Leipold to buy Wild
Minnesota Sports & Entertainment (“MSE”), the parent company of the Minnesota Wild, announced today that an agreement has been signed to sell the Minnesota Wild and its related entities to Craig Leipold. Financial terms were not disclosed, and the final sale requires approval by the National Hockey League and other regulatory approvals.
Bob Naegele has been the majority owner of the Minnesota Wild since the NHL granted an expansion franchise to the team in 1997. Mr. Leipold, a resident of Racine, Wisconsin, recently completed the sale of the Nashville Predators, a team he owned since the expansion franchise was awarded to Nashville in 1997.
But this — this is big news.
Finally free of his commitments in Nashville, Leipold remains in the NHL ownership fold by buying into one of the most successful markets in the league. Racine is only about 500 kilometres from St. Paul, so this is as close as he could get to owning his hometown team.
ESPN's Scott Burnside first reported Leipold's interest in the Wild back in August, so a hat tip to him.
The real question I have is why Naegele wants out, as with a full building every night, business is good for Minnesota. Leipold has $193-million in his back pocket after the Nashville sale, and my guess is the Wild would fetch quite a bit more than that, so there's definitely a good return on Naegele's $80-million expansion fee 11 years ago.
And perhaps that's reason enough.
This is Leipold's reward for the frustrating process he went through with the Predators sale, for turning down Jim Balsillie and waiting for a less moneyed local group to get its ducks in a row. Leipold's long been called one of commissioner Gary Bettman's biggest supporters on the board of governors, so it should come as no surprise he's back.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press was at today's press conference:
"It really is an honor for Bob to pass the baton down to me," Leipold said. "This is a genuinely incredible moment. For you hockey fans, know one thing: I am incredibly passionate about hockey and I am committed to winning a Stanley Cup."Leipold also said he plans to buy a home near the arena and that he will start going to games starting next week.
"When you look at a franchise that embodies everything a franchise wants to be, this is the franchise everyone wants to be. This is the new standard. For a little boy from Neenah, Wis. ... to become part of this franchise is nothing short of incredible," he said.
Leipold said Naegele will stay on as an investor.
Some fans are a little uneasy about the switch at the top:
Winning aside, the way the Wild have been operated from Day 1 has been absolutely unimpeachable. The second NHL team in the Twin Cities learned from the mistakes of the first, and has made the right move for Minnesota hockey in almost every circumstance. In the ten years since the expansion team was awarded to St. Paul, the Wild have made every effort to become part of the fabric of what they call the "State of Hockey," one of the great marketing slogans ever dreamed up.There hasn't been a ton of reaction from the blogosphere so far, as there really aren't a lot of Wild blogs, but I'll monitor what's happening as the day goes along.
I like the way the Wild are run. And so a new owner makes me nervous.