Isles Ownership Saga Rolls On
The story of the New York Islanders sale continues to gather steam; with Sports Business Journal’s Chris Botta reporting that Andrew Barroway has lined up the necessary funds and investors to meet current owner Charles Wang’s asking price.
Botta has previously mentioned an “unwritten, non-binding understanding” that the asking price for the Islanders would be in the region of $400m; allowing Barroway to seek the support he would need to continue his flirtation with the franchise.
Whilst the hedge fund managers interest in the Isles excited many fans, the saga is far from over – nor is it as straight forward as it may have at first appeared.
BD Gallof, who was my guest on the One Puck Short Podcast last week, received information that suggested part of Barroway’s strategy was to keep the club close to the cap floor should the deal go through:
SOURCE: Barroway’s business plan assumes keeping player payroll at cap floor in foreseeable future. #isles
— B.D. Gallof (@BDGallof) May 17, 2014
Whilst this plan may have helped Barroway gain the necessary backing from investors, it’s unlikely to be welcome news to a fan base that have watched the Islanders flounder in the basement for far too long.
GM Garth Snow has done a remarkable job at the negotiating table, tying up franchise player John Tavares to a $5.5m/year deal until 2018 and locking up Travis Hamonic until 2020 with a cap hit south of $4m per season. But the Islanders difficulty in signing big name free agents has been a cause for concern for some time now, and the idea of remaining a cap floor team will do little to ease fears that the franchise cannot attract big names any more.
Current owner Charles Wang has frequently been vilified by Islanders fans; but the businessman has sunk a considerable amount of money in to the team since he first became involved with the franchise in 2000.
As the saying goes, ‘better the devil you know’ – Wang has endured heavy financial losses with the Islanders, but was still willing to open his cheque book in a bid to keep Thomas Vanek on Long Island. And whilst Wang’s tenure is far from perfect, he has at least showed some willingness to keep spending on the ‘right players’ (which can be a subjective term) and drive the franchise forward.
The Lighthouse Project, and threats of a move to Kansas, may not have been popular (the latter more than the former); but in a world where club ownership is more about the business side than the actual sporting side, the intentions were to make the Islanders a successful entity both on and off the ice.
Barroway intentions appear to be about maximising his investors returns. You can’t blame him for this, but operating in an even more ‘bottom line’ driven manner is hardly a step towards a Stanley Cup. But that is the nature of the game now – owning a sports team, in any league, is more about the business side than the sporting side; and owners like Terry Pegula, willing to spend, and lose, millions in a bid for success are few and far between.
The twist in this tale is that Barroway is not the only party considering a move for the franchise though. Whilst his bid became public, there has been talk of other groups interested in buying the club for some time now and there are an increasing number of reports of a second (or even third) potential ownership group giving the clubs tyres a serious ‘kicking’.
With the impending move to Brooklyn, and the ‘guaranteed income’ that offers, as well as expectations of an aggressive summer from Garth Snow in a bid to get things on track on the ice again, the Islanders ownership situation is far from clear cut. There are no guarantees Wang will even sell, and as time passes Barroway appears to be less ‘the saviour’ some billed him to be.
At such a pivotal time for the club; it’s unlikely that Wang, a man who has sunk 14 years and millions upon millions of dollars in to the franchise, will rush in to anything.
Especially if there are other irons in this particular fire.