With the Vancouver Canucks and Dallas Stars jostling for the final two playoff spots in the NHL’s Western Conference, there’s the chance of some serious bad blood in the postseason matchups next spring. On Nov. 18 a Delaware bankruptcy court and the NHL approved the purchase of the Texas team by Tom Gaglardi who, back in 2004, attempted to buy a half-share in the Canucks in partnership with two other Vancouver businessmen, Ryan Beedie and Francesco Aquilini. Gaglardi and Beedie sued when Aquilini left the partnership and made a separate deal with the vendor, Seattle cellphone magnate John McCaw, who would later sell out entirely to Aquilini. In 2009 the B.C. Court of Appeal reaffirmed the trial judge’s assessment that, essentially, that all’s fair in non-mergers and acquisitions.
But this year Gaglardi’s been making up for lost time. His family’s Northland Properties Group, which already owns Denny’s restaurants and Sandman hotels (father Bob is #38 on our 2011 Rich List), bought the much more upscale Sutton Place hotels in Vancouver and Edmonton from their Hong Kong owners for $197 million. Toronto’s Sutton Place wasn’t part of the deal, but it will likely have to change its name if, as the media-shy Gaglardi vowed in a statement last summer, Northland expands the chain to every major Canadian city.
Then in September he emerged as a buyer for the bankrupt Stars. The court ordered an auction, but when no other suitors presented themselves, Gaglardi’s offer of US$51 million cash for the team and the assumption of debts worth about $100 million was accepted (ESPN reports the final tally as being higher, around US$265 million). Gaglardi has lengthy experience with sports entrepreneurship at the major junior level. He remains owner of the storied WHL Blazers franchise in his family’s hometown of Kamloops, B.C.
Still, things are bound to get frosty when Gaglardi and Aquilini inevitably cross paths at NHL governors’ meetings. And if it comes down to a playoff series, the gloves could come off again. Gaglardi’s real satisfaction may only come if he can turn around the Dallas franchise, which is projected to lose US$31 million this season.