HOW NOT TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE

Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz doesn’t give a crap about what people think about him. He’s a billionaire. A BILLIONAIRE. I laughed out loud when I read a comment to that effect on Twitter last night. Alas, it’s true.

As any all-about-the-number girl will tell you, there is no such thing as a millionaire who is ugly or fat or short or bald or who smells bad. Pick any deficiency you’d like, a big stack has it covered. Having never dropped my panties for a greasy, stubby-fingered troll with a thick wallet and a black card, I can only assume the same holds true, squared, for a billionaire.

Even allowing for that, the reality that monied people play by different rules than the rest of us do, Katz hasn’t done himself or his efforts to strike a deal for a new downtown arena for the Oilers any favors with the way he’s gone about his business since doling out cheques to the EIG to buy the team.

In fact, Katz couldn’t have done a worse job of PR, of selling himself and his vision to the citizens and hockey fans of this city, if he tried. His latest gaffe, a stunt in which he showed up in Seattle with Kevin Lowe, Patrick LaForge and Wayne Gretzky in tow Monday – Katz can find his way to Washington but he can’t or won’t drive across town to meet with city council – was a not so subtle attempt to put a gun to the collective head of this city.

Whether Katz realizes it or not – he might be so detached from the hockey fans of Edmonton (he used to be one) that he doesn’t care – what he actually did with that ill-advised photo-op in Seattle was stick the barrel of that one-shot gun in his own mouth. If Katz doesn’t change his approach, and soon, if he doesn’t figure out he’s alienating huge segments of a fan base that is, or at least was, dying for a reason to get behind him, he might as well pull the trigger.

HAM-HANDED APPROACH

Jason Gregor wrote an insightful piece today about Katz’s charade in Seattle and the implied threat that comes with it. While I don’t discount the possibility the Oilers could move if Katz doesn’t get the deal he wants – I wrote about it here – I’m also of the mind he’s looking for leverage to get a deal here. That’s understandable. It’s his method I can’t, for the life of me, make any sense of.

Think back just five years ago, before Katz started cutting cheques to Cal Nichols and Bruce Saville and the rest of the EIG. Could there possibility be a better situation, more of an absolute godsend, for Edmonton hockey fans than having a local boy made good, a billionaire no less, ride to the rescue with his cheque book in hand? An Edmontonian. A billionaire who grew up watching the Boys on the Bus. How do you screw that up? Let us count the ways.

When Katz took over the Oilers he had a city full of hockey fans just waiting to get onside with him. He hasn’t fostered that. He hasn’t talked to the people who buy tickets to watch his team play, who buy the jerseys – the same people who’d be lobbying their city councillors to stop dragging their feet and get this arena deal done now if he’d made even the slightest effort.

Is Katz frustrated at how this project has dragged on for years? Sure he is, and he should be. But he’s had a big hand in that, both in the business end of the deal behind closed doors and publicly by way of his astounding inability and apparent unwillingness to at least attempt to get a passionate fan base lined up behind him. How tough, in this town, is that?

Instead of going that way, Katz pulls a page out of Peter Pocklington’s Shit Show Negotiating book and rolls into Seattle. Now, he’s got mayor Stephen Mandel declaring a deadline of Oct. 17 to get back before council. This arena project should have been a slam-dunk. It’s anything but that now.

It should never have come to this, but here we are.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • DonovanMD

    If I was a billionaire-playboy-hockey team owner (with a great head of hair) in a city with a mild inferiority complex, I’d probably enjoy making fans and media alike dance to.

    Is Katz a terrible bluffer, or just a brilliant troll??

  • vetinari

    Bettman lets Phoenix hose the NHL for 25 million a year and then he lets Edmonton walk to Seattle. Really? Were not sheep. Most of us can see right through this. For those who can’t go ask Jason Gregor or Dan Spencer to spell it out in little words so that you can understand. I’ll start worrying when Stan Farbrother starts publicly saying something. Till then its fodder for the masses. I’d rather spend my time worrying about the cost of snow tires for my gas guzzling Suburban. Cripes $300.00 a piece for an E rated tire.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Time to shake things up. City council should rubber stamp this and build this facility on their own. The cost will be no less dear to taxpayers. We’re paying for most, if not all of this facility anyways if we factor in all the extras Katz is demanding. Let him be a 45 night a year renter. Take it all away from Daryl and give it to the folks paying for it. Rip it from his grasp and watch his attitude change.

