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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

It has been 17 years and 195 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

Recently ‘thevintageguy,’ one of the regular commenters to my blog posts, offered an interesting idea. He calculated that if every hockey ticket for every game had a surcharge of $24 it would generate $15M annually in revenue. If that surcharge were applied IceArizona would not need the City of Glendale to pay $15M a year for a management fee.

I decided to explore that idea but first, some history. The city owned arena opened in December of 2003. Let me remind you there was no arena management fee that the city had to pay. Steve Ellman led a group of investors who bought the Coyotes. Ellman may be many things to many people but he took immense pride in the arena, the Coyotes and the events he booked. Back then concerts were far more frequent. Bette Midler, Britney Spears, Elton John and U2, to name just a few performers, played at the arena in its early years. During the years of his ownership of the team the Arizona Sting (now defunct) also played all of its games at the arena. While the Arizona Sting was probably not a money maker during the years of its existence from 2003-07, each year it successfully increased its fan base. It certainly was not a deterrent to Jerry Moyes’ acquisition of Ellman’s interests.

Ellman realized how important it was to his bottom line to keep the arena busy all year long. Ellman’s downfall was his inability to develop a substantial amount of commercial and retail surrounding the arena quickly enough. To focus on that aspect of his business he sold his interest in the hockey team to Jerry Moyes. Then the national recession hit and he was unable to hold on to his interests within Westgate.

Under Moyes there was no arena management fee that the city had to pay. Moyes seemed not to be as committed to the health of the team and its bottom line as Ellman had been. Unfortunately Moyes ran the team’s finances into the ground. Apparently he diverted team revenue to his other businesses and subsidiaries. By 2009, Moyes asked the city to begin payment of a management fee of $12M a year. The city refused. Moyes declared team bankruptcy all the while working a secret deal with Jim Balsillie to buy the team out of bankruptcy. The court stopped that scheme and the NHL assumed control of the team. The NHL demanded an annual management fee of $25M knowing that the city needed to buy time until a new team owner was secured. It was precedent setting. From that point forward any potential owner of the team had a green light to require that the city pay a management fee.

In 2013, IceArizona bought the team with the NHL’s blessing and so the management fee scheme was retained with the city paying $15M annually. The IA management agreement has a revenue sharing component but the revenues generated annually and paid to the city have been approximately $8M short every year in covering the annual $15M payment.

Recently the city council voted to cancel the contract with IceArizona (IA) alleging a conflict of interest by two former city employees. IA immediately went to court and obtained a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). The judge required the city to make its quarterly payment of $3.75M on July 1, 2015 to pay for services already rendered and the city has done so. The court also required IA to post a bond of $1M and IA has done so. On July 29, 2015 both parties will be back in court and the judge will make a determination if the TRO should become permanent pending the outcome of the suit regarding the contract cancellation.

On Monday, July 13, 2015, the Glendale city council met in executive session. It is my strong belief that the subject of that meeting was the litigation between IA and the city. I suspect IA made an offer amending the existing contract and their offer was rejected. It appears as if the city council is convinced that its allegations are solid and provable in a court of law. Just think about it. If there had been a desire on the part of council to accept an offer from IA there would have been a press release issued after executive session. That has not occurred.

Back to the ‘vintageguy’s’ idea. Basic research reveals the following annual attendance figures for the Coyotes, courtesy of hockeyDB.com at http://www.hockeydb.com/nhl-attendance/att_graph.php?tmi=7450 .

“Phoenix Coyotes Yearly Attendance Graph. This is a graph of the home attendance of the Phoenix Coyotes, a hockey team playing in the National Hockey League from 1996 to 2015. Attendance is based on numbers from a team or league, either released as an official yearly per-game average figure, or compiled into an average from individual boxscore attendance. In some cases when boxscore attendance is unavailable for a small number of games, the attendance is computed omitting the missing games and annotated as approximate. Clicking on a season’s bar will bring you to a graph of all teams in the league.”

The average attendance figure for the Coyotes for the last 5 years is 13,133. Multiply that figure by 41 games a year and the average total attendance for a season of 41 games is 538,453. If you divide $15M (annual city payment of management fee) by 538,453 each ticket for each and every game would require an additional $27.85. If a hockey fan were to buy a ticket for each of the 41 games per year the additional annual amount he/she would pay would be $1,141.85. What do all of these numbers mean? If hockey fans paid more for every ticket IceArizona would not need the $15M a year from the city. Now that sounds like a plan.

Let’s look at it another way. Each year even with IA’s revenue sharing the city is in deficit for the $15M annual payment by about $8M a year. If revenue sharing were to remain and the same ticket increase scheme were used to cover the $8M a year deficit, each ticket would need to be increased by $14.85 which comes to a total increase for a fan attending all 41 games of $608.85 a year.

