Thursday, March 17, 2011

Blues on the block

“I can no longer be a buyer ... for I have to tell the world ‘Folks, it’s for sale.’ And they ought to come in and look at it, because it is a respectable and healthy NHL team and in a great city. What I want to do now, what I have to do, is to make sure to find someone with the same passion and commitment that I do.” -- St. Louis Blues minority owner Dave Checketts announcing he has put the Blues up for sale.

Somewhere in an office at the NHL's headquarters in New York is an overworked employee,  tasked with tracking bond sale negotiations, arena lease provisions and failed partnerships, file upon file piling up on a desk awaiting some kind of closure.

Index markers identifying such NHL outposts as Phoenix, Dallas, Atlanta, Long Island, all locales that have current troubles on the boil and offer up a need for some form of intervention it would seem. They are but the most prominent of teams that have provided for concerns at the moment, though there are suspicions that there are other teams that as they say could be a "motivated seller" if the right offer comes along.

Our employee, is no doubt one who for the most part spends the better part of the day typing up ads for business journals, items of note that read:  For Sale, stable turnkey operation in continental wide sports operation, seeking motivated buyer to take over assets and liabilities, relocation a possibility but not preferred..

One file is probably so far on the bottom it will never get another glance, the move by the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund to divest themselves of the assets of the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the most storied of franchises in the NHL, its fate is most likely destined to a large and motivated buyer in Ontario.  No alarm bells will be ringing there, the Leafs for the most part represent the best  in stability in today's NHL.

But yesterday's surprise announcement that the St. Louis Blues have the For Sale sign hanging at the front of the Scott Trade Centre is certainly an unwelcome intrusion into the day to day operations of the league.

St. Louis has history with the NHL, first back in the thirties when the Ottawa Senators relocated to the Midwest for a short, depression era stay, short lived as it was in the wake of that era's financial collapse. Then with the first wave of NHL expansion in 1967, a charter member of the second six, the Blues have long provided for a hockey footprint in the region and for many years were a model franchise.

Some troublesome years came along and if not for the intervention of the Board of Governors the Blues could very well have been calling Saskatoon home, that near transplant is now a foggy memory for many in Missouri and before the folks in Saskatoon begin to dust off their seats, the chances of a replay seem slim.

It's anticipated that with the Blues once again a popular sports fixture in St. Louis, that eventually a buyer dedicated to the region will come forward and pick up the puck, sticks and books.

Mainly it seems that it's been an internal battle that finally bubbled up, Dave Checketts the one time Madison Square Gardens executive who moved west to rebuild the Blues has seemingly had one or two disputes too many with his current partners, who have apparently tired of being involved with their stake in the Blues.

Unsuccessful in his quest to gain access to all the shares of the Blues, or to find investors for the shares held by TowerBrook Capital partners, he has decided the time to sell is nigh, and put the Blues and Scott Trade Centre up for bid.

Not an unusual situation when there are multiple partners involved in the running of a franchise, but still, in an era where Gary Bettman and his cadre of financial and legal advisers are running around America trying to put out franchise fires, the announcement that the Blues are on the block isn't exactly the message of stability that they might wish to proclaim.

The latest reports on the Blues arrival in the For Sale section can be followed below.

Globe and Mail-- St. Louis Blues go up for sale
Ottawa Citizen-- St. Louis Blues now up for bidding
msnbc-- Checketts announces the Blues are for sale
CBC-- St. Louis Blues for sale
St. Louis Post Dispatch-- Checketts puts next owner in position to succeed
St. Louis Post Dispatch-- Checketts puts Blues, Scottrade Centre up for sale
St. Louis Dispatch-- Regretful Checketts steps aside
St. Louis Dispatch-- News of sale 'non factor' in loss 
St. Louis Post Dispatch-- Who will save the Blues?
Belleville New Democrat.-- Checketts selling his shares; Blues, arena are up for sale
Yahoo Sports-- What St. Louis Blues 'for sale' sign means for next season

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