SBD/Issue 21/Franchises

NHL Panthers Ownership May Be Restructured Internally

Bettman Says Panthers Partners' Levels Of
Investment, Roles In Group Could Change
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Saturday said that the Panthers are "not being sold to a public company," though he "expects the precise makeup" of Owner Alan Cohen's ownership group to change, according to Sarah Talalay of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Bettman, before the Panthers' home opener against the Devils at BankAtlantic Center, said that the potential change within the group "does not mean limited partners will change or be added, but their levels of investment and roles in the group could change." Bettman: "The group is in discussions to see about making some adjustments among themselves, and I think those discussions are ongoing. ... I think the solution here is going to come out of perhaps a rejiggering of the existing ownership group, not necessarily somebody getting in or out, but just kind of a restructuring on the day to day." Bettman added from a financial standpoint the club "needs to continue to work to improve its performance ... but they should be OK." Bettman: "Barring something extraordinary that nobody anticipated, and I’m not suggesting that’s going to happen, they should be fine." Meanwhile, Bettman said the league "would like to continue to expand our European presence on a regular basis." Bettman: "By that I don’t mean franchises on the ground, I mean more and more clubs, more and more games to open the season, so maybe we’re in seven or eight cities at the same time, to open the season because if you were there you know there’s tremendous interest in our players and our game." Bettman said the economy's impact on ticket sales varies "market by market," but season-ticket renewals league wide this year were "about what it was last year, before the economic downturn." Bettman: "We’re not expecting to be down, based on the preliminary projections we have this year in revenues. …We’re flat to up a little bit is my best early guess as to where we’re likely to be" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 10/10).

WELCOME CHANGE: In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde wrote Bettman was "in town to oversee what he called a 'restructuring' of the ownership and, whatever that means, it can't be bad news." South Florida "can support a hockey team better than a baseball team." When the Panthers "put a good product on the ice a decade ago, the season-ticket base was over 10,000 and they went a few years of selling out Miami Arena." But Hyde wrote the team now is the "anti-Marlins." Though the Panthers "spend money," they "just have no consistent plan." Hyde: "This ownership change, where it sounds like Cohen will take a smaller role, has to be a good thing" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 10/11).

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