When Dave Checketts bought the St. Louis Blues after the team finished last in the NHL in the 2005-06 season, he was pretty universally praised as a savvy business man who was committed to building a winner the right way and keeping the team here in St. Louis. He was fan friendly, he put an easy to like guy in charge of hockey operation with John Davidson. Other than raising ticket prices (which he later admitted the league made him do it), he did everything right. If Jeremy Rutherford's story on STLToday Wednesday afternoon is correct, all of those good memories will be erased in the minds of most Blues fans.
Rich guy Max Chambers from Calgary said he made an offer of $167 million...in cash...for the St. Louis Blues. And Checketts' response was, "Not bad. I'd like to counter your offer and ask you to increase it to $190 million." He probably said it in more legal terms. Let's review just a few facts.
It's been more than a year since Towerbrook Partners, the largest investor in the ownership group, announced that they wanted out and that Checketts would be looking for someone to put up the money and allow him to still be the controlling partner.
In March Checketts announced that he was unable to find a buyer who would agree to those conditions.
Around that time, it was reported that Tom Stillman, a local minority owner, had made an offer of about $110 million for the team. Checketts called it unacceptable.
In August the Blues set an artificial deadline for offers to be submitted after making several self-proclaimed deadlines about finding new owners that came and passed with little comment from ownership. Since then, it seems Chambers' offer was the highest...and still wasn't high enough.
Alright, now that we're caught up, let's admit the obvious: this interview is a masterful PR move by Chambers to put pressure on Checketts in attempt to get some leverage in negotiations. If Chambers can stir up the base of customers, and it seemed like he did a good job online Wednesday, maybe he can force something.
Listen to how he laid it on nice and thick:
"Owning a hockey team has always been one of my goals in life," Chambers said. St. Louis "was Trottier’s first choice. He’s a ring pig and he wants to get his eighth (Stanley Cup) ring in St. Louis."
Holy. Shit. An NHL Hall of Famer likes us. He really likes us. What else, sir?
"Looking at the market, St. Louis is attractive because I think they can win, the market is solid … it’s consistent … and that appeals. St. Louis is a market I’d feel comfortable raising my family, where I can’t say that about every other city in the league."
Sold! Checketts, what the hell were you thinking? You're ownership group doesn't have the working capital to keep going. Your silent partners want out. Your minority partner tried to undercut you and lowball you thinking no one else would come in and pay a premium for the team. You get a rich guy from Canada who says he wants to move his family here and pay you in cash (the best thing about cash is it's as good as money!) and you say...more? You owe Citigroup $120 million on a loan that came due in June. They gave you an extension. Now that they've seen Mr. Chambers and his more than reasonable offer, you think they'll give you another extension when no one else offers you $190 million?
Gallagher and I were talking after this story came out. He made the argument that unless you own an NFL team where there is massive revenue sharing, only a small percentage of people actually make money with a sports team while actually owning said sports team. Often, the profit comes at sale time. So getting every cent you can when selling the team, that makes total sense. But be prepared for the consequences. If this lingers until Oct. 8, you will be booed like Gary Bettman. Paying customers will not stand for it.
Mr. Checketts, from the beginning, you've said you want what's in the best interest for this team and its fans. Most people haven't questioned that before now. Your purchase of the Blues was a defining moment for this franchise. Historians will look back at your time as owner and recall that you brought stability to a sinking organization. But how will that chapter be finished? This is another defining moment.
Sir, make the deal.