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COMSAT PURCHASES NORDIQUES, BRINGS NHL TO MOUNTAIN TIME ZONE
Published May 26, 1995
Nuggets owner Comsat Entertainment Group yesterday acquired the Nordiques from a Quebec group led by Marcel Aubut for $75M and announced the team's move to Denver. THE DEAL: For the $75M, Comsat receives the team, its development squad in Cornwall, Ontario, and player contracts. Comsat Entertainment President Charlie Lyons would not comment on how much, if any transfer fee the club would have to pay the NHL. Lyons said that Comsat did not become "serious" about the deal until late last week, as the company assumed the club would stay in Quebec (THE DAILY). Lyons said Aubut called him on May 17 and asked "It's not going to work out up here. Would you like to buy the team?" (Curtis Eichelburger, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/26). In this morning's USA TODAY, Jack Carey writes that about $10M is "presumed going toward a transfer fee" (USA TODAY, 5/26). RUN WITH THE BIG DOGS: Comsat, a video entertainment and satellite technology firm, said the team will help build their entertainment division. Lyons: "We want to build a significant entertainment asset that provides great returns to our shareholders, both in terms of income and in terms of asset value." Lyons noted Comsat's presence in the NBA and NHL: "It's not going unnoticed that companies like Disney and Turner and Blockbuster and ITT are now joining the growing group of companies that want to expand their entertainment businesses and really see the trophy assets to be professional sports" (THE DAILY). Comsat CEO Bruce Crockett, on investing in the NHL: "The highest returns in this business come from owning a combination of assets starting with an arena, filling it with multiple sports teams, selling high-profit merchandise, selling broadcast rights to cable and pay-TV and using and leveraging your own production facilities" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/26). A PEPSI WITH YOUR BIG MAC? The team will join the Nuggets at McNichols Sports Arena for the next two seasons before moving into the proposed Pepsi Center, which Comsat hopes to build in downtown Denver. Although the project has been held up in a property tax dispute, Lyons said the arena is a necessity. Lyons, who said the hockey team will "probably lose a little money" at McNichols, stressed that the purchase is not contingent on the arena deal. Lyons: "The deal for the new arena is not done, and we intend to get it done. ... The NHL is very clear that they don't see this hockey team playing in McNichols much beyond two years" (THE DAILY). The ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS reports that if the city doesn't help Comsat get the arena, officials from the NHL and the NBA "will begin applying pressure on the city." Another NHL source called the deal was a "ticking lease" and implied it could be settled once the mayoral race is over (Curtis Eichelburger, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/26). IF YOU DON'T SUCCEED ... MARKET: Lyons blamed the failure of the NHL Rockies, who left Denver in '82, on poor marketing, and "not the market." Lyons said he considers the Denver fan base to be "considerable," but that Comsat planned on establishing ticket prices lower than the league average in order to cultivate that market. KHOW Radio in Denver reported 7,500 requests already for season tickets (THE DAILY). Joseph Sanchez writes in today's DENVER POST that the team had received 1,100 season tix orders six hours after the announcement (DENVER POST, 5/26). Comsat ran full-page ads in both Denver dailies this morning with the slogan "Pucker Up, the NHL's here" under a goalie mask. THE OPERATIONS: Lyons said Comsat planned to retain Pierre Lacroix as GM of the club and Marc Crawford as head coach. Nuggets marketing officials will work with the team initially (THE DAILY). Nuggets VP of Business Ops Gary Hunter will reportedly handle the business end of the team, Nuggets Dir of Marketing Shawn Hunter will handle the marketing operations, and Lacroix will run the hockey operations (Curtis Eichelburger, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/26). ADIEU, LES NORDIQUES: Lyons said the change in the team's name will be announced within a month of NHL approval. While not commenting on whether the team would be called Denver or Colorado, Lyons stressed his desire to market the team throughout the 10-state Rocky Mountain Region (THE DAILY). Shawn Hunter said the name search had been narrowed to three: "It's important to come up with something that represents the region, the people and the lifestyle -- something that is very hot and is easy to merchandise throughout the region" (R.M. NEWS, 5/26). MARKET SATURATION: As Denver becomes the tenth major league market with teams in the NHL, MLB, NFL and NBA, the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS' Curtis Eichelberger this morning asks: "Can it survive?" Jack Vickers, who brought the NHL Rockies to Denver in the late '70s, says Comsat's arena situation is the key but agreed with Lyons that marketing will be important: "I know it takes another dollar out of the Denver sporting community, but it's a different kind of fan, a different kind of following, and it's still a great sport" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/26). GRIZZLIES FUTURE: IHL Grizzlies President Bernie Mullen said he would not rule out the possibility of both teams playing in Denver next year. Mullen said the team could split games between the Denver Coliseum and McNichols (Irv Moss, DENVER POST, 5/26).