Katz right man at right time

BOB STAUFFER

, Last Updated: 7:21 AM ET

Memo to shareholders of the Edmonton Investors Group: If you are undecided in selling to Daryl Katz at this time, you are not listening to the masses.

Since the Katz group announced Thursday that a new offer had been made on the Edmonton Oilers, one that is supported by long-time chairman of the EIG, Cal Nichols, public support for Katz on talk shows on the Team 1260 has been overwhelming.

In two days of open-line on the ownership topic, not one caller second-guessed a Katz-owned Oilers franchise, with Nichols remaining as the Oilers governor.

NEW DAY

A new day has dawned and for long-suffering Oilers fans that were happy just to have a team in the past, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

With Katz going on record as being committed to putting time, energy and on the order of $100 million to start the process to build a new arena, most fans recognize that there is hope for the franchise to not just succeed but, more importantly, to prevail.

In the bleakest moments in Oilers history, Nichols and the EIG were there. Twice.

At the time in which the EIG saved the Oilers in 1998, it cannot be argued that the Oilers were a bottom-tier NHL franchise.

Passion, hard work and a little bit of luck has gotten the Oilers to a middle-tier standing.

Granted, Alberta's booming economy and the rise of the Canadian dollar has helped, but the Oilers have done their part as well.

Rexall Place has been sold out for the last two seasons, the team has maximized sponsorship and sales opportunities, and this is a credit to Nichols and the people that work for him, like Patrick Laforge.

But if the Oilers want to become a top-tier NHL franchise, one that isn't chosen 29th out of 30th by players in a Hockey News poll as a preferred destination when getting traded, a new building, amongst other things, is needed.

In a recent edition of Canadian Business Online, Katz was ranked as the 15th wealthiest Canadian, worth a reported $2.37 billion. The Katz group, which includes Rexall and the Rexall Family of Pharmacies, is billing at a reported $7 billion a year. Still in his 40s, Katz's empire is still growing.

Katz has donated $25 million to the University of Alberta, and he stepped up and coughed up a rumoured $20 million over 10 years for naming rights to Rexall Place.

Katz is the right man at the right time and the right place to help make Edmonton an upper-tier NHL franchise.

Simply put, Katz has the financial wherewithal to take the Oilers to a place where they have never been, and that is not lost on people in hockey circles - be it management, agents, players.

My sources indicate his commitment of $100 million to a new building would not be his last in making the Oilers an upper-tier franchise.

From my understanding several of the bigger players on the EIG who have 6 to 9% of the Oilers, are supportive of Katz's latest offer which is rumored at $188 million. But there are still some undecided owners as well.

There have been several tangible benefits to being an Oilers owner, many of which may have seemed unlikely a decade or so ago -like potentially making a huge profit on their original investment.

UPSIDE TO BEING OWNER

Obviously, there is the cachet of being an owner. And you would have to figure that the respective businesses of the owners have enjoyed the benefits as well.

You wonder if that would continue if a few holdouts stopped a potential sale to Katz and a new building did not get built.

The EIG have been stewards of the Oilers for the last decade. They navigated the team through some very difficult times and recognized that the organization is a public trust.

But the EIG as we know it has taken the Oilers as far as it can, and a billionaire like Katz is the man to take the Oilers and the city to the next level.

Here is to hoping that more than just the fans realize that.


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