SBD/December 3, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Peter Luukko Surprises Comcast-Spectacor With Resignation; Was He Forced Out?

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Luukko's resignation comes just before the Wells Fargo Center hosts the '14 NHL Draft
PETER LUUKKO officially resigned yesterday as President & CEO of Comcast-Spectacor, but industry colleagues who know him well question whether he was forced out by Comcast Corp. officials demanding stronger returns from the firm’s facility management business. Luukko was also Flyers President, but the pressure exerted at the corporate level for improving the bottom line for Global Spectrum, Comcast-Spectacor’s arena and stadium operations division, may have influenced his decision, sources said. Luukko, reached by phone this morning, said it was a mutual decision he made with Comcast-Spectacor Chair ED SNIDER to leave the company and they parted on good terms. “I’m actually very happy,” Luukko said. “It’s a good opportunity for me to cash out of some of the businesses I started along with others. At my age (54), I have a nest egg and can make one more run at something new and exciting.” Snider’s relationship with Luukko dates to '85 when Luukko managed the L.A. Memorial Coliseum for SMG, the firm Snider owned at the time. Snider said Luukko’s resignation did not come from Comcast Corp., Snider’s business partner in Comcast-Spectacor. “It came as a surprise to me,” Snider said, echoing the statements he made to local reporters yesterday. That same feeling was true for the industry in general, as the sudden move was reminiscent of TIM LEIWEKE's shocking departure in March as AEG President & CEO. In Philly, though, it was not the proposed sale of a competitor that fell through that led to changes at the top of the organization.

MOTIVES FOR DEPARTURE UNKNOWN: The motives behind Luukko’s abrupt departure remain unclear, but there were signs in the release announcing his resignation that driving better returns for Comcast Corp. played a role in his leaving the company. The release stated Comcast-Spectacor appointed two finance officials to help lead the firm in Luukko’s absence, including DAVE SCOTT, a retired Comcast Cable CFO, now acting President of the company. In addition, GARY ROSTICK is now Comcast-Spectacor CFO after moving over from Comcast Business Services, where he held the same position. There was no mention in the release of RUSS CHANDLER, Comcast-Spectacor’s former CFO who left the firm about a month ago, company officials said. “It’s not something I want to talk about,” Snider said when asked why Chandler left Comcast-Spectacor. Luukko said there was no connection between his resignation and Chandler’s exit, but others reading between the lines say bringing two execs from outside Comcast-Spectacor to head the firm raises questions over the timing of those two moves. “It’s so unusual because Ed would never appoint a finance guy from outside the Spectacor family to lead the company,” one source said. “Ed would have named someone from within to take over, whether it was (Global Spectrum COO) JOHN PAGE, (Comcast-Spectacor Vice Chair) FRED SHABEL or (Comcast-Spectacor Senior VP/Business Development) MICH SAUERS. This was clearly a corporate decision. Ed and Peter were like father and son. It didn’t reference the CFO leaving, which is not a good sign.” It also comes at an awkward time for Global Spectrum, considering the Vikings, breaking ground today on their new $975M stadium project, plan to issue a request for proposal next month to manage the facility. Global Spectrum, along with AEG and SMG, its two main competitors in that space, are expected to compete for running the multi-purpose venue targeted to open in '17. Luukko, who was also Global Spectrum Chair, would have been principally involved in pursuing the contract.

FUTURE WIDE OPEN: Luukko considers himself an entrepreneur and said there are opportunities elsewhere to make his mark, including the music business. He has close ties with IRVING AZOFF, longtime manager of THE EAGLES, who has formed a joint venture with MSG that includes managing live music venues, such as the Forum in L.A. Some have mentioned AEG as a landing point for Luukko, who mentioned during the call that he loved living in L.A. during his tenure running the Coliseum. Considering Luukko’s passion for hockey and his two sons playing the sport, others say he would be a perfect candidate to take over as president of an NHL team in a struggling market. There could be opportunities with the Blue Jackets, Panthers or Coyotes, with whom Luukko played a key role in Global Spectrum signing a deal with the team's new owners to run Jobing.com arena, said Greensboro Coliseum Exec Dir MATT BROWN. “I think his real love would be to own a hockey team,” said Brown, who has known Luukko for 28 years.
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