    Have to think Katz has the cameras rolling on this effort as well, probably trying to add a new episode of My house, your money.

  • Truth

    How come nobody thinks this is the city’s fault?

    We all know very little about what was actually agreed upon. If it was agreed that $6M/year would be coming to Katz by means of a casino or any other and now the city is saying no chance, why would Katz be to blame?

    Of course he has to look after his own interests. Why, as a good Edmontonian, doesn’t he buy the arena himself and hand out free tickets to all of us superfans. We deserve this team more than anyone, right? No, he is not stupid, nor is he a bad businessman. Nobody here would invest in something they are not confident will provide them a positive return. How is he different?

    I buy cheap stocks that look promising. I don’t buy stocks that don’t. Katz buys a team and wants to make money, if the deal isn’t going to make him money he’ll go somewhere that will allow him to.

    There are 2 years remaining on the lease agreement with Rexall. Sure, Rexall might be suitable for another 5 years or so, but why would Katz agree to re-up the lease when he knows 7 years (approx.) from now the team will have to be relocated. If the city isn’t going to provide help on a $450M building now, what are the chances they help on the same building that costs $550M seven years from now.

    If it was possible I would take out a loan right now to pay for the entire arena myself. I would agree to not take a cent of revenue from the actual goings on inside the arena if I was guaranteed the future tax and other associated revenues surrounding a more vibrant downtown.

    I know of people buying property in the future arena area right now (that is currently a $*%#hole) for big money because of the arena deal. Are these high property costs due to the baccarat? This deal is a no-brainer, even if the city pays the full cost. Who cares if the billionaire makes money, maybe tickets costs will go down? Maybe we will be able to afford to keep Hall, RNH, Eberle, Yakupov and company for years.

    • Truth

      I don’t think anyone has said the city isn’t at fault for this mess… Personally, I don’t believe the city has taken enough ownership of the problem… Not one member of city council is on the negotiating team… That’s sad in IMO…

      You’d really pay for the entire arena and not agree to take a portion of the generated revenue?? I’m sure you’re being sarcastic, but your point is well taken… Personally, I do want the city to have a back-up plan to build a downtown arena should negotiations not make any real headway by October 17th… But now if the city assumes the entire risk – they need assume 100% control of the arena, the revenue generated from it on off Oiler nights, etc.

      That’s the art of negotiation… Right now (IMO), Katz wants the money and the assistance, but not the actual partnership that comes along with the investment.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      The City aren’t the ones with their hand out on this venture.

      The same “revitalization” expectations came with the Coliseum in 1975. What happened there, was it the decision to put locks on all the doors….a failure to learn Quicken?

      Same ship, different yr for this new facility, or will this finally be the elysium project we hoped we were getting in 1975? Not likely.

      Katz is in it to revitalize himself, not the downtown core. His actions during these proceedings appears to be more of helping himself to Edmonton rather than helping Edmonton. There’s a big difference between the two.

      CRL revenues are only hopeful numbers to be parked right along side the hopes of revitalization. Since we’re paying for it anyways, why not own the hope/profits rather than give it to Katz.

      • I simply do not care if Katz makes a profit. In fact I sincerely hope he does or this whole thing isn’t going anywhere.

        What the h3ll is wrong in this city that businessmen making profit is a bad thing? Why can’t people see if he profits, we all do?

        And for all of you saying “just build it ourselves”, well you may as well be buying the Oilers too. Of course the city isn’t in the business of pro sports and/or arena management so the liklihood of that happening is pretty much zero.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          Profits that would belong to the City of Edmonton aren’t any less valueable than profits that would line Daryls pockets.

          Edmonton is in the arena management business, they’re called Northlands. Edmonton Northlands would be capable of running the new building. What’s the difference between Katz running the building and Northlands/the City? CRL benifits would still be in play.

          This should be the building that Edmonton built, not the building that Katz built. Remove that poser Katz from the equasion, same results.

          What’s next for this Katz caracter, is he going to be at the doors of ETS wanting 50% of the haul from LRT fares?

          • Katz will NOT deal with Northlands in a lease situation any further than 2014. They have been at extreme odds for years. On top of which a revised version of his current agreement where he doesn’t get non HRR will practically ensure he either sells or relocates the team. That arrangement doesn’t provide enough operating revenue for the team to be viable (and is the primary motivation for a new arena). Pretty much every other team in the league is not crippled by such an agreement.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Don’t give him the choice then. He owns a hockey team but he doesn’t own this market. If that’s the price, then let him move his Oilers to Seattle.

