Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Countdown Is On

The man to the immediate left? New York Islanders owner Charles Wang. Take a good look at him here because he won't be as visible any longer. It was announced today that Wang has decided to sell the franchise to Jonathan Ledecky and investor Scott Malkin with their ownership starting in 2016. They will be minority owners this season as they get their feet into the Islanders' water, and fully assume control in 2016 once they get a good look at this franchise. You can bet there will be a lot of personnel assessments made over the next two seasons, so some people - Garth Snow? - had better start knocking their performance reviews out of the park.

It's been far too long for the Islanders to be as bad as they have been considering their legacy in the early-1980s. Historians look back on the days of Bossy, Trottier, Gillies, Potvin, and Smith and see a dynasty built upon hungry, young players who wanted to win. Lately, the Islanders have begun building with younger players once more, but their fortunes in climbing out of the Metropolitan Division cellar have yet to change.

The Islanders do have a bright future, though, as players like John Tavares, Travis Hamonic, Casey Cizikas, and Kyle Okposo gain experience. The team will move to the state-of-the-art Barclay's Center for the 2015-16 season, and there's hope that the new venue will attract more people to see the Islanders play. Getting new ownership who have experience in the hockey business is also key.

Jonathan Ledecky is the former co-owner of the Washington Capitals as he was the chairman from 1999 to 2001 of Lincoln Holdings with Ted Leonsis. In addition to having a hockey background, both Ledecky and partner Scott Malkin are astute businessmen as well. Ledecky has served as a member of the Board of Directors for Forbes since January 2011 and as our Non-Executive Chairman of the Board since February 2012. Previously, Mr. Ledecky served as the Interim Chief Financial Officer (from February 2012 until July 2013) and as the Chief Executive Officer (from January 2011 to February 2012) of Forbes as well. Scott Malkin founded the Value Retail brand, serving as its chairman as the company grew in leaps and bounds. He manages Malkin Holdings, a real estate company that holds and manages over eleven million square-feet of retail and office space in New York City, and he is the Vice-Chairman of the Urban Land Institute Empire and Chairman of the Urban Land Institute Europe. In other words, these two men know business, and they are flush with money after being roommates in college at Harvard. Did I mention they were smart?

"We are pleased to have the opportunity to become partners in the New York Islanders with Charles, and to pursue our shared dream of winning a fifth Stanley Cup for the greatest fans in the NHL," Ledecky said in a statement released through the team. If the NHL was looking for "good" ownership for one of the league's more storied franchises, they may have found it Ledecky and Malkin. They're saying all the right things, and that's a better outlook than what Wang had been painting for the last few years.

Newsday reported in 2009 that Wang was losing $20 million a year on the Islanders. He tried to spearhead a shopping-entertainment district around the aging Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, named as the Lighthouse Project, that was defeated in a referendum vote by Nassau County voters. The fact that the Lighthouse Project was drawn out for nearly a decade and was defeated by those it was supposed to help appeared to be the straw that broke the camel's back for Wang.

"I'd have to say it's good news," said Islanders Hall of Famer Bob Nystrom told Newsday's Arthur Staple. "I know Charles has been looking to sell for a while. I definitely think you've got to look on the positive side of it. We've been hearing rumors for so long, years actually. I know Charles really did want to get out after the Lighthouse debacle. I think that kind of iced it for him. So it's positive, for his side and for Islanders fans."

While the sale of the team still has to be approved by the NHL Board of Governors, there's no reason to think this sale won't go through. Two smart, well-financed men want to own the team moving into New York City from Long Island, and this should bring some excitement back to Islanders hockey. Of course, the NHL will want to do its due diligence on both Ledecky and Malkin, but this new ownership really could be the team that pulls the Islanders out of the stormy waters they've been swirling in for so long now.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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