Comcast Corporation announced today it has reached an agreement to purchase Ed Snider’s 24 percent stake in Comcast Spectacor. Upon closing, which is expected to occur next month, Comcast will own 100 percent of the company, including the Wells Fargo Center, Spectra businesses, and the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers. The transaction related to the Flyers is subject to the approval of the National Hockey League, which is expected to consider the matter at its scheduled Board of Governors’ meeting tomorrow in New York. Mr. Snider, who was the founder of the Philadelphia Flyers and Chairman of Comcast Spectacor, passed away after a long battle with cancer in April 2016.
“Ed was a visionary in the sports and entertainment industry and is deeply missed,” said Brian L. Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation. “He planned for this transition and, thanks to his thoughtful approach on succession, Comcast Spectacor is in a strong position. I’m very excited we are able to carry his spirit with us by bringing the company, its leadership, and its thousands of employees fully into the Comcast family.”
Mr. Roberts also said, “Dave Scott was hand-picked three years ago by Ed to lead Comcast Spectacor and has done a terrific job as its President and CEO. He will continue in that capacity, overseeing all of the company’s various businesses. Paul Holmgren and Ron Hextall have also been great leaders of the Flyers and will remain President and General Manager respectively as the team enters its 50th season. John Page has done a terrific job as President of the Wells Fargo Center, one of the premier venues in the country that’s celebrating its 20th year, and will continue in that role.”
This comes as no surprise. Here are some additional details based on talking to people after Ed Snider passed away: Snider’s stake in Comcast Spectacor had always been reported as being 37%, but in actuality it was only 24%. The deal with Comcast was essentially completed – or agreed to – before Snider died. Presumably, Comcast waited to announce this out of respect for Snider.
Comcast has essentially been running the Flyers for the last few years – ever since Peter Luukko just woke up one day and decided he wanted to move on, or was fired – and Comcast Spectacor has been cutting costs and buttoning things up after the loosey-goosey culture under Luukko. There is speculation that they’ve been trimming their balance sheet to prepare for a sale.
Comcast Specactor is comprised of three properties– the Flyers, the Wells Fargo Center, and the newly-rebranded Spectre, which includes the arena services and hospitality business. The latter is said to have been spun-off to make the properties more attractive to potential buyers. Insiders speculate that Comcast only wants the TV rights to the Flyers – which it has – and may plan to sell the team and the building as a package, and Spectre separately. One potential buyer whose name has been floated by a well-connected tipster? Joshua Harris. They speculated that Harris could sell the Devils and then buy the Flyers and The Center, which the Sixers currently rent from Comcast. I’d take the latter with a grain of salt for now. Others speculate that Comcast could sell the Wells Fargo Center or Spectre, but keep the Flyers to further their image as a local company, which is something I think they actually care about. There are no indications that anything will change with regard to the day-to-day operations of the Flyers as long as Comcast is in control.