KeyArena groups partner with firms whose owners may lure NHL teams. Jeremy Jacobs to OVG, and Victor Coleman to AEG.
Two groups submitting official proposals Wednesday morning to renovate KeyArena have secured major partnerships that could go a long way toward re-assuring fans about their ability to lure an NHL team to a revamped venue.
The Oak View Group (OVG), run by Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff, has signed a future KeyArena concessionaire partnership with Buffalo-based Delaware North — a food-services company owned by Jeremy Jacobs, considered one of the most powerful NHL figures outside of commissioner Gary Bettman.
And Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) plans a “joint venture’’ on its full arena remodel with Hudson Pacific Properties, a real-estate company whose owner, Victor Coleman, had hoped two years ago to bring an NHL expansion team to a separate arena project pitched by entrepreneur Chris Hansen in the Sodo District.
Both KeyArena groups and Hansen have said in recent months that the NHL likely would beat the NBA in putting a team in this city. But neither OVG or AEG would be a team owner if it wins the right to remodel and manage KeyArena, leading to some apprehension locally that neither is prepared to take the needed steps to land franchises.
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No potential NBA-related partnerships have been made known, though both OVG and AEG have strong ties to that league. Proposals are due to the City of Seattle by the close of business Wednesday.
OVG’s local representative, Lance Lopes, confirmed Tuesday to The Seattle Times that Delaware North has signed on as part of his group’s team but declined further comment. Lopes did not mention Jacobs, 77, by name. The longtime Boston Bruins owner is chairman of the NHL’s board of governors and an influential figure on the league’s powerful executive committee, which has huge sway over major issues — expansion being one of them.
“Jeremy Jacobs is without a doubt the most powerful owner in the NHL,’’ Ken Campbell, senior writer for The Hockey News in Canada, said Tuesday. “And he’s the one who has the most sway when it comes to the executive committee — which is where the real power lies in the NHL. It’s not so much with the entire board of governors; it’s with the executive committee, and he’s the alpha male of the executive committee. So that’s really all you need to know.’’
Meanwhile, in landing Coleman’s company as a full arena partner, AEG appears to have secured a future team owner. For now, AEG and Hudson Pacific officials will say only that the partnership is strictly about the real-estate portion of the arena remodel — unwilling to appear presumptive about NHL expansion before any process is announced.
“We’ve been talking to AEG now for quite some time as this project was starting to gain some momentum,’’ said Alex Vouvalides, chief investment officer for Hudson Pacific. “We saw it as an opportunity. AEG is the best in the business at creating world-class sports and entertainment venues throughout the world. So the opportunity for Hudson to partner with a group like AEG was obviously appealing.’’
AEG and Hudson Pacific have formed a company called “Seattle Partners’’ to conduct their arena remodel, expected to cost between $300 million and $500 million. No percentage terms of the partnership split were made available, though Vouvalides termed it a “real partnership’’ and one in which Hudson Pacific can bring added value in designing arena features that will appeal to the sports fan experience.
AEG president Bob Newman said Hudson Pacific — which owns several Seattle-area office towers and additional buildings — is a proven entity locally. Newman feels that would complement the local presence of AEG, which has managed the marketing at KeyArena since 2008.
Newman said AEG views it as an “opportunity to partner with another company with just an unparalleled track record of success, a forward-thinking company, but one more importantly with deep Seattle roots. With a proven success record here in Seattle with a strong local presence.’’
But whether it’s paying for the real estate or managing the food and beverage concessions within KeyArena, the bigger picture of both the AEG and OVG partnerships will involve securing actual teams.
AEG for now appears to be the first to secure as a full partner one of three groups rumored for weeks to have interest in putting an NHL team here. Coleman was widely reported in 2014 and 2015 to be trying to strike a deal with Hansen in Sodo to bring the NHL to the city.
But as previously reported by The Times, public records released in 2015 showed that Coleman had met with AEG and Newman that summer to explore a potential deal at KeyArena. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, after seeking legal opinions, later told the parties that nothing could proceed at KeyArena until a Memorandum of Understanding with Hansen for his Sodo project expires in December of this year.
Hansen’s deal would have allowed him to use KeyArena as a temporary home for NBA or NHL teams while he waited for a Sodo arena to be built. But with Hansen’s project stalled after a city-council vote went against him last May, he agreed to waive exclusivity over KeyArena and allow rival groups to explore a full remodel of that facility.
As for the two other potential NHL owner groups beyond Coleman’s, sports, business and political sources have indicated one of them is the former Bellevue arena group from 2015 put together by NHL and NBA “power broker” Jac Sperling. Public records indicated the City of Bellevue had explored issuing an expedited Memorandum of Understanding on an arena project to meet the NHL’s 2015 expansion application deadline when Sperling’s group collapsed in July 2015 after a venture capitalist withdrew funding.
Of interest in that group is the longtime business and personal friendship between Sperling, Oak View Group CEO Leiweke and his brother, former Seahawks president Tod Leiweke.
Just days after the Bellevue group collapsed in 2015, Tod Leiweke — who had said he wasn’t involved in Sperling’s arena efforts here and was happy as chairman of the Tampa Bay Lightning — left the NHL team for a new job as the NFL’s chief operating officer. He maintains a home on Mercer Island once owned by former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren.
The third potential NHL ownership group is said to be run by Hollywood film producer Jerry Bruckheimer, a huge NHL fan and close acquaintance of Bettman. Bruckheimer had put together an ownership group that explored the Las Vegas market in 2014 before stepping aside and leading to Bill Foley acquiring the franchise in that city.
All three groups, according to sources, are content to wait until the city picks an arena site and then will explore a deal with either the KeyArena or Sodo management.
As for OVG, its concessions partnership with Jacobs’ company gives it an inside track with the NHL’s longest-tenured owner, who bought the Bruins in 1975. Jacobs has played a pivotal role in influencing fellow owners on key matters such as taking a hard-line stance against players during the 2012-13 NHL lockout and the league’s decision not to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.