Thursday, January 10, 2008

Leipold Buys and Sells Franchises

In a bold move that raised the attention of fans and media in one of hockey's best American markets, the Minnesota Wild have been sold to a former owner who is already a key figure to the sale of the Nashville Predators.
Craig Leipold prepared to take over as chairman of the Minnesota Wild, the former Nashville Predators owner promised not to "mess with" one of the NHL's model franchises.
The Wild announced Thursday that Bob Naegele's majority stake in the team will be bought by Leipold, the Wisconsin entrepreneur who finalized his sale of the Predators last month.
Sources tell TSN that the purchase price is $260 million.
Leiopold first got involved in scandal when his previously owned Nashville Predators were offered to be bought by Canadian businessman Jim "carpetbagger" Balsillie. Many fans and media suspected that there was something funny going on in the NHL management. This story does not help quell those thoughts.
The sports business analysts at Forbes released their annual team values in November, estimating the Wild's worth at US$180 million. That number ranked them 15th out of 30 NHL teams. When asked how much he will pay for the franchise and the parent company, Leipold laughed as he said, "way too much."
But what would a hockey franchise be worth to a guy who lives in Wisconsin and can operate a franchise closer to home.
"This is a genuinely incredible moment for me," Leipold said.
The TSN/NHL Network also chronicled the outgoing shareholder Naegele and what it took to return hockey to a state that suffered the loss of their beloved North Stars.
Naegele and his group of investors formed Minnesota Sports and Entertainment in 1997 when they were awarded the rights to an expansion franchise that entered the league in 2000. The Wild have announced a sellout for every game they've played at their downtown St. Paul arena.

Naegele, who built his wealth on a ubiquitous Twin Cities billboard company founded by his father, said he felt the time was right to move on. A goalie at Minnetonka High School in the 1950s, Naegele currently lives with his wife in Naples, Fla.

"There are seasons in a man's life, so this is the season. How do you know? It's just maybe a business sense. An intuition," said Naegele, who compared his decision to sell the team to giving away his two daughters in marriage.

Naegele will remain a minority investor. The limited partnership owns the Wild as well as the minor league Houston Aeros, the Minnesota Swarm of the National Lacrosse League, and a catering business.
This deal is pending approval from the board of Governors, but I feel it is likely to pass because of previous dealings with Leipold has already earned himself an NHL insider gaining trust with the other franchise owners.

[Via: NHL Network]
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