A major investment group trying to bring the NHL to Seattle emerged on Thursday with word it is working with the league, potential arena builder Chris Hansen and top municipal officials to get a deal done.
Vancouver, B.C., native Victor Coleman, now a major Los Angeles real estate mogul, and longtime hedge fund manager Jonathan Glaser are heading the group, which has engaged in extensive dialogue with various entities since last year to land an NHL expansion franchise. Their latest step was a meeting last week in Seattle with Mayor Ed Murray, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and others to try to forge common ground on the arena issue.
Murray said Thursday he let the group know that the city council is not prepared to rework a Memorandum of Understanding between the city, county and Hansen to build a Sodo arena for a hockey team ahead of an NBA franchise.
“They wanted to explore the possibility of opening the MOU so a hockey team would go first,” Murray said. “My read right now is that opening up the MOU is not something the council is interested in at this time.”
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But sources with knowledge of the meeting indicate that dialogue remains ongoing with Hansen and that the NHL hasn’t given up on efforts to get a team in here ahead of the NBA.
The Coleman-Glaser group is being represented by Premier Ventures, a sports investment advisory group founded by sports power broker Alan Rothenberg and his associates, Jeff Marks and Randy Bernstein. The company is an offshoot of Bernstein and Rothenberg’s nationally-renowned Premier Partnerships sports sales and advisory agency.
Rothenberg did not attend the Seattle meeting, but Marks was there. So was King County Executive Dow Constantine and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly.
Coleman, 53, and Glaser, 50, are the two principals in the NHL venture, having worked together for years on various projects. Coleman is CEO of Hudson Pacific Properties in Los Angeles and has a real estate portfolio of 26 properties, including five in Seattle. Growing up in Canada is said to have given Coleman a heightened appreciation for hockey and what a potential rivalry between the Vancouver Canucks and a Seattle franchise would mean for the region.
Glaser founded JMG Capital Management, a privately owned hedge fund sponsor. He is also listed as an independent director of Coleman’s real estate company.
Coleman and Glaser were unavailable for comment Thursday.
Bettman and Daly had been attending a Kings-Ducks playoff game in Los Angeles and made a May 6 stopover in Seattle to attend the meeting with Murray ahead of returning to New York
Murray said he’d revisit the MOU issue if he got a sense the city council wanted to. But right now, he added, he isn’t even sure the existing MOU would be approved if put to a vote. Instead, he feels the city should be studying alternatives to the Sodo plan until Hansen and arena partner Steve Ballmer figure out how to get an NBA franchise to Seattle. Hansen and Ballmer have agreed to partially fund a $525 million arena, with the city and county kicking in $200 million in bonds under terms of the MOU.
Ballmer’s NBA interests might be leading him away from Seattle. He told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday he’s interested in bidding for the Clippers and keeping them in Los Angeles.
For Murray, the best alternative to reworking the MOU is to fix up KeyArena on an interim basis to accommodate an NHL team until a new venue can be built. He shared this opinion with Bettman and Daly.
“They weren’t interested,” Murray said.