The Philadelphia Flyers are now fully owned by the Comcast Corporation.
On Thursday, the largest cable provider in America and the largest company in the City of Philadelphia officially announced that they are buying out the 24 percent stake that was owned by late team founder Ed Snider -- and, since his death in April, by his estate.
The 24 percent stake is actually in the Flyers’ parent company, Comcast-Spectacor, not the Flyers organization itself. Snider founded the company, known as Spectacor, in 1974 before selling a majority if it to Comcast in 1996. Today, Comcast-Spectacor owns the Flyers, the Wells Fargo Center, four Flyers Skate Zone facilities around the Delaware Valley and various other businesses in the sports entertainment field.
Comcast’s 100 percent ownership of Comcast-Spectacor seems more symbolic than anything else -- the end of an era, so to speak. For the first time in 50 years, Ed Snider and his family have zero say in what happens with the Flyers. Comcast seems to be going out of its way in its press release to reassure fans that things won’t really change and that this is essentially the will of Mr. Snider himself. Here’s the quote from Comcast CEO Brian Roberts:
“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.”
And here’s the part where we’re supposed to be reassured that things won’t change, given that the guy Mr. Snider picked is still in charge of the operation:
“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.”
As we wrote back in April after Mr. Snider’s passing, there are definitely real concerns that things could change in terms of the financial resources available to the Flyers. Paul Holmgren and Ron Hextall still have control of hockey operations, of course. But might the corporation try to “Comcastize” the Flyers -- as in, make them more profitable regardless of the impact that could have on the ice?
"I think it’ll be handled the same way," Holmgren said back in May, when speaking about the change in ownership. “We have a budget that we agreed on with Mr. Snider or Brian Roberts, whoever. I mean, obviously we dealt with Mr. Snider in the past but I’m sure Brian was aware of what was going on. Dave Scott, who’s been part of the organization for the past two years, he’s been involved a lot this year in what we’re doing. So where we talk about budgets, we have our budget that we move forward with and [Hextall] knows the parameters. If there’s something that maybe doesn’t fit in what we have budgeted for, then we’ll probably have another meeting."
"If the money’s in the budget, then we’re fine. If it’s not in the budget, then we talk about what we’re gonna do with Dave and with Brian."
We’ll see how this plays out over the long term, but the story today is that it’s the end of an era. The Flyers will enter their 50th season under new ownership.