Plattner's deep pockets increase Sharks' NHL influence

Plattner's deep pockets increase Sharks' NHL influence
January 30, 2013, 12:45 pm
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Hasso Plattner is signaling that he wants to be a player in the NHL, as his deep pockets could mean more influence on the NHL Board of Governors. (AP)

Here’s what you know about Hasso Plattner, the Sharks’ new owner: He ranks 27th on Forbes’ list of billionaires. Everything else is trivia in comparison.

Here’s what you can infer from him buying out Kevin Compton and Stratton Sclavos to become the team’s sole owner: He watched the NHL try to immolate itself this autumn, saw how few owners actually got to have a say in the process, and decided he needed to be one of the guys in the room.

[KURZ: Sharks announce changes within ownership group]

Of course, there are a lot of things you can infer from Plattner buying out Compton and Sclavos, but that’s the item that stands out. Men worth that kind of money tend not to see the amusement in the business not actually producing business, and the lockout was in that way completely nonsensical.

Indeed, attendance has been better since the games came back, so the owners’ decision to punish the players turned out to mean three months of lost money to no good end. Moderates like Compton never really got to be in the room to steer the conclusion to an earlier and happier end, and the new deal probably doesn’t help the Sharks any more than the old one did.

That, though has to play out, and it may well be that Compton and Sclavos had just outgrown their fascination with owning a hockey team. That makes less sense, though, than Plattner wanting to exercise more direct control, in a one-to-one ratio with the size of his checkbook.

[KURZ: Plattner: 'You cannot make money with a hockey team']

Indeed, there are few NHL owners worth more than Plattner. David Thompson, the cash behind Winnipeg, is not a hands-on day-to-day owner, but his $17.5 billion says he can be as involved as he ever wants to be. Phil Anschutz (Los Angeles Kings, $7B) is getting out of the sports business entirely, and the next wealthiest NHL owner is Ron Burkle (Pittsburgh Penguins, investigating the idea of owning the Sacramento Kings, $3.2B).

In short, Plattner is signaling he wants to be a player in the new NHL, and he is free of most of the encumbrances of the current ownership power structures in the league. Put another way, Jeremy Jacobs isn’t going to bully him, no matter how much he might want to.

Whether Plattner wants to change the dynamics of the franchise is another question entirely. The team has been run on a specific and stable plan for years, but that doesn’t mean Plattner might not have significant changes in mind. Rich folks tend to, how can we put this, vote their stock.

Thus, the Sharks continue their chase for a Stanley Cup, but they plan to do so from a greater position of strength in the Board of Governors meetings. If $7.2 billion doesn’t get someone’s attention, then that someone probably doesn’t have that much attention to pay.

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