            He already had a deal in place last October, now he wants a better deal. Does the guy need some Midol or something? He had a functional agreement that effectively had him in control of this building. Within 15 yrs, he won’t have a nickel of his own money tied up in this facility, yet he’ll still control the profits off the backs of us the taxpayers.

            I’m all for the new arena David, but please, don’t be handing out dunce caps to all Edmonton residents. It’s obvious we’re just a bunch of sheep according to Katz. Why the need to do this deal with Daryl, when we can own it, we’re paying for it anyways.

          • The Soup Fascist

            Northlands was and continues to be a pretty nice “old boys club”. The many perks include, but are not limited to, a complimentary luxury box for all events at Rexall, including Oilers Games.

            Northlands receives a pretty lucrative and “unique” deal from the Casino on their premises. As David Staples indicated in his excellent March 2010 article “Who is Northlands” the “take” shakes down as follows:

            “….15 per cent to the operator (Northlands), 33.3 per cent to the province’s general lottery fund, and 51.3 per cent to the Horse Racing Breeding and Renewal program.”

            Now I am not sure what the Horse Racing Breeding and Renewal Program is, but I am guessing a large part of the very large pie ends up back in Northlands coffers, one way or another.

            According to Northlands 2011 Annual Report, ALGC gaming proceeds generated on Northlands behalf were $29.6 million. Yikes. Katz is looking for $6 million to offset the casino revenues that the City of Edmonton was allegedly going to help secure – but failed to.

            Also not mentioned is the $2.5 million “money for nothing” allowance paid by City taxpayers to Northlands to offset revenues they feel they deserved from the Oilers. This is yours and my money that gets paid year after year – hush money, nothing more.

            Yes please, let’s get Northlands involved.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            ….and the Katz group promises to be much more efficient, Soupy?

            What did Katz blow on his Monday trip down to Seattle, a hundred and fifty G to “check out” possible Oiler interests. That was certainly well spent season ticket holder monies. How is he going to be any more responsible than Northlands?

            Pot, meet Kettle?

  • Truth

    Hot shot billionaire nice guy turned evil… never saw this one coming. I lived in Edmonton as a neighbour to Darryl’s mom and dad. I still remember the conversation where his dad told me “now now, young man. It isn’t appropriate for you to call me Max… the correct way to address me would be Mr. Katz”.

    One thanksgiving dinner Margret and Max had us over and I asked why he didn’t have his son (whom he rarely spoke about) over for dinner. Mr. Katz, as it were, told me he had a huge falling out with his son after he graduated with his law degree and sought out an entreprenurial role in pharmacuticals.
    It seems this family line doesn’t play normal ball… so I wouldn’t be surprised if Darryl ended up taking this team out of the city because he had a “falling out with the city”

  • Truth

    It really goes to show you how professional and couteous the katz group really is. Makes me wonder if this scharade is really about katz doing his homework on how other business people got the work done correctly…

  • vetinari

    The issue isn’t whether someone should profit from the construction of a new stadium– that’s a moot point– the issue is whether Katz should be given a more favourable deal by the tax payers to keep the Oilers in Edmonton given that there previously appeared to be a framework for an agreement that all sides could live with.

    What is frustrating is this:

    Katz wants more money and concessions from the public under threat of moving the Oil when the franchise is already profitable and has been subsidized by the Oiler faithful by nightly sellouts through three losing seasons of 30th, 30th and 29th place overall!

    Katz is clearly sending a mixed message to the public– on the one hand, the Oil is a hockey institution that saw some of the league’s best play in their colours for years and that he saved from a cumbersome ownership group, while on the other hand, the Oilers are his personal toy to do with as he pleases which includes moving them out of town if the public doesn’t give him more.

  • The Soup Fascist

    A caller on Stauffer’s show today provided some insight which I haven’t heard before. The optics of the new $6M annual operating cost subsidy makes it look like Katz is contributing nothing in the project, since his $100M investment would be repaid over 30 years in annual $5M installments. On the surface, it looks like Katz is pocketing an additional $1M annually.

    What the caller pointed out was that the $6M is not an automatic annual cheque. Rather it only kicks in should the Katz group not generate enough revenue to cover operating costs, and is up to a maximum of $6M. Presumably if Katz group is $2M in the hole one year, the city would cut a cheque for $2M. Katz would still pay his annual $5M to cover his share of construction costs.

