SBD/May 10, 2012/Franchises

Tom Stillman Closes Purchase Of Blues; New Ownership Group Will Be Introduced Today

Stillman must correct the Blues' business model to make the franchise sustainable
Blues fans might have wanted the sale of the team to a group led by minority Owner Tom Stillman "to happen more quickly," but after a two-year process, the most "desirable outcome in terms of the city's best interest appears to have unfolded," according to Jeremy Rutherford of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. The deal that will "put the Blues into the hands of several of the area's most prominent businessmen closed" yesterday with the banks. A press conference announcing the sale has been set for 11:00am CT today at Scottrade Center, "officially beginning the Stillman era." Stillman in '07 "became minority owner of the team," supplying former Blues Owner Dave Checketts with a "local investor and an area business connection." In the last five years, Stillman "hasn't been in the public eye, but he's been as visible as anyone in the organization at games, practices and team functions." His pursuit of the Blues "began about two years ago when Checketts announced that TowerBrook Capital Partners, the club's No. 1 investor, was divesting its 70 percent stake in the team." Stillman's ownership group is a "'Who's who' of area business leaders, a list that is expected to grow in quantity and name recognition when the deal is announced today." Checketts, when asked whether he had any regrets about his time at the helm, said, "Of course I have regrets, but I'm not going to get into them because as far as the way I think about it, we did our very best. We can be criticized for not spending more, I guess. But holy smokes, we put our whole heart and soul and our money into this deal" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/10).

FIRST THINGS FIRST: In St. Louis, Bernie Miklasz writes Stillman's "sincere and exuberant presence offers hope for a beloved but star-crossed franchise that seems stuck in a perpetual search for stability." Stillman will "try mightily to strengthen this promising foundation to give the Blues a more stable and secure future." Miklasz writes, "That said, it's vital to understand that Stillman's considerable enthusiasm can only go so far. He faces a lot of hard work and tough, harsh decisions. The Blues' wobbly economic structure can no longer be ignored." The team is "near the bottom of the NHL in generating revenue." Fans already are "clamoring for Stillman to increase the player payroll and go on a wild spending splurge in the summer free-agent market." Miklasz: "That's unlikely, if not impossible." It is "wise to temper expectations." Stillman must "find a way to reorganize by cutting costs and increasing revenue, and that won't be easy." He "can't expand the revenue base by keeping ticket prices among the lowest in the NHL" (STLTODAY.com, 5/10). Also in St. Louis, Roger Hensley noted Stillman's "first priority will be getting the business on sound financial footing." Making the Blues "sustainable moving forward will go a long way in helping to ensure a competitive product stays on the ice." Hensley wrote until Stillman "corrects the business model and finds smarter ways to run the organization, fans can forget about high-priced free agents" (STLTODAY.com, 5/9).

COYOTES' PRICE STAYING THE SAME: The Coyotes have advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history, but NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the sale price of the team will not go up because “we've actually been offering a discounted price and accommodation to the city of Glendale to try and get this sold." Bettman: "The reason it hasn't gotten sold has been very complicated. There’s been some interference from third parties, the Goldwater Institute. But we're now on a path we hope that will get it done and get new ownership in the not-too-distant future” (“Fox Business After the Bell,” Fox Business, 5/9).
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