One of the key arguments behind Daryl Katz’s drive to get a new arena built in downtown Edmonton is that the Oilers are losing money and aren’t economically viable in their current facility. Given that those around the team have stressed this point repeatedly, I wonder if there was any face-palming when Oilers V.P. of communication and broadcast, Allan Watt, started talking about the Oilers’ revenue flow with the local media.
Discussing the hiring of play-by-play man Jack Michaels, Watt included the following gem:
“We have a $3-billion industry (NHL), we’re a $120-million business and there are no borders in our business.
That’s a rather difficult statement for a team pleading poverty. If the $120-million referred to the Oilers’ total hockey revenue, as the context would seem to indicate, it puts them well into a group of have-teams. The NHL (at last report) was slated to earn about $2.7-billion in total revenue – and average of $90-million per team – and that $120-million figure puts the Oilers a full $30-million ahead of the average NHL team. Not bad for the worst club in the league last year.
Curious about the discrepancy, I contacted the Oilers to ask for comment on Watt’s figures. While the club declined to comment for OilersNation, I was told that Watt’s figures represented the entire revenue stream for Rexall Sports Corp. (i.e. not just the Oilers), and that as a privately-owned company Rexall does not disclose its financial reports.
That may or may not be the case; I have no way of verifying that statement. The thought that I couldn’t get out of my mind, though, is that it’s simply wrong of Rexall Sports not to make that information available – if not to the general public, at least to Edmonton City Council.
The fact is that Rexall is asking the City for a substantial investment of funds in a public work that will have enormous benefits for the financial health of the Edmonton Oilers. Since a key pillar of their argument is that the Oilers need that facility to be financially viable, it seems to me that the City should compel them to provide evidence of their statement – in the form of financial statements.
A private company has the right to keep its financial information private. As far as I’m concerned, however, that changes when they ask for a large public handout based in large part on that information. As it stands, the only people who know how badly the Oilers’ finances warrant a new facility are people with a vested interest in making the situation appear as desperate as possible – and that makes it impossible for the City or anyone else to make an informed decision.