Professional hockey in the Quad-Cities again has been saved, this time by a Chicago-based company described as a middle-market, private merchant bank and its sports-focused subsidiary company.|
Prometheus Capital Partners LLC and Club 9 Sports on Friday acquired the Quad City Mallards from former owner Eric Karls, effectively sparing the Mallards' once flickering fate. The deal is pending Central Hockey League approval.
Karls suspended the Mallards' operation on May 11, starting a furious search to find a new ownership group for the Central Hockey League club. Scott Mullen, i wireless Center executive director, said Club 9 Sports was on the verge of buying the Mallards when former owner Chris Lencheski put the team up for sale in 2010. Karls, instead, bought the club in July 2010.
Mullen was back in touch with Club 9 as soon as Karls announced his departure from the hockey market.
"This has been in the works since the day I was notified that Eric wasn't coming back," Mr. Mullen said. "That was a short amount of time. … (Club 9 Sports) is familiar with our market and had been interested in the past. They have already done their due diligence."
The company's website states Club 9 Sports "advises, invests and operates in the sports, entertainment and media industries." It partners with Prometheus and Tobacco Road Capitalists, a Raleigh-based sports management and advisory company.
Club 9 Sports is led by CEO Jon Pritchett, an operating partner of Tobacco Road, and John Prutch, Prometheus' managing partner. Byron Rucker is Club 9's chief operating officer. Prometheus vice-president Jim Thompson and Prometheus partner Joshua Prutch also help oversee the company. Three-time NBA executive of the year Carl Scheer is a senior advisor through his 20-year-old ScheerSports Inc. sports-management firm.
In its "game plan," Club 9 states it places its focus on "underperforming and undervalued opportunities that can be improved by a hands-on approach of providing strategic and operation counsel and leadership."
This will be the third owner in three years for the Q-C hockey club that has had its share of past glory days – success toward which the new group strives.
"We're delighted to have been able to work out a deal on extremely short notice to acquire the club," Mr. Pritchett said in an i wireless news release Friday night.
"Having looked at this opportunity a year ago, we were comfortable with the market, the arena and the legacy of success," Mr. Pritchett states. "It will not be easy, but we are confident that this organization can once again be a leader in minor league hockey and we look forward to working with the community and staff to make that happen over time."
Mr. Mullen could not provide specific information on other teams currently owned and operated by Club 9, but said they have "great experience in professional sports and have been affiliated with a number of teams and associated enterprises."
Mr. Pritchett was not available for comment Friday evening.
The Club 9 Sports website identifies "experience and representative sports, media and brand clients and assignments" with the NBA, the Arena Football League, the East Coast Hockey League and the Continental Basketball Association. It also cites a professional association with 11 specific professional sports teams, including the NHL Boston Bruins, the American Hockey League Manchester Monarchs, the ECHL Charlotte Checkers and the Southern Professional League Jacksonville Suns.
In Februrary, Club 9 Sports began serving as the investment banker of the United Football League, a five-team professional outdoor football organization begun in 2009 that houses former NFL coach, and current UFL Virginia Destroyers coach, Marty Schottenheimer. This month, Club 9 failed to come to terms on an attempted takeover of the Tranmere Rovers, an English professional soccer club.
In compliance with the players' union deadline, the group has submitted a list of protected Mallards players to the Central Hockey League office. A coach has not been named for the 2011-12 season, and season-ticket information and front office details are yet to be released.
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