A while ago I wrote about Stan Kroenke, the one-percenter who stole a lake in British Columbia. Stan also collects sports franchises including the Colorado Avalanche. Now that the NHL lockout is official it might be interesting to look at other owners, say the two guys on the owners’ bargaining committee. They’re just a couple of big kids really, having a fine old time creating havoc and consternation among the adults.
Craig Leipold co-founded a company called Ameritel that supplied equipment to other companies. It was successful and he sold for a bundle. Then he started another company called Ameritel that supplied services to other companies. A few years ago he renamed it Alta Resources. [Note: there are lots of companies called Ameritel in America and Leipold has nothing to do with most of them, such as Ameritel Payphones in Florida, investigated by the FTC; and there are lots of Altas that he has nothing to do with, for instance, the Alta fracking operation.] Leipold also loves games and back in 1997 bought the Nashville Raptors. What with one thing and another he couldn’t make that work and sold the team before picking up his current franchise, the Minnesota Wild.Ted Leonsis likes to be Happy; he says that’s the secret to success. In 1993 he took over America Online and actually turned that company into a money-maker — for a while. When AOL began sinking in the competitive seas of high tech, he flim-flammed Time-Warner into merging with AOL, which is akin to selling seats on the Titanic after it met the iceberg. Anyway, Ted had a list of things that would make him happy and one was owning a sports franchise, so he bought a few including the Washington Capitals. Ted is a likeable guy, if you discount the times when he loses his temper and assaults someone — say, a fan who criticizes him. He loves the internet and has his own blog. He has an internet operation that shows socially conscious movies about Occupy Wall Street or labor organizing in Appalachia. Some of the other owners may find him a bit of a puzzle.
Back in 2008, the NHL was four years off the second of Gary Bettman’s three lockouts and the owners had pledged to sign shorter, cheaper contracts. So Ted signed up Alexander Ovechkin for 13 years and $124 Million. That Ted! Such a kidder! But he’s a Happy boy!This year the League owners again said that they needed shorter, cheaper contracts. In April, Craig Leipold said:
We’re not making money, and that’s one reason we need to fix our system. We need to fix how much we’re spending right now. [The Wild’s] revenues are fine. We’re down a little bit in attendance, but we’re up in sponsorships, we’re up in TV revenue. And so the revenue that we’re generating is not the issue as much as our expenses. And [the Wild’s] biggest expense by far is player salaries.
Then, a couple of days before the lockout, he signed two 13-year contracts for $98 Million each with Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. Craig is not only Happy, he’s Excited! He’s always telling people how Excited he is: “AHHHHHHHHH!!! I am a madman. Oy, oy, oy. It’s hard to come to grips with. It was such a fun, great process.”
So Excitable Boy and Mister Happy represent the owners in the current fiasco and let there be no mistake, much as everyone despises that ferret-faced little turd Gary Bettman, he takes his orders from the owners. Of course, they probably leave the strategizing up to Gary and he just loves him some lockout.
Rumor has it that twelve or so of the American franchises are behind the cut-salaries and increase-revenues drive. Some teams — like New Jersey, Nashville, Dallas, and Columbus are really suffering. Phoenix has been operating in receivership for years now. So these owners want a bigger slice of the Big Pie — television revenues and the money available to the League to shore up rickety operations — that way they can stave off bankruptcy a little longer. So are these owners upset that Craig Leipold and Ted Leonsis act in ways counter to the principles they say they are defending? Nope, many of them have done the same thing. After all, these sports teams are just rich men’s toys and so long as somebody is having fun, well, that’s what toys are for.