Friday, October 31, 2008

Folding and counting with Forbes

For ten years now, Forbes magazine has tried to make Gary Bettman a centerfold, the American business magazine has provided its an annual review of the state of the NHL and not surprisingly it offers up glad tidings to the owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Forbes has valued the Leafs as the NHL’s top property, a 448 million dollar cash machine, and the most successful in financials of the NHL’s 30 member franchises. With the support of the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund which is the financial muscle behind the organization, the Leafs have parlayed the Toronto Raptors, Leafs TV and the ownership of the Air Canada Centre into a profit making centre to rival all others in the NHL.

The New York Rangers claim the second most successful spot in the game, 411 million dollars of pre meltdown monetary value. Making them the best of the NHL brand in the USA.

The third star for Forbes was the Montreal Canadiens, who are estimated to be worth a handsome 311 million dollars, making George Gillette’s 2001 purchase price of 181 million dollars a pretty smart move, a successful acquisition that still leaves one puzzled as to why not one Quebecer or Canadian felt that the Canadiens were worth the investment.

Canada actually fared pretty well on the Forbes review, spurred on by last years strong Canadian dollar, the financial maneuvering required wasn’t near as complex as in years past.

Vancouver holds down the number eight spot, Ottawa grabs lucky thirteen (judging by their start we wonder if Eugene Melnyk is superstitious.
Calgary checks in at number fifteen, while their provincial rivals in Edmonton were slotted in at number 20.

The five least successful teams in Gary Bettman’s brave new world include the Phoenix Coyotes who are ranked dead last at number thirty, described as just a mess these days, thanks to Arizona’s collapsing real estate market (part of the arena deal was to involve a heavy emphases on real estate development, oh oh, poor timing on that power play). Phoenix is valued at 142 million dollars (Mr. Balsillie please take note)

The Islanders weighed down by the worst arena deal in the league (and some questionable past contract arrangements we would suspect) are in at number 29, valued at 154 million a far cry from the 181 million that Charles Wang paid for the team back in the year 2000.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are said to be worth 157 million, making owner John P. McConnell worth 77 million more on paper than when he bought the team in 1997.

Likewise the Atlanta Thrashers have increased in value for their owners Atlanta Spirit who have since seen the value increase 78 million dollars from the 2004 purchase price of 80 million dollars. Though the spirit of Atlanta is seemingly waning, with reports of much infighting among the group of owners and expectations that the Thrashers will be on the market very shortly.

The last of the bottom five is surprisingly the Washington Capitals, while there has been much improvement on the ice in the last few years and the Caps truly seem to be the team on the rise, Ted Leonis is still hoping to see his team increase in value from the current valuation rate of 160 million dollars. That would be just a little bit more than Alexander Ovechkin’s thirteen year 124 million dollar contract.

While it’s doubtful that the Caps are even close to being put on the market, they do make for an interesting study.

If you’re a would-be owner trolling for franchises at reasonable prices, wouldn’t the Capitals be just the kind of team you would be looking for? They’re talented, stocked with up and coming players and finally finding success on the ice. They would be the perfect kind of squad to launch your days in the comfy confines of the NHL owners club. And you could pick them up at a fairly reasonable pricing structure at the moment, considering the future that may be just around the corner.

With Gary Bettman suggesting that he would like to see expansion come to the NHL in the near future (a rather laughable idea considering the state of the NHL’s bottom lines in many communities and that of America in general at the moment), why would any sane businessman want to go that long term route.

Spend more than what a current franchise is worth and start from scratch, or take the wiser course which would be to seek out some of the teams in distress and bring your ready made roster on to a new location.

Hmmm, wonder which way those multi millionaires might go eh, as they anxiously watch the stock markets these days, and look for the next best bang for their bucks.

The full Forbes report can be found on their website (link is here). It’s a fascinating bit of information on a rather secretive league, complete with background information on each of the NHL’s thirty member franchises. Highlighting what they’ve been doing right and how things are going wrong.

It will no doubt make for some very interesting reading in the NHL head offices, who will no doubt be offering up the spin in a very short time now.

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