I believe my figures are correct but even if they are off a bit don’t get bogged down in the numbers. Instead consider the concept. If fans were charged more per ticket per game with or without IA revenue sharing there would be no need for the city to pay an annual management fee of $15M. That would surely solve the city’s annual Coyotes related deficit. Whether it is $27.85 or $14.85 per ticket per game the sixty four dollar question is are Coyotes fans willing to pay either extra amount to keep the team in Glendale? Is it possible for them to redirect their negative anger to a more positive action – that of paying more to keep their team?

© Joyce Clark, 2015

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Coyotes financial history

Posted by Joyce Clark on April 12, 2013
Posted in City of Glendale  | Tagged With: , , , , , | 3 Comments

ellman

Steve Ellman

Through a Request for Information processed by the City of Glendale, I obtained information about arena management company finances over the years. I do not have a complete picture but I do have information that relates to 2006 to 2007, during the time when Jerry Moyes was the majority owner of the team and arena manager, and 2010 to 2013, the time that the NHL has been owner of the team and arena manager. From the time the arena opened in 2003 to 2006, Steve Ellman was majority owner of the team and the arena manager. Records for his period of management are as elusive as the man himself. When the national economy went south the two men responsible for bringing the team to Glendale left it, holding the bag. Is it karma that Steve Ellman declared bankruptcy regarding Westgate and Jerry Moyes declared bankruptcy regarding the team?

moyes

Jerry Moyes

In 2006 to 2008 the arena was managed by the Arena Management Group, LLC (AMG), a Delaware Limited Liability Company. The managing member and 100% owner of AMG was Coyotes Holdings, LLC (CH) and Jerry Moyes was the majority owner of record. Moyes was originally a minority partner in Steve Ellman’s ownership group, which bought the Coyotes from Richard Burke in 2001. On September 26, 2006, Ellman sold controlling interest in the Coyotes, Arizona  Sting, and the lease to Jobing.com Arena to Moyes. Independent Auditor’s Reports by BDO Seidman, LLP., an accountancy and consultancy firm, were produced that covered the period of 2006 and 2007, just prior to Moyes’ bankruptcy filing.

The auditor’s report shows the following :

                                                                                             2006                                   2007

Revenues                                                                     $7,142,000                    $6,499,000

Expenses:

Event                                                                               $5,616,000                    $4,413,000

General and Administrative                                    $ 7,303,000                    $ 9,052,000

Total expenses                                                          $12,919,000                  $13,465,000

Net Loss                                                                       ($5,777,000)                ($6,966,000)

 

Balance as of June 30, 2005                     Member’s Deficit ($9,641,000)

Net Loss                                                                                                             ($5,777,000)

Balance as of June 30, 2006                     Member’s Deficit ($15,418,000)

Net Loss                                                                                                              ($6,966,000)

Balance as of June 30, 2007                     Member’s Deficit ($22,384,000)

The managing member(s) had plowed over $22M to cover the losses incurred in 2006 and 2007. The general and administrative expenses appear to be disproportionately high during this period.

Bettman

Gary Bettman

In 2008, Moyes told Gary Bettman that he would stop funding the club and so, the figures for 2008 were not included in this request. The NHL was willing to provide funding on an emergency basis if Moyes would turn over his voting control. Their divisiveness became public in May 2009 when the League nearly sold the Coyotes to Jerry Reinsdorf. Moyes would have received very little, if anything, from the sale. Moyes immediately put the Coyotes into bankruptcy protection and announced a plan to sell the club to Jim Basillie. Moyes also filed a lawsuit against the NHL, alleging the league was an “illegal cartel.” Bettman, in return, argued that the league had been blindsided and that Moyes did not have the authority to put the club into bankruptcy protection. Financial records for 2009, during this period of turmoil were not provided from the city.

In the 3 years in which the Arena Newco, LLC., (NHL) has been managing the arena, and according to the documents that they submitted to the city, the costs and revenues have been pretty consistent. Revenues average in the $6M to $7M range and expenses average about $12.5M. The Net Operating Loss average is about $5.5M.

If you look the Moyes figures and the NHL figures they are pretty close to one another. I think it is safe to assume that the costs of operating the arena with the team as an anchor tenant will be in the $12M to $13M range. Revenues have consistently been in the $6M to$7M range with an annual operating loss of about $5M to $6M. Keep in mind these figures do not create any Return on Investment for any of the 4 groups and their investors vying to acquire the team. If the city council rejects all of these potential buyers it is safe to assume that they will be looking an annual expenditures of about $8M to cover the construction debt payment and another $12M to operate the arena. Undoubtedly that $20M annual expenditure will be offset by sales taxes collected on revenue but they should not expect revenue to be comparable to the current $6M to $7M range.

