The Edmonton Investors Group Limited Partnership was the limited partnership that owned the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League, and is currently an owner of the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League.. With more than thirty individual shareholders, EIGLP was the largest ownership group in the NHL. Among the four North American major sports leagues, only the Green Bay Packers have a larger ownership group.

History[edit | edit source]

Pre Edmonton Investors Group[edit | edit source]

In the mid-1990s, Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington was in a precarious financial situation. Pocklington's main creditor, the Alberta Treasury Branches, were demanding repayment of millions of dollars worth of loans that ATB had made to Pocklington in the 1980s and early 1990s. The once-popular Pocklington had a strained relationship with Edmontonians due in part to his decision to trade Wayne Gretzky as well as his other business and political dealings. As a result, attendance at Northlands Coliseum had declined - partly due to the team's declining on-ice fortunes but also due to personal animosity towards the owner.

This animosity hindered a 1996 season ticket drive that was needed to keep the team in Edmonton. It was largely due to the perseverance of future EIG partner Cal Nichols, that the Friends of the Oilers ticket drive ultimately expanded the season ticket base from a dismal 6,200 to over 13,400, enough to secure the team's future for the short term. However, it was increasingly obvious that Pocklington would not be around for the long term. In early 1997, Pocklington announced his intention to sell up to 45% of the team on the stock market]. Pressure from ATB forced him to abandon this plan and put the team up for sale.

When the Oilers were put up for sale, many doubted whether a local ownership could be found and believed the proud franchise would be re-located to an American city as had happened with the teams in Quebec City in 1995 and Winnipeg in 1996. In 1997 the population of the Edmonton metropolitan area was still under one million, a figure viewed by many fans to be the minimum base a major sports team needs to be financially viable. With the only other former World Hockey Association team in Hartford re-locating in 1997, many analysts predicted that the "domino effect" would be completed in 1998 with the Oilers' move.

However, the terms of Pocklington's lease at what was then known as the Edmonton Coliseum prevented him from unilaterally moving the team or selling it to someone who intended to move it. The lease stipulated that an ownership group willing to keep the team in Edmonton would have six weeks from the time any such intention was declared to purchase the team for US$70 million. In addition, the ATB is a crown corporation owned by the Alberta government, though they treated the matter as non-political. While Alberta Premier Ralph Klein wanted to keep the Oilers in the capital, he was wary of a series of scandals involving favouritism at the ATB that had plagued his predecessor, Don Getty, in the 1980s. Klein was unwilling to make any move that might have been perceived by voters as government subsidization of a hockey club that paid multi-million dollar salaries. However, when Klein's hometown Calgary Flames encountered financial difficulties in 2000, Klein immediately moved to assist them by creating a province-wide lottery.

Cal Nichols looks for investors[edit | edit source]

Nichols, a prominent businessman in his own right, immediately began putting together an ownership group. At the time, the Albertan economy—driven by the oilpatch -- was still recovering from price crashes in the 1980s and 1990s. Most Albertan investors preferred to commit their money to the re-emerging oilpatch, not a "small-market" hockey team. With no single Albertan magnate willing to commit $100 million to purchase the team, Nichols was forced to secure smaller investments from a larger number of investors. Lenders were willing to finance 40% of the purchase price, meaning Nichols needed to come up with about $60 million. Nichols had about $35 million in investments when an offer of US$85 million came from a buyer who wanted to move the team to Houston.

The Oilers' sale attracted interest in from several American cities, and as Nichols was securing local investors, an offer of US$85 million came from Les Alexander, a Houston-based businessman and an owner of the National Basketball Association's Houston Rockets. Houston, which had recently had an application for an expansion team rejected by the league, was (and still is) the largest U.S. city without an NHL franchise. Alexander's original offer was to keep the team in Edmonton on the condition that the lease be terminated, attendance remained at acceptable levels, a local ownership group was eventually found and an expansion team be granted to Alexander in Houston. The Edmonton City Council rejected these terms, believing they gave Alexander too much discretion to move the Oilers to Texas. The city believed the lease they negotiated with Pocklington was still the best chance they had of keeping the team in Edmonton in the long term. Alexander then offered the ATB (which had the team in receivership by then) US$85 million to purchase the team and move it to Houston, and submitted a US$5 million deposit. Nichols was given until March 13, 1998 to match the deposit and commit to purchasing the team for US$70 million, or the lease would be automatically terminated and the team would move.

Nichols was eventually able to assemble a group of 38 local investors. As the deadline neared, the Edmonton Investors Group (EIG) decided to commit to the purchase by matching Alexander's deposit with a down payment of US$5 million. The remainder of the US$70 million was paid to ATB 40 days later, and the NHL then approved the sale. Although major sporting leagues generally frown upon large ownership groups controlling franchises, the NHL decided to forego putting a team in Houston and allow the Oilers' sale to EIG to proceed as they did not want to lose any more Canadian teams - this would have put their lucrative Canadian television contracts in jeopardy.

The Edmonton Investors Group Ltd. is mainly a local ownership group, but includes a few business people from outside the city as well. The Oilers sale even drew interest from Calgary-born comic book creator Todd McFarlane, creator of the famous Spawn character. McFarlane and artist Brent Ashe later designed the Oilers’ third jersey.

The Oilers' new owners have maintained good relations with fans. As a result, fans in Edmonton backed the league-imposed lockout of 2004–05 even though it wiped out an entire season, and came back after the lockout was settled. In the 2005–06 NHL season, the Oilers sold out every home game except one, where a computer glitch prevented the release of several hundred tickets.

