Yesterday, theScore’s Corey Erdman had a chance to interview W. Brett Wilson, the businessman from Saskatchewan who created and chairs “Canoe Financial,” which is valued at over two billion dollars.
It’s rare to hear an interview from a guy who’s both a quote machine and someone with his head on straight, but the man pulls it off.
You can read the full interview here (and I recommend you do). The “best-of’s” are below, along with some of my own comments.
(Before we start….you sure you don’t wanna buy the Coyotes, Mr. Wilson, sir? We’re really hurting down here.)
On how this investment opportunity came about:
It’s the way some deals come together. But I was at a private home for dinner, there was about 40 people there, 50 people maybe, and I happened to be sitting at a table and someone asked me if I knew Jim Ballsillie. I said I did, and the hair on the back of their neck went up, because there was some animosity toward Jim at the time because of his efforts to take the club and move them. So I told them, it wasn’t like Jim and I were business partners, I just knew him, I thought he was a great guy.
They didn’t like that.
So anyway, out of the conversation came the fact that the guy at the table was part of the ownership group looking at buying the Preds. And I said “oh, that’s interesting, that’s actually something I would do if it ever came along.” And he looked at me and said “are you serious?” I said, “well, yeah!”
Jim Balsillie, liked. Hmm. Haven’t heard that very often.
On why it took so long to get a deal done:
We were signing paperwork the day Boots [Del Baggio] got arrested and put in the Crowbar Hotel. So that cost us six months, maybe eight months right there, because some of my paperwork involved Boots. We had to start all over again.
And league approval is burdensome, as it should be. They’re making damn sure that another Boots doesn’t slip through the cracks. You can’t be perfect, but they’re doing a pretty good job.
And to think, if it wasn’t a tough process, the team in my city (Phoenix) would likely be in Hamilton. Merci beacoup, Mr. Bettman.
On Nashville’s extremely passionate, tightly-knit fan base, and the fans needed to fill the seats around them. After complementing the diehards:
The problem Nashville had was that the passion wasn’t shared by enough people. You know, they were running 11-12,000 people in the seats quite regularly, but this past year, under the new ownership group, there was a new ownership, there was a new level of commitment to the team. As long as there was a “we’re gonna move if it doesn’t work”… that’s not a real good way of parenting. “We’re gonna spank you if you don’t eat your supper.” It was a punishment-based push, and it really became a reward-based push.
The constant “come to the games or we’re leaving” feel here in Phoenix must make some diehard fans feel blackmailed. Like if they don’t go to the games no one will, and they’ll lose something they love. That’s never cool.
Below is my favourite quote from the interview – I had never looked at Nashville in this light before. On explaining why you can’t lump Nashville in with Atlanta as a hockey market:
The other thing I’ll drive at is that Nashville is often perceived as Music City, and that’s correct. But it is also the center of the health care industry in the United States, and people outside of that area don’t really appreciate the strength and depth of wealth that’s been created in the health care industry that’s domiciled in Nashville. Nashville is a fabulous city in terms of infrastructure, the road system, the architecture, the history, the suburban communities. There’s so many cool things about Nashville that makes it a great place to be. Which is one of the reasons, I can tell you, the player base could not be happier to be in Nashville.
(Again, I suggest you read the full interview.)
I’ve heard nothing but tremendously good things about that city, and that’s just one more fantastic review right there. (I’ve also heard good things about the ladytypes.)
And last, this final quote proves the man has self-awareness. Talking about investing in things for reasons other than money:
I get returns in many ways. In the case of hockey, it’s a bit of an ego play, it always is with big boys toys, whether you’re buying Ferraris or hockey teams, there’s a bit of a game being played. But I happen to like the game. I refereed hockey through university as one of my three jobs that helped me, if you will, make a living. So I’ve always been a fan of the sport and a fan of Nashville, so you put all that together and it adds to the fun factor.
In all, I’d say Nashville fans just added a pretty good piece to the puzzle down there. Now, about Ryan Suter….