Make no mistake. The team has a new owner…Andrew Barroway. Below is the press release on the Arizona Coyotes website with the announcement:
NHL Approves Agreement for Andrew Barroway to Become Majority Owner of the Coyotes
Wednesday, 12.31.2014 / 10:16 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, December 31, 2014
GLENDALE, ARIZONA — “The National Hockey League (NHL) and the Arizona Coyotes announced today that an agreement for IceArizona to sell 51 percent of the Arizona Coyotes franchise to Andrew Barroway has been finalized by the NHL’s Board of Governors. Barroway will serve as the Coyotes Chairman and Governor immediately.
‘This is truly a dream come true for me and my family,’ said Barroway. ‘I am extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity of a lifetime and look forward to working and solidifying a strong partnership with the Club’s current ownership group.
‘As a group we are committed to serving our fans with a new level of excellence and our collective goal is to put a competitive team on the ice every season and, one day, win the Stanley Cup.’
‘Today is an exciting day for the Arizona Coyotes and our great fans.’ said Coyotes Co-Owner, President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc. ‘The addition of Andrew Barroway to our ownership group further solidifies the Coyotes long-term future in the Valley. Our entire ownership group is excited about this opportunity to work with Andrew in taking this franchise to the next level. It’s a great day for hockey in Arizona!’
Andrew Barroway is the Managing Partner of Merion Investment Management LP, an event driven hedge fund that currently manages more than $1 billion. Merion was founded in January 2009. Barroway graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1991.”
Andrew Barroway is the new owner of the team. A simple analogy is this. You can no longer afford to make the mortgage payment on your house. You get your uncle to buy 51% of the value of your home. Then you decide you want to repaint and recarpet your house but your uncle says, “No.” Who prevails? Your uncle, of course. He is the majority owner.
It’s the same with the team. Rumors abound that the Gosbee/LeBlanc group have been missing their cash calls. Missing a cash call means that the ownership group (prior to Barroway) refused to use personal funds to cover losses. This probably made the NHL (Commissioner Bettman and the other team owners) very, very nervous. No wonder Bettman worked so hard to find another investor for the team.
One has only to look at this photo to see how thrilled George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc are to relinquish control of the team. While it is an old photo it reflects what each must have felt. Each looks as if their dog died.
The minority owners have no choice but to put a ‘good face’ on the situation. LeBlanc’s mantra was Barroway’s purchase “further solidifies the Coyotes long-term future in the Valley.” Barroway offered “our collective goal is to put a competitive team on the ice every season and, one day, win the Stanley Cup.” Barroway’s function over the next few years will be to shore up the team financially and to cover those pesky cash calls.
On Friday, January 2, 2015 there was a press conference at the Gila River Arena to introduce Barroway to the Arizona fan base. (By the way with the name change to Gila River Arena, why does the very top of the arena, seen in aerial views, still say Jobing.com?) The presser was interesting on many levels. Anthony LeBlanc made several rather telling comments. In terms of a sale of the majority interest to Barroway, “we (the ownership group) weren’t looking for this.” They might not have been looking for it but it appears that Bettman and company most certainly were. He also confirmed that the sale consummated on the last day of 2014 “offers tax advantages for 2014.” The best face LeBlanc could offer was that the sale provides “financial flexibility.” Don Mahoney, the team’s General Manager, confirmed the importance of the sale to Barroway by saying, “we (the team) are solvent” and the sale provides “(financial) stability for long term success.”
It is no secret that Barroway has been trying to acquire a hockey team for years. Witness his attempts with the Philadelphia 76ers, the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders. In his case, the 4th time is a charm or as Barroway put it, “keep trying and don’t quit.” With regard to his relationship with the City of Glendale Barroway praised the “strong partnership” with the city. It seems the strong partnership is the $15 million a year the city pays the team. Le Blanc and Barroway reiterated that they are “committed to be here.”When asked about the “out clause” in the current Glendale/IceArizona deal, Barroway casually confirmed “the out clause remains in place.” As long as that option remains so will the speculation about a move after 5 years of losses. If Barroway is truly committed to keeping the team in the Valley working with Glendale to remove that stipulation would scotch the notion once and for all but don’t hold your breath. Barroway emphasized that he will be “very involved in all major decisions” and that “the buck stops with me.” LeBlanc painfully agreed by saying Barroway “wears the crown” as the majority owner of the team.
Just as every Coyotes fan, I desperately want Barroway and the team to succeed for that insures the team in Glendale for a very long time. An integral part of that scenario is constantly building a strong and ever growing fan base. That is difficult to do in today’s climate. Everyone, especially a fan base, loves a winner…a loser, not so much. The team’s performance is in a state of flux as older, experienced players are replaced with young, unproven new faces as part of a rebuilding cycle. The only star player the team will probably retain over the long haul is Shane Doan and he can’t do it alone. The financial bleeding will diminish when the team’s performance proves to be a consistent game winner.
What does the future hold for the Arizona Coyotes? Only Andrew Barroway knows and he’s not telling. Remember there is an option in the Glendale/IceArizona deal that the team can move after demonstrating 5 years of loss. Barroway, first and foremost, is a smart businessman. While he expects losses he also expects those losses to diminish over time as he works to build a more competitive and winning team. Only Andrew Barroway will decide if the team’s future includes a move to a more profitable locale with the financial resources to build his dream team that wins the Stanley Cup. We all hope that the dream of a Stanley Cup includes Glendale, Arizona. We all hope that is Barroway’s dream as well.
© Joyce Clark, 2014
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