Following a successful 2005–06 season which saw the Oilers fall one win short of winning the Stanley Cup and a boom in the Albertan economy, fan support reached its highest levels. A waiting list for season ticket buyers, unheard of during the days of Pocklington's ownership, was put in place after the owners were compelled to cap the number of season tickets sold. The team has also announced that a lottery will be held for the right to purchase multi-game packages at Rexall Place.

Daryl Katz purchase offers and sale[edit | edit source]

In the 2006–07 NHL season the Oilers sold out every home game for the first time, despite missing the playoffs by a substantial margin. The ownership group then reportedly received a C$145 million offer from local billionaire Daryl Katz for the franchise, although Nichols subsequently said the team was not for sale[1]. Daryl Katz upped the offer to $150 million, but was turned down again.

On August 7, Daryl Katz made a 3rd offer for the team of $185 million. Cal Nichols, spokesman for the EIG, said it amounted to a hostile takeover, and had caused divisions within the EIG.

On December 13, 2007 Daryl Katz submitted a 4th formal offer to the EIG to buy the franchise. The offer was $188 million to the EIG shareholders, plus another $100 million towards the building of a new arena in downtown Edmonton, as well as a new state of the art training facility located at the University of Alberta. Cal Nichols indicated that he would accept the offer for his share of the team, but that the EIG had to have the owners of 2/3 of the shares agree to the proposal. Cal Nichols resigned as chairman of the board of directors for the EIG on December 14, 2007. Assuming the position of chairman of the board was Bill Butler, a minority shareholder & real estate developer.[2] The EIG will be meeting to decide on the bid in January, 21st 2008.[3]

Before the January 21st meeting there were rumours of a rival or plan B offer led by Gary Gregg, Bill Butler, Brian Nilsson and Jakob Ambrosius. These rumours were confirmed on January 23, as the rival faction would match the Katz offer either by soliciting new shareholders or taking a loan from Scotiabank using the hockey club as collateral.[4].

As reported on the Team 1260 on January 24, 2007 as well as in the Edmonton Journal[5] on January 25, 3 more directors of the Edmonton Investors Group have stepped down. Ron Hodgson, Neal Allen & Brian Hryniuk have resigned adding speculation that they may have accepted the Katz offer as well. The updated price per share is $20,687 & sources close to Daryl Katz are now saying he may be willing to close the deal only having 60% of the 7492 EIG shares.

On June 18, 2008 it was reported that the sale of the Edmonton Oilers was approved[6] to Daryl Katz for a reported $200 million.

Shareholders[edit | edit source]

The ownership of the EIG was as follows (investors on the board of directors in BOLD):[7]

Shareholder Residence Percentage Held
Dave Addie Lloydminister 1.735%
Neal Allen Nisku
Jakob Ambrosius Edmonton
Manuel Balsa Edmonton
Ted Barrett* Los Angeles
Edwin E. Bean Edmonton 8.00%
Gordon Buchanan Edmonton
Bill Butler Edmonton
Michael Dalton Kelowna
The Edmonton Journal Edmonton
Ernie Elko Edmonton
Gary Gregg Edmonton 9.14%
Don Hamilton Edmonton
Ron Hodgson and Tom Mayson Edmonton 1.735%
Jim Hole Edmonton 9.14%
Brian Hryniuk Edmonton 1.735%
The Estate of Gerald Knoll (1932–2008)[8] Nisku 1.67%
Chris Kuchar** Edmonton/Nisku
Larry M. Makelki Llyodminister
Todd McFarlane Phoenix
Tim Melton Edmonton
Art Mihalcheon Edmonton
Cal Nichols Edmonton 8.00%
Lloydminister Consortium of Five:
Marcel and Roger Roberge,
Brian Nilsson,
Rusty Stalwick,
Keith Weaver
4 (Llyodminister)
Rusty Stalwick (Vermilion)
Al Owen Edmonton
J.R. Paine and Associates:
Dick Paine (1941–2002)
Harold and Cathy Roozen Edmonton
Bruce Saville Edmonton 9.14%
Dale Sheard Edmonton
Simon Sochatsky Edmonton
Barry Weaver*** Edmonton
Jim Woods Edmonton
Jim Zanello Edmonton

*Purchased shares of Dick Colf in 2002
**Inherited shares of Wally Kuchar (?-2004) in 2004
***Sold shares to EIG in 2003

References[edit | edit source]

  1. MacKinnon, John (2007-05-06). Oilers not for sale but bid to buy team won 'a lot of support'. Retrieved on 2008-01-23.
  2. Emergence of low-profile Edmonton developer Bill Butler creates online buzz among fans. Edmonton Journal (2008-01-09). Retrieved on 2008-01-23.
  3. Daryl Katz absent, owners of Oilers weigh bid to buy team. Edmonton Sun (2008-01-21). Retrieved on 2008-01-23.
  4. Barnes, Dan (2008-01-23). Rivals 'matching' Katz's Oilers bid. Retrieved on 2008-01-23.
  5. Barnes, Dan (2008-01-25). Katz bid gaining support. Retrieved on 2008-01-25.
  6. Barnes, Dan (2008-06-18). Oilers sale approved.
  7. Barnes, Dan (2008-01-20). Oilers' owners warming to Katz's offer to buy team. National Post. Retrieved on 2008-01-23.
  8. EIG Investor Gerald Knoll Passes Away. Edmonton Oilers hockey Club (2008-01-18). Retrieved on 2008-01-23.

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