Monday, June 20, 2005


St. Louis Blues Up for Sale: What's the Dealio?

There is so little news to report or comment on these days, and 'my' MLB team, the Chicago White Sox, keep on winning (45-22!) and taking up most of my sporting interest.

Still, the Blues (until I know what Pavol Demitra is up to) are still my #2 NHL team, and it is noteworthy to me that Wal-Mart heir (Nice to marry into money, eh?) Bill Laurie is putting the St. Louis Blues up for sale.

Marketing 101 - If you have a good product, and want to get a good price for it, don't go telling people what faults lie beneath the shiny surface.

Case in Point, Blues President Mark Sauer:

"...Substantial future losses are projected even if you take into account what we believe will be a very successful resolution to NHL collective bargaining," Sauer continued. "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."
If I ever have a sleek Porsche Spider to sell, why would I go around telling people about the rust that is covered by the new paint job, or the fact that the motor tends to break down every 3 weeks? Why would anyone buy an NHL team if they couldn't make money under the 'new' NHL (We know why, but you'd think Sauer would be smart enough not to say such stupid things).

Anyway, I decided to get some of the facts and scuttlebutt from our resident Blues expert, "Childhood Trauma".

Here is his take on the many angles involved in this transaction-to-be (Excuse the grammar and weird writing kinks...that's just his style)

Would the Blues be moved to a different market?
"Laurie has a long term lease that he is bundling with the team in the sale so that alone would make it hard to get the team moved, and buttman has shown every inclination to strip Canada of its teams but allow the states to keep teams that are faultering (and the Blues fan base, pre lock out at least, was NOT faltering, nor is the Saavis Center a bad arena)."

Corporate Welfare: "The blues have a "high" off the top ticket tax on the Blues, the Cardinals new ball park agreement supposedly eliminated theirs, and speculation is (although i can not confirm) that the Rams never had one due to wooing them to move here in the first place, so the blues would be the only major sports team to be losing 12 % plus off the top of revenues to the city."

(Jes: This seems to be noted as one of the biggest reasons that Laurie would want to dump the team. Why should the Blues have to pay such a rediculous tax when the other pro franchises get perks?)

The Basketball Angle:

"Laurie is a basketball guy as we have ALWAYS made fun of. doesn't know hockey. STILL. the nba wouldn't put up with him, had he an nba team, he would still be the blues owner"

"the laurie family has had disasterous dealing with his beloved Mizzou basketball. his naming right and buying a second rate big ten team a new stadium and pushing for the "q" (Joel Quenneville) to coach have ALL backfired, monetarially and publically with his daughter's school, um, incidence."

(Jes: I remember when Laurie tried to purchase the NBA Vancouver Grizzlies and move them to St. Louis. The NBA would let him in their club then, and they will likely never let him in now. Laurie always dreamed of having the NBA in St. Louis, so it's not a surprise that he might bail now that he realizes he has no chance at the NBA in St. Louis)

The NHL lockout angle: "nothing about the lockout is settled yet., it is unclear just how bad off the Blues will be. that mostly depends on options, incentives, how fast the wage roll back is implimented, how much the lost year contract is worth/ cost etc.

How much $ can Laurie get?: "The stanley cup visiting Ducks took 75 million (below market value) Forbes has the blues organization at 145 million (bahahahaa) i'd be suprised if the team sells within the year laurie gets 80 million (less than he paid). most people feel the basic structure can be saved and if laurie had a brain he would once again let pleau build via the draft, put a week team ont he ice but with cut ticket prices and get his team on the upswing and THEN sell, but laurie has wanted out for a while now apparently"

The Future: "The blues have been going down this road for a while (which I have continously pointed out) but the greatest set of clues to lauries lack of concern at all started last season wehn the leagues worse goalie coach (based on his long term result with blues starters and prospects in net) was PROMOTED to bench coach (yowza!) and before this move was announce a former scout that had recently been promoted to head of scouting/drafting 2 seasons ago, is suddenly repromoted to assistant gm. The organization has been skeletoning itself for season in on ice talent, but it has been just as much going on with administration as well. there is NO concern, money, intent, or desire by laurie to do anythign at any level with this team. and jim woodcock, advertising, marketing, sales guru and one of the most respected sports figures in ANY sport in this city (by people who know anything at least) recently quit the organization. that passing, let me tell you, was a far more bemoaned and felt tremour (even in the local media) than Demitra being shown the curb!"

My final take: The Blues have done a poor job of budgeting and it could hurt them in the future. The Blues have/had a very top-heavy salary structure. Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger, Doug Weight, Keith Tkachuk, and Pavol Demitra all had significant contracts while the rest of the roster had to be filled with very cheap and/or young options. The Blues left themselves no roster flexibility when they locked in their elite players for billions for dollars (especially Tkachuk). Under the new era of Gary Bettman (shall it come to pass), the Blues could find themselves stuck right at the cap number with no room to improve the roster. I haven't crunched the numbers yet, so perhaps that's something I can think about when I'm in the mood.
As for Bill Laurie, I have no love for him (especially since he tried to steal our crappy NBA team away with such malice) and he's done a poor job of managing the Blues...basically, he's an absentee owner who married into money and used the Blues and the Savvis Center primarily for his basketball goals.

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