Blues Owner Tom Stillman's beer distributorship have MillerCoors ties, but he said that there "won’t be changes in the franchise’s relationship" with club sponsor Anheuser-Busch, according to Nicholas Pistor of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Stillman now is "taking over a hockey franchise dominated by A-B images." The beer giant is a "major Blues sponsor, and the organ blasts 'Here Comes the King,' the iconic Budweiser theme song, at every home game." Stillman said that he will "treat the Blues as a separate business." He said, “A-B has been a great sponsor, and I’m respectful of that." Blues investor Tom Schlafly said, “No one is going to pretend A-B products aren’t still huge in St. Louis. But Tom found success, too.” Pistor notes Stillman came to St. Louis after seeing "an opportunity in struggling distributors who handled 'other beers.'" He purchased distribution company St. Louis Beer Sales in '94 and developed a "unique business sense during rough labor battles for shelf space." He said that over the years, he had to "fight for shelf space and bar taps as he carved out a niche in St. Louis." Stillman said, “You have to be a competitive person. It’s a tough market.” Friends and associates have said that Stillman's "history in the St. Louis beer market showcases his persistence and patience." Stillman is "cobbling together an ownership group marked with some of the area’s biggest players -- including his father-in-law, former U.S. Sen. John Danforth." Stillman said, "I can’t even describe my passion for this team. It’s electric. I love seeing them on the ice" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/14).
GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS: A ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH editorial stated Stillman's ownership group "gives the Blues more corporate clout than they've had since the late R. Hal Dean, then-chairman of Ralston Purina, talked his board into buying the floundering team as a 'civic duty'" in '77. The Blues' new owners are "people you'd expect at a St. Louis Country Club soirée, not a hockey game. Perhaps bridging that gap is just what the Blues need" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/13). In St. Louis, Jeremy Rutherford noted curiosity in the ownership group's "planned financial commitment to a team coming off a 109-point season and a trip to the Western Conference semifinals is at the forefront of fan interest." Stillman said, "I’m not going to be somebody that comes in here and starts giving my judgment on players and who we should go after and what we should do. I know that I don’t have that expertise, and I’ll be relying on the hockey people." But Rutherford noted Stillman "has yet to announce the makeup of his 'hockey people.'" The current front office group "could be reshaped when the team makes the anticipated addition of former Blues star Brett Hull to the staff" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/13).