    If this is what has actually been proposed – why the hell hasn’t this been communicated by both camps??? While this still makes Katz look like a welcher on the original Oct agreement, I think it would be more palatable and provides room for both sides to meet in the middle. As an example, the City could ask for repayment of the subsidy in years when the Oilers have a large profit.

    Bottom line, if Katz would make more of an effort to speak to Edmontonians (Oiler fans or not) who ultimately are footing the bill for the bulk of the construction costs, rather than pulling off a d-bag move like going to Seattle – the temperature of this debate wouldn’t be so intense.

    I’ve been a supporter of the arena project from day 1. But I’m having a hell of a time defending it today.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      He had a more than fair deal a yr ago. Now he’s picking up some sheep ship and rubbing it in our faces.

      Distancing himself from any and all finacial risk. He’s running an NHL hockey team in Canada, how much risk can there be?

      Him pulling this Seattle tactic just confirms he has little respect for Edmonton hockey fans, he’s vulnerable now and have to think the finacial ground under his feet is shrinking. Finacially he’s nothing without the benifit of Edmonton taxpayers paying the full freight on this project.

      Enjoy this control over him while the taxpayers still have it. When he gets what he wants, he won’t give hockey fans the time of day.

      • Reg Dunlop

        Actually, when Katz gets what he wants he will give Edmontonians plenty; a cap-floor 30th place team and yearly threats to move the oil when he wants more. Hey Daryl, Pocklington thinks you’re acting like a douche.

    • The Soup Fascist

      With management fees , royalty fees etc etc there is no way the company that is entitled to the subsidy will be in a profit position. If company A can get a 6 million dollar subsidy, they will transfer out revenue and load in expenses so that a loss is guaranteed. The city should do their own due diligence and base the subsidy on tickets sold or some other accountable standard.

  • The Soup Fascist

    But you are mixing a private enterprise and a “not for profit” board.

    I don’t care what Katz does with his money – as long as he pays the players. My only point is the perception that Northlands is this group of altruistic folks who are just looking after our interests does not ring true with me.

    Northlands at it’s peak had 50 board members. 50! I work for a company with $30 billion market cap. Nine members on the BOD.

    Look. Katz is what he is – a businessman who makes sure he gets his. I deplore his latest caper, The Pike Street Gambit. Unnecessary and dumb. But a deal is there. After 4 years of navel gazing we need to move forward. And Northlands would serve as nothing more than a middle man with another open palm extended. What do they bring to the party?

    • This is true. I’ve had dealings with them. They get away with alot under the guise of “not for profit”. All the while charging you $12 bucks to walk a solid kilometer from their crappy parking lot to RX1 when it’s -40C.

      • Just a “keep your head up” sincere prop here, it’s hard to argue facts and points to emotional or upset masses, even worse when the comments are grossly inaccurate.

        Your take on this matter is spot on and I choose not to comment cause you sir are extremely well informed and are presenting the argument that I no longer have the stomach for.

        Good Day Mr. S.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    With Katz turning up the heat for all involved, there’s little that can be done now to prevent him from getting everything he wants.

    It’s too bad this deal couldn’t fall into the lap of the EIG. Seems as though Daryls turned out to be a little on the arrogant side/douche.

    EIG would have been more deserving of a deal like Katz is getting.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Having lived in Edmonton for 60 years and growing up where right beside the “Edmonton Exhibition ” grounds . I always felt that the EXA (Northlands) was a complete old boys club. From summer jobs on down nepotism was the rule. I see no reason for this organization to exist and all their assets should be returned to the City to be consolidated with other similar assets. For Rexall place to compete with the new arena is beyond strange.

  • Mitch

    @Brownlee Katz has more money than anyone could ever need. What bothers me is this, he’s a very successful person and in order to become a billionaire you probably have to be a extremely good communicator. I don’t understand how a person that owns the most recognizable brand in the city and has the most benefit to gain acts like he don’t really care and most importantly wont talk and does not even want to be heard from unless it is to his and only his liking.

    Katz made the biggest of mistakes by having his people issue a statement, this statement is of total ignorance and arrogance. I hope the people of Edmonton are past the relocation threats this team always seem to be associated with, I know I’am.

    Personally I don’t wish Darryl any success. If he don’t like owning the Oilers because they aren’t profitable sell the team no one held a gun to his head and said buy this team.

    For Katz it’s all about building a brand and having control.