The motivations behind the men who are trying to bring a major professional hockey franchise to Seattle are as mysterious as their public personas in the sports community.
Raymond Bartoszek and Anthony Lanza are Westchester, N.Y., natives and lifelong New York Mets fans.
In 2011 they failed to become minority partners in the Mets and later that year, Bartoszek purchased an undisclosed stake in the New York Yankees.
“They heard that I was a baseball guy, that I was a New Yorker,” Bartoszek told Newsday. “They asked me if I’d be interested in joining their team.
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“When the Yankees call, you gotta listen.”
The same might be said of Chris Hansen, the hedge-fund millionaire who tried to buy the Sacramento Kings and move the team to Seattle.
A Hansen representative introduced Bartoszek and Lanza to local officials, which began discussions about the NHL in Seattle two weeks ago.
The two men described in general terms their plan to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes from the NHL if the league’s deal with another prospective ownership group falls apart.
Early in the conversations, Councilman Tim Burgess said it was apparent the New York investors had a different message than Hansen, who wants to return the Sonics to Seattle.
“One of them clearly had more sports motivation than the other,” Burgess said. “The other one was very business-oriented and was looking for an investment that would have long-term benefits. Neither one of them struck me as Chris Hansen, who I’m sure has a business orientation towards the NBA, but clearly has a lot of Seattle motivation and basketball motivation.
“They didn’t strike me as having that. They spoke very highly of Seattle as a media market and recognized as it relates to the NHL that this market had great potential and had not been tapped and they wanted to be hopefully a part of that. Beyond that they weren’t that detailed.”
Still, Burgess said the mayor’s office and the potential hockey owners “have a framework, an understanding as to what the lease agreement would look like and how they could use KeyArena for two, three or four seasons if a team were awarded here.” Burgess said Bartoszek and Lanza agreed to assume financial responsibility for improvements to KeyArena if the NHL team began playing in Seattle next season.
The New York investors also asked about the Memorandum of Understanding between Hansen, the city and Metropolitan King County Council on a $490 million downtown arena. The agreement demands Hansen acquire an NBA franchise before construction begins.
Burgess said changing the MOU and starting the project early for hockey “would present some significant questions and challenges.” Burgess described the meeting with Bartoszek and Lanza as an initial introduction, which makes sense because they’re considered baseball enthusiasts with low profiles in the sports community.
Bartoszek, 48, is a resident of Greenwich, Conn. and graduated from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point in 1986. He made a fortune as an oil trader for Glencore International, a Switzerland-based giant commodities trader. His wife, Lydia, is a Seattle native.
Lanza, 46, is the son of Frank Lanza, who founded L-3 Communications, which is one of the nation’s largest military contractors. In 2009 Anthony Lanza began the private equity firm Carriage House Partners, where Bartoszek is a partner.
“A couple of years ago they led a group trying buy into the Mets, which would have been a significant investment,” said Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College. “But even in baseball circles, I’m not sure they have a big reputation.
“I’ll admit their connection to hockey and Seattle is unclear, but if they’re willing to commit millions to the team, then the NHL has to listen.”
The league is waiting for negotiations to be resolved between prospective ownership group Renaissance Sports & Entertainment and the Glendale City Council on a rental deal.
At issue is the management of the city-owned Jobing.com Arena where the Coyotes have played since 2003. The city has budgeted $6 million while the RSE group reportedly is targeting $13-15 million.
Contrary to recent reports that a deal is imminent, there was no resolution when the Glendale Council met Tuesday.
Commissioner Gary Bettman hopes the two sides are able to agree on a lease agreement before next Tuesday’s council meeting. Without an arena lease there’s speculation RSE’s deal to buy the team will collapse and the NHL, which has owned the team since 2009, would sell to Bartoszek and Lanza.
“For a long time I thought the team is not viable in Phoenix and it is certainly viable in Seattle,” Zimbalist said. “They’ve been trying to make it work in Glendale now for three years. They haven’t been able to find a situation that works. That’s because the situation doesn’t work.
“It’s not economically feasible to have a team down there. It’s costing the other owners in revenue sharing, loss at the gate and media revenue. Seattle is a good choice for several reasons, but most importantly there’s investors who have stepped up and want to move a team there.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org.