Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Charlotte Checkers Have New Owner

It is an interrogative form of sentence, used to test knowledge. But that's not important right now

Recently, the Charlotte Checkers, the ECHL affiliate of the New York Rangers and the Hartford Wolf Pack, were sold to Georgia businessman Michael Kahn. On Saturday, the Charlotte Observer ran a couple of features about Kahn:

Michael Kahn, an Atlanta native, runs the N.C. arm of Empire Distributors Inc., a family-owned beer and wine distribution company that has profited handsomely from the run-up in wine sales.

But the diminutive executive also harbors a passion for hockey. He's a season ticket-holder of the National Hockey League's Carolina Hurricanes, winners of this year's Stanley Cup. He played a little when he was a kid. He's followed the sport his entire life.

"I like the physical nature and the speed at which it's played," he says of ice hockey. "There is no other sport like it, and it does not get the publicity it deserves."

Last week, Kahn bought the Charlotte Checkers, a member of the ECHL. Kahn reportedly paid about $1 million to $1.5 million for the team.

The up-and-down team has been a money-loser, particularly after playing at the new, and costlier, Bobcats Arena this past season. Checkers owner and yacht magnate Felix Sabates, who has bought and sold the team twice since 1993, had his hands full with other business and was looking for an out.

Despite being fourth in attendance last season (5,837 average) -- its first in the new Bobcats Arena -- the Checkers lost an estimated $500,000.


Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes
Checkers defenseman Jake Ortmeyer (#24)

The Observer also ran this interview with Kahn in their business section:

Kahn: This is not going to be a toy. I think it was pretty well reported some of the financial issues the Checkers had last season. Obviously, I didn't do this if there weren't some things we could turn around.

Q. Such as?

Kahn: Well, a slice of parking and concessions revenue. No one knew what to expect going into the Bobcats Arena. It was new to everyone. Costs over there were higher than anyone estimated. We had far and away higher expenses than any other team in the ECHL. We also were playing in the best arena. So there's a little bit of give-and-take in this. To the Bobcats' credit, they were willing to renegotiate with us.

We had a very good year last year. Unfortunately, with high costs, it all went away. Everybody made money on the Checkers but the Checkers. We have to be responsible not only to the community, but to ourselves so we can be around for a long time.

Q. Are you saying ticket prices are going up?

Kahn: No, we're not looking to increase ticket prices. I don't believe that has anything to do with the financial picture. We are the best sports entertainment value in Charlotte, and that will continue.

Q. You said you expect to field a more exciting product. What does that mean?

Kahn: I want players, good players, who are willing to be out in the community. It's not just about what you do on the ice, it's how you get involved with your community.

Our guys need to get used to the exposure by getting behind their fans and the youth in this city. That's where you're going to be drawing new fans. The Checkers have been visible in the past, but not as visible as I'd like going forward.

Q. And what about on the ice?

Kahn: We're affiliated with pro hockey's New York Rangers, and we're in the process of strengthening that affiliation right now. There's talk that one of our assistant coaches will be from the New York Rangers organization. It's not finalized yet, but we are in discussions. With that kind of caliber of coaching, we'll be able to put a more exciting team on the ice. New York understands we want to be winners here.