Yesterday, Comcast-Spectacor, the parent company that owns the Flyers, announced the abrupt and strange resignation of Peter Luukko, the company’s President and COO. In his role, Luukko oversaw not only the Flyers, on which he says he only spent about 20% of his time, but also Global Spectrum (operators of many arenas and public facilities), Ovations (arena food and services), Front Row (in-arena marketing), Paciolan (ticketing), New Era Tickets (ticketing), and Flyers Skate Zones and Charities. His duties went well beyond the Orange and Black.
Speaking to Tim Panaccio (who was eager to trumpet the message from his best source), Luukko cited the following reasons for his resignation:
Peter Luukko has a pretty good idea of what he is going to do Tuesday morning when he awakes in his house in West Chester.
“I’m going to clean out my garage,” said the 54-year-old who resigned Monday as president of Comcast-Spectacor.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to cash out on the business at a good time,” Luukko said. “It gives me an opportunity at 54 to be comfortable and build new opportunities and make another run.”
Luukko said, contrary to rumors, he has “nothing” in line for the future.
“That’s the good thing because I need to really clear my head and think about that next decision on what is the next, good thing to do,” he said. “I love operating and rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty. I’m looking forward to a single focus at some point.”
Ed Snider was, apparently, shocked (!) to learn that Luukko, who had been working for him since 1985, decided to resign out of the blue.
“We’ve had better days,” Snider, the club’s chairman, said in a telephone interview after Luukko’s stunning decision. “It came out of the blue, but I guess he gave it a lot of thought over the holidays and decided to do other things with his life.”
Added Snider: “We’ll survive, but he’s done a hell of a job and he will be hard to replace.”
The surprise was still evident in Ed Snider’s voice, although several hours had passed Monday since the man he had groomed to run his diversified and very successful sports and entertainment company, Peter Luukko, had called a sudden meeting to tell him he was walking away from it all.
“It’s funny timing,” Snider said about Luukko’s resignation as chief operating officer and president of Comcast-Spectacor. “By some token, I guess Peter was thinking it over a lot, and he thought this is the right time.”
Anyone else find this all a bit… odd?
According to his still publicly available bio, Luukko started with Snider’s SMG (Spectacor Management) in 1985, quickly becoming an executive for the Western Region, where he ran the Los Angeles Coliseum. In 1993, he left to become president of the Spectrum, and then quickly became responsible for managing all of Comcast-Spectacor’s interests.
In following the conversation and reaction on Twitter yesterday, it became apparent that many Flyers fans assumed that if there were reasons beyond what was made public, Luukko was “let go” due to the Flyers’ recent struggles. But I highly doubt that. Luukko’s value to Snider and Comcast-Spectacor goes well beyond the Flyers’ on-ice success. He has been responsible for substantial growth of the company, and there’s almost no way he was made a fall guy for a couple of years of hockey struggles.
So why, then, the abrupt resignation? Snider himself admitted that Luukko was his likely successor. After all, Luukko has been his right-hand man for decades. He is responsible for hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in business. Luukko claims it’s because he wants to “cash out” (Luukko owns a 5% stake in several of the aforementioned Comcast-Spectacor subsidiaries) and explore other opportunities. But people like Luukko don’t just quit a job without a plan. And they certainly don’t walk into Ed Snider’s office and make the surprise announcement that they’re resigning without any notice whatsoever. I mean, there was no succession plan, no heir apparent. Nothing. Luukko, supposedly, just left yesterday. You don’t do that in an entry-level job making $40k a year, let alone in an executive position with a company that you basically built.
Luukko was seemingly still very involved in the business right up until Sunday. He spoke at length to Panaccio (of course he did) about Rogers Communications’ recent mega-deal to broadcast games in Canada. He was very active in the Flyers’ new junior hockey team, and even appeared on the opening night broadcast to promote a game at the Wells Fargo Center. And he was front and center at the press conference when Peter Laviolette was fired:
People who are thinking of checking out aren’t usually so visible in their final months.
Luukko isn’t an outsider, some exec called in to run a company for a few years. He’s not an insignificant employee. He has been with Snider since before many of you were born. He lives in West Chester. His kids went to school here. HIS SON WAS DRAFTED BY THE FLYERS, perhaps as a courtesy. And we’re supposed believe that he just walked into Snider’s office yesterday and resigned, at age 54? Nah.
It’s been said that parent Comcast is trying to button up the culture at Comcast-Spectacor, a subsidiary of the mega-conglomerate. And Luukko’s departure comes as Snider and Comcast-Spectacor may have been seeking subsidies from Comcast. Now, two former executives from Comcast’s cable division, Dave Scott and Gary Rostick, will join Comcast-Spectacor: Rostick as CFO, and Scott as acting president– Luukko’s replacement.
Snider told John Clark that he just met Scott, who will ostensibly run his company (Comcast has a majority share, but Snider owns a 25% stake in Comcast-Spectacor), yesterday. Something tells me Scott wasn’t Snider’s choice. It’s like Senator Lockhart being tapped to replace Saul as the director of the CIA in Homeland. Things are changing, whether Carrie likes it or not.
Whether the apparent Comcast-ization of Comcast-Spectacor has anything to do with Luukko leaving is unclear. But, it’s doubtful that Luukko just resigned to cash in his chips and spend time with his family.
I see three possibilities:
1) Luukko most certainly has something planned, perhaps immediately. Think Joe Banner leaving the Eagles to run the Browns. [I'm just speculating here, but Luukko, who is a "hockey guy," seemed awfully interested in the Rogers broadcasting deal in Canada.]
2) He was let go for reasons having nothing to do with hockey and was given a soft landing by longtime friend and boss Snider.
3) Some sort of shit was or is about to hit the fan and Luukko had no choice but to get out.
Whatever the case, I would guess that it’s extremely likely that there’s more to the story here.
But, of course, that likelihood won’t stop unqualified Flyers beat writers from spewing the party line and focusing on the hockey-centric narrative.
We already told you about Panaccio’s gentle article, which was filled with sunshiny quotes from Luukko. And now, here’s Rob Parent’s, in the Delco Times. He speculates that Paul Holmgren or Bob Clarke could be elevated to club president (just of the Flyers, not Comcast-Spectacor):
If that were to change, an internal shuffle could see Holmgren move up and Hextall, the old Flyers goalie who won a Cup as an assistant GM in Los Angeles, move into a GM’s chair. Then there might be retro options. Former general manager Bob Clarke, 64, who was Holmgren’s longtime front office boss, is an executive vice-president with the club but hasn’t been very active in club affairs the past few years.
Another potential link to the Flyers’ past is Pat Quinn, 70, who coached both Holmgren and Clarke with the Flyers. He is currently serving as chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame, but has a long track record of coaching and front office management with the Flyers, Kings, Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers.
Meanwhile, one of the most powerful and recognizable business execs in Philly just resigned from his job, and everyone is supposed to believe that it’s because he wanted to go watch his kids play hockey. Right.