We’ve been down this road before.
As commissioner Gary Bettman announced Monday that the NHL has the intent to create a purchase agreement with a group headed by Greg Jamison, I couldn’t help but think that the former Sharks CEO has been through this before.
When George Gund decided to sell the Sharks in2002, Jamison put together a syndicate of Silicon Valley millionaires to purchase the team, which proved to be an easy task. The team had been successful in the South Bay, both on and off the ice — sellouts and 100-point seasons were the norm.
Certainly nothing like trying to sell hockey in the suburbs of Phoenix.
But it appears that Jamison has made some strides in convincing a group of rich people that the Coyotes can fill Jobing.com Arena on a regular basis. Others have thought that as well, but none have succeeded.
At least for a night, there were smiles of cautious confidence. When I asked Jamison earlier Monday if it was going to be a big day, he responded: “Bigger than normal. Still a tentative announcement. Much work to be done.”
You see, there’s a lease deal to get done with the city. Apparently four of the seven council members are ready to support a new long-term lease with the Jamison group. The agreement will see Glendale pay over $17 million per year to have someone run the arena. It is an arena that has put the people of Glendale – a city with a population of less than 300,000 — in debt.
With a team, there is debt. Without a team, there is bigger debt. Jamison has the pedigree to run a solid business, and that’s where this team needs the most help. He also has the knowledge and experience to respect the work of men like Don Maloney to run the hockey side.
Tonight, there were no discussions of bond issues that plagued the last two attempted purchases of the club; the financing will apparently be different. But one has to wonder if the burdensome arena management fee will once again provoke the Goldwater Institute to challenge the whole transaction. You could only smile when the commissioner refused to mention Goldwater by name (he called it “a third party”).
Never mind third parties. You really have to wonder how revenues can get anywhere close to a point where this team can break even. Teams in the NHL have to get to a number above $80 million to break even. With ticket revenues, sponsorship, league reimbursements (including TV), the arena management contract and revenue sharing, that will be a tough number to reach.
That said, Jamison is the best person for the job to keep this team in Arizona. If anyone can do it, he can.
Now if only the team’s business success could mirror what Maloney, Tippet and company have done on the ice. If that were the case, we wouldn’t be having any more discussions about this team’s status.
This deal is far from done, but it’s closer than any of the other previous attempts.