No Oilers ownership crisis

Oilers owner Daryl Katz speaks to Edmonton City Council, July 21, 2010. (AMBER BRACKEN/QMI Agency)

Oilers owner Daryl Katz speaks to Edmonton City Council, July 21, 2010. (AMBER BRACKEN/QMI Agency)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:02 AM ET

EDMONTON - Talk to the key members of the Edmonton business community, the movers and shakers, the people who make things happen politically, and they’ll tell you the latest Katz controversy is of little consequence or significance.

Daryl Katz making Vancouver a more primary residence than Edmonton for the next few years shouldn’t create a problem in closing the downtown arena deal.

“Daryl Katz isn’t any less committed to Edmonton or the Oilers now than he was before,” offered one source who ranks as one of the most credible of all.

“I don’t believe there is any case to be made or any concern whatsoever about Daryl Katz abandoning Edmonton or abandoning the Oilers. I think there is a real confidence that Edmonton and the Oilers are going to remain a big part of his world.”

Katz has spent significant time at various residences in the past couple of years, including Vancouver and Palm Springs, but this is more about his kids reaching the age to be enrolled in Mulgrave, a highly regarded private school in West Vancouver offering “inspiring excellence in education and life.”

When you’re a multi-billionaire and can buy perhaps Position A of all Vancouver penthouse condos at the top of the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, a reported 6,000-square-foot pad worth $15 million, in addition to maintaining a fully-staffed house rumoured to be worth $24 million in Edmonton, another pricey piece of property in Palm Springs, etc., it must be nice.

A politically well positioned source also said he doesn’t believe the revelation of Katz’ Vancouver condo and kids starting school at Mulgrave will affect the completion of the downtown arena deal.

“The arena project is still on track. It’s important for the city and it’s important for the province. The city is committed. The province is committed.”

So stand down, Edmonton.

What we’re dealing with here is another massive Daryl Katz failure to communicate problem.

Edmonton shouldn’t have a big problem with Daryl Katz spending more days living in the penthouse of a Coal Harbour complex in Vancouver than in his multi-million-dollar house in Edmonton. Nor should people have a problem with his kids going to school in Vancouver.

But Katz, predictably, is going to have a perception problem with the populace. The man has a way of inviting that.

Most of Katz’s problems as owner of the Edmonton Oilers are perception problems caused by heavy-handed actions and massive failures to communicate.

Hostile takeover to become owner. Slight-of-hand $100-million contribution toward the construction of the arena, redirected toward the surrounding downtown district project and then back to the arena as a negotiation tactic. Less-than-subtle implied threats suggesting potential for relocation to Hamilton, Quebec City and even — gimme a break — Enoch.

Another source said Katz and the Oilers have made it far more difficult for the province to produce a creative way to contribute the final $100 million to complete the financing of the project than it has had to be. But there’s still the confidence it will get done.

“The worst government relations you could possibly have had,” said another source, also confident it will still get done.

The perception of Katz becoming something less of an Edmontonian doesn’thelp that.

Every city would love to have a year-round resident, a born-and-raised, live-here-’til-he-dies guy owning their hometown teams. And Katz’s problem is that he tried to paint that perception of himself when he took over the ownership of the team.

His record as a philanthropist in Edmonton is such that his status as an Edmontonian ought not be questioned.

Owners don’t do anything. They don’t have to go to the Oilers office every day to work on their property.

A significant number of pro sports franchises around the world, including the top soccer teams in England, are owned by people who don’t live in those communities.

Many, like Katz, choose to have little or no communication with their customers or overall fan base.

In the case of Daryl Katz, though, it’s sad.

When he took over the Oilers with the vision of building the much needed, new state-of-the-art NHL arena and image-changing downtown development to go with it, Katz had a chance to become Good King Daryl in Edmonton.

With every move he makes, including this one with the abominable lack of communication to precede it, he becomes just another … owner.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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