There is another issue to be considered and that is , Capital Repairs. There is a Capital Replacement and Renewal Account from which to pay these items. How hefty is it? None of the documents are clear. But it is known that apparently the roof is leaking and may require as much as $2M to fix.

Revenues have been low for a variety of reasons. In 2003, the team was sited in a new geographical location and it took time for fans to adjust their mindset to make the drive to Glendale. Moyes and the NHL have not had a particularly strong track record in booking other events into the arena. In fact, this year saw the least number of non-hockey events booked than in any previous year. Of course, the first lockout and the most recent lockout did not help. Add to this the fact that the team has not had an owner since 2009 and we have had a referendum attempt to get rid of the team and an election to void the sales tax increase. Throw into all of this mix, a national economy that took a nose dive. This team and this location have never had a fighting chance to realize its full potential.

My hat is off to all of the potential buying groups for believing that they have solutions to all of these issues and can turn the profitability picture around. No matter who succeeds they will have a lot of work to do to rebuild revenues as well as the fan base and confidence in this team. Can it be done? I believe… and I believe the answer is “yes.”

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       There has been a lot of chatter lately among hockey fans that keeping the team for 5 years is better than losing the team now. For rabid hockey fans such a thought should be anathema.  Why?
A little review of history first. In future blogs at “Joyce Clark Unfiltered” a more complete history will be offered.  In 2001 the City entered into a series of agreements with Coyotes Center Development

Steve Ellman LLC (Mr. Steve Ellman). The City’s clear intent was to build an arena to host the Phoenix Coyotes Hockey team which had been purchased by Mr. Ellman. There was no management fee in this agreement. In 2005 Mr. Ellman sold the team to Mr. Jerry Moyes. There was still no management fee as Mr. Moyes bought the team under the existing agreements with the City of Glendale.

In Spring-Summer 2009 Mr. Moyes wanted the agreements renegotiated with the City to include a management fee of approximately $12 million a year or he would dmoyeseclare bankruptBalsilliecy. The City declined and Mr. Moyes declared bankruptcy. He tried to convince the City to support the sale of the team to Mr. Jim Balsillie of RIM with relocation of the team to Canada and to accept nominal annual payments from him. The City refused and consequently in May of 2010 the NHL bought the team out of bankruptcy. For the first time the City would be required to pay a management fee and in the case of the NHL, that figure was $25M a year.
In April and June of 2010 the City entered into Memoranda of Understandings with theLeblanc Reinsdorf Group and Anthony LeBlanc of Ice Edge. Neither of these potential deals could

reinsdorfbe negotiated to all parties’ satisfaction.  Each of these parties was seeking an arena management fee in the $17 million range and each wanted an “opt out” clause of 5 years.

matthew-hulsizer

In February to June 2011, the City was ready to finalize a deal with Mr. Matthew Hulsizer of Coyotes Newco LLC. This deal also contained an “opt out” clause of 5 years. This new deal would have required the City to purchase parking rights from Coyotes Newco at a cost of approximately $100 M. It failed only in part due to the Goldwater Institute’s assertion that the City would be in violation of the state gift clause.

Jamison

In the fall of 2011 through January 31, 2013, the City entered into an MOU and serious negotiations with Mr. Greg Jamison of Hockey Partners LLC. It was a deal that was good for Glendale, the NHL and the team. It kept the team in Glendale for 20 years, the annual management fee was $12M, there was an option to buy the arena and it contained penalty and incentive provisions.  It failed because Mr. Jamison could not meet the City deadline for completion.I will offer more about this situation in a future blog at “Joyce Clark Unfiltered.” Lately there has been talk of “mystery buyers” with “deep pockets” from Gallacher to LeBlanc. 

Bettman

 


Ever since the arena was built I have talked to team owners of various sports. Universally the consensus has been that it takes a minimum of 10 years to build a solid fan base. Their general opinion has been that if anyone offered less than the 10 years then that entity is not serious about staying.
Coyotes fans should  not be willing to settle for a deal that only keeps the team in Arizona for 5 years knowing that it is not a good deal for the team, the NHL or the City of Glendale. How can a fan emotionally invest in a team knowing that it is destined to leave? Fans should be supportive of a deal that keeps the Coyotes here long-term. After all, in the last 18 months the emotional, physical and financial fan investment in this team has been greater than that of any fan in the NHL. It’s time for surety through permanence for everyone.
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