Under the previous structure TowerBrook owned 73%, SCP 8%, and Stillman 17%
The Scottrade Center lease runs through 2043 with several 5-year renewal options.
Part of the Blues turnaround plan includes leveraging Local Ownership, leasing open suites, increasing sponsorship revenue, cutting excessive and unnecessary expenses, realizing benefits of new CBA as well as the US and Canadian National media contracts.
The Blues were paying over $1.1 million a year in Management fees to SCP.
Stillman is paying himself $1 to run the Blues.
Will have more later….
More to come,
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