When businessman Tom Stillman took to the microphone at the Scottrade Center Thursday, it marked the first time the St. Louis Blues have been in local hands since Kiel Center Partners (under the watchful eyes of Mark Sauer and Jerry Ritter) ran the show from 1991-1999.
The St. Louis Blues have battled the tides of changing economies and different spots in the standings since the days when insurance magnate Sidney Salomon brought professional hockey to St. Louis for the 1966-67 season.
An array of owners with varying personalities have run the franchise, first at the old Arena on Oakland Avenue (named changed to the Checker Dome in the Ralston-Purina Hal Dean era of 1977-83) and then onto the Savvis (now Scottrade Center) downtown. Don’t forget the name Harry Ornest (1983-86).
That all changed Thursday when the keys to the arena, Peabody Opera House and minor league franchise in Peoria (the Rivermen) went to beer distributor Stillman and his local consortium of investors. (see names below).
Stillman, who has a love and passion for hockey, something he imported to St. Louis some 20 years ago still laces up the skates in local amateur leagues. Stillman, CEO of Summit Distributing, an Earth City based distributor of Miller and Coors products will maintain ownership of that enterprise also.
“We are 100 percent committed to this community, we see ourselves as good stewards of the Blues legacy,” said Stillman. The new owner bowed towards the large gaggle of Blues alumni, packing the media conference held in the atrium of Scottrade Center.
“The St. Louis Blues have such an important legacy and there is so much rich history of the many men who have worn the Blue note on their chests,” said Stillman.
His number one job is to put the Blues’ financial house in order. He will run the team like he runs his beer business.
Did he ever dream this day would become reality? “Not really. I never realized something like this could happen to me (and his wife Mary) when they moved here 20 years ago.”
“I think having local ownership is the best outcome for this city. I am proud to see ownership in the hands of this local group,” he said.
Gary Bettman, National Hockey League’s commissioner says the bottom line for the team is already in better shape.
“The group used less leverage to buy this team, and there is more equity in the agreement that was signed (Wednesday) in New York,” he claimed.
Stillman is focused on the task at hand. “Our focus is to put our financial house in order and an elite team on the ice.”
Members of the new Blues ownership group are:
Thomas H. Stillman - Chairman & CEO, Summit Distributing
Jerald L. Kent - Chairman & CEO, Suddenlink Communications, CEO, Cequel III
Donn S. Lux - Chairman & CEO, Luxco
James A. Cooper - Managing Partner, Thompson Street Capital Partners
Jo Ann Taylor Kindle - President, Enterprise Holdings Foundation
W. Stephen Maritz - Chairman & CEO, Maritz Inc.
Edward M. Potter - Private investor
Mr. & Mrs. Andrew C. Taylor - Mr. Taylor is Chairman & CEO of Enterprise Holdings, Inc.
David L. Steward - Chairman, World Wide Technology, Inc.
James P. Kavanaugh - CEO, World Wide Technology, Inc.
John C. Danforth - Partner, Bryan Cave LLP, Former U.S. Senator, Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
Christopher B. Danforth - Owner & CMO, Kennelwood Pet Resorts
James L. Johnson - Senior Vice President, Stifel Nicolaus & Co.
Scott B. McCuaig - Former President, Stifel Nicolaus & Co.
John S. Ross, Jr. - President, Summit Development Group
Thomas F. Schlafly - Partner, Thompson Coburn, Founder, The Saint Louis Brewery.