Saturday, August 18, 2007

Flight of the navigator

David Freeman, the Nashville businessman leading the group to buy the Nashville Predators, has never owned season tickets for the team.

That fact probably will come as a shock to a lot of people. In one sense, his not owning season tickets could be viewed as symptomatic of what the team has faced for years – lack of substantial support from the business community for the team. But it is tough to sell tickets to someone if he isn't a big hockey fan.
This is a piece from last week that escaped my attention until now, but it does give you a good idea of just who one of the main players behind the local bid for the Nashville Predators is. In this country, we've heard all kinds of odes to Jim Balsillie after his interest in NHL teams; here's a look at another fellow we may soon become more familiar with.

The Coles Notes: He grew up in Knoxville, he's a lawyer, one who is shy and soft-spoken. He is 45 years old and recently sold his company, Commodore Medical Services, for "between $35-million and $50-million."

That was a medical-waste services outfit, one he built from the ground up after seeing an opportunity to do so while practising law.

He's a very smart man — although that may go without saying by this point — and he's picked through the Predators' books and determined that this is an effort that needs some help. Financial help:
He says he is working with Metro government on a deal to provide a fixed fee to the team for managing the Sommet Center arena.

The team was paid $5.1 million last year, but that was based on a gap between operating revenues and operating costs. Freeman says the fee negotiations with the city are small compared to some major-league teams asking for new arenas.
There are more investors involved in this group, but Freeman's emerged as a spokesman and he has said his recently created endeavour, 36 Venture Capital, is likely to focus on sports management given the Predators acquisition (which is to go to the league's board sometime next month).

His medical-waste company grew through acquisitions to become the second-largest in the field before it was bought out by a giant; his new company's first buy was an NHL team.

Hockey is suddenly hot with the moneyed set.

The Post article also attempts to get into Freeman's mindset with regards to doing business:
When asked whether he thought he should have been paid in cash and stock [when selling Commodore Medical Services], his answer was perhaps telling in how and why he chose to take on owning the Predators. He said there's too much risk in owning stock. "I tend to only like to take risk when I have control," he said.

It certainly makes sense that Freeman and company will push for the best deal possible given their stake as businessmen, but at what point has the city given enough to save this team? And how much risk should be assumed by taxpayers if the relationship with the NHL goes south?

Who should be in control here?

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At 1:46 p.m., August 18, 2007, Blogger John said...

So apparently it isn't a "done deal" yet. Interesting.

The team is asking for between an additional $3 million and $5 million dollars.

The purchase agreement hasn't been submitted to the league yet, and if it isn't done very soon the NHL won't have a chance to check out the potential group before the next Board of Governors meet. This would in turn push the sale back to December.

Yeah, this is a solid group. What is the over/under on when Boots grabs control?

At 10:33 p.m., August 18, 2007, Anonymous Eric L said...

...and another sheep joins the flock.

At 10:42 p.m., August 18, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Eric, if you don't have anything of value and/or relevance to add, your comments won't last long here.

At 7:43 a.m., August 19, 2007, Anonymous Baroque said...

I feel the worst for the Predators' fans in Nashville over this whole thing. Not only do they get jerked around so much they must have whiplash by now, but they get the "hockey doesn't belong there, let the team move north" not only from many Canadians and Americans from more traditional hockey cities, but also from a lot of their own neighbors.

I've read some of the comments on the local newspaper stories, and they are full of "hockey is boring, what are they doing here, if they can't sink or swim on their own merits then let them move before they get a single dollar of my own money." It's rough enough when you are a minority in America in general in sports fandom, but to have so many naysayers in your own town has got to be discouraging to them.


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