SBD/Issue 221/Sports Industrialists

Canucks President & CEO Zimmerman Resigns; Gillis Promoted

Gillis Takes On
President Title
Canucks Sports & Entertainment (CSE) President & CEO Chris Zimmerman yesterday announced his resignation, "citing family reasons," according to Elliott Pap of the VANCOUVER SUN. The Canucks announced GM Mike Gillis will take on the additional title of CSE President. The team did not announce a new CSE CEO, though CSE COO VICTOR DE BONIS will "help fill the void created by Zimmerman's departure." Also, the team announced Vulcan Sports & Entertainment CEO and former Canucks exec TOD LEIWEKE will join the CSE BOD "as an adviser." Zimmerman, a New York native, "plans to move back to his roots in the eastern U.S." Zimmerman in a statement said it was "a very difficult" decision to leave the Canucks after three years in his position (VANCOVER SUN, 8/5). Pap notes Zimmerman has a 17-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son, as well as an "elderly mother in the greater New York area." Zimmerman, "who came from a marketing background, said he has not secured a new job and will be seeking something in either team sports, the media or sportswear and equipment" (VANCOUVER SUN, 8/5).

UPS & DOWNS: In Vancouver, Jason Botchford notes Zimmerman's objective when he was hired was to "find new revenue streams for the team," and on that front, he "had some success, but also had some initiatives that didn't work out as well as hoped." GM Place this offseason is undergoing an $8M (all figures Canadian) "overhaul, featuring the creation of the glossy Top Shelf Club," a project that will "add an estimated 188 seats, which will cost $210 a game." But a "couple initiatives that didn't work out as well as planned" include the hiring of Bombo Sports & Entertainment to "do a documentary-styled highlight film of the 2007-08 season from the perspective of both fans and players." The team also was "left with some egg on its face early last season when it unveiled the '7th man,' an in-house marketing gimmick that flopped." The "7th man" was "designed to get fans more involved at GM Place and featured a No. 7 banner which was to be unfurled before each game." Botchford notes the "7th man" was "greeted by indifference when it was first presented," and it "only lasted a couple of weeks before it was shelved" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 8/5).

Difficult To Gauge Impact Of Loss Of
"Business Guy" Like Zimmerman (l)
SMOOTH TRANSITION: Gillis said the team's business side "is in good shape." Gillis: "I don't expect radical changes." The GLOBE & MAIL's Matthew Sekeres notes Gillis yesterday "showed a measure of humility in his new role, suggesting that many of the business decisions typically made by club presidents were best handled by the senior management team he will now oversee" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/5). Gillis: "I don't see this as detracting from my priority. Most of my responsibilities will remain with hockey operations." In Vancouver, Cam Cole writes even if Gillis "adding another title to his nameplate should turn out to be mainly a money-saving device for a Vancouver Canucks ownership that is ever-vigilant for such opportunities, it underlines one thing quite clearly." The "mutual admiration society between [Canucks Owner] FrancesCo Aquilini and his now sophomore GM is very much alive -- maybe even stronger than 15 months ago." If the Aquilini family is "of the opinion that Gillis did a bang-up job last year in his main mandate, upgrading player personnel, then it makes perfect sense to reward him with elevated status and more clout within the club." Meanwhile, it is "difficult to gauge what effect losing a business guy" in Zimmerman "might have on a wildly-profitable franchise that has already strip-mined and clear-cut the Lower Mainland revenue base with remarkable efficiency." Cole: "No doubt there are other streams left to fish, and perhaps Gillis will think of them, but it's hard to imagine what they are" (VANCOUVER SUN, 8/5).

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