Saturday, June 18, 2005

This Isn't How You Sell The Blues

TSN is reporting that Walmart heir Bill Laurie is attempting to sell the St. Louis Blues. He purchased the team and their arena the Savvis Center (formerly the Kiel Center) for a reported $100 million in 1999. Their ultimite goal was to bring NBA basketball to St. Louis and share the Savvis Center with the Blues. They tried unsuccessfully to bring the Vancouver Grizzlies to St. Louis, before the Grizzlies eventually settled in Memphis. The hockey team may have been looked at as a necessary acquisition to get the arena and never something that Laurie truly wanted to purchase.

After waiting a year through a lockout where no NHL hockey was played, Laurie is announcing that the Blues are for sale. Speaking on Laurie's behalf, Blues president Mark Sauer says:

Substantial future losses are projected even if you take into account what we believe will be a very successful resolution to NHL collective bargaining. Those projected losses result from the current high sales and amusement taxes and the absence of city, county and state financial support of the debt service and operations of Savvis Center.

It seems ridiculous that any team would have been willing to lockout players for an entire year and forced in a new Central Bargaining Agreement that is beginning to look like the restrictive system they always wanted to increase their profits, to still argue that they cannot make money under this system. Were that really true, the St. Louis Blues should be moved or folded. It seems ridiculous that anyone who seriously wanted to sell their franchise, would make any statements like that.

Probably the real agenda is within Sauer's statement. He rails against high taxes and the lack of financial support from the government. What Laurie really wants is money from the government. The St. Louis Rams football team have been offered significant government support to lure them from Los Angeles. The St. Louis Cardinals baseball team are receiving government support in building their new baseball stadium. Where are the similar handouts for the Blues? If they make enough noise, maybe they will get some. Or less likely, if they can seriously convince St. Louis that they may lose their NHL team, somebody will step in with significant money for Laurie to "save" the St. Louis Blues. I am willing to bet that if Laurie sells the team it will not be at a cut rate, it will be for a profit.

Here is an interesting conversation on this topic in Tom Benjamin's blog.

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