Kloten/Calgary, 29 April 2015
Philippe Gaydoul, the owner of Kloten Flyers, today sold his stake in EHC Kloten Sport AG to Avenir Sports Entertainment LLC (ASE). The Swiss entrepreneur and sports fan made an investment more than two years ago to secure the future of the historic ice hockey club. ASE specializes in managing sports companies, and as the new owner of EHC Kloten Sport AG it will use its extensive industry experience to help ensure the long-term sporting and financial success of Kloten Flyers. Philippe Gaydoul remains a member of the Board of Directors.
"My two years of involvement with Kloten Flyers have been an exciting, emotional and challenging time, which I would not have missed for the world. Enthusiasm for this dynamic and passionate sport had already grown stronger during my time as chairman of the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation. Now, however, is the right time to follow the 'best owner' principle and put the future of Kloten Flyers in new hands. The Avenir Sports and Entertainment Group will ensure Kloten Flyers continues to develop at a high level. Back when I launched my rescue mission, my goal was always to help ensure this historic ice hockey club could continue to play the key role in our society that it has performed for more than 80 years. But I always saw my involvement as a transitional solution, so I am now very happy that an experienced group like ASE wants to commit to Kloten Flyers. I look forward continuing to help as a Board member," says Philippe Gaydoul.
ASE, based in Calgary, Canada acquired the Portland Winterhawks Hockey Club, which plays in the US/Canadian Western Hockey League (WHL), in 2008. ASE very quickly turned the Winterhawks from the worst team in the league into the most successful, participating in four consecutive Western Conference finals and winning the WHL Championship in 2013.
Substantial, targeted investments were also made in the club's infrastructure to ensure that it prospers on both the financial and sporting fronts. A crucial and constant element in the strategy has been to embed the club in its social and economic environment. ASE is currently negotiating with the City of Portland about the refurbishment of the Winterhawks' arena. In addition, the Winterhawks Skating Center, which is used for training by the Winterhawks, was taken from virtual bankruptcy to profitability. The financial management of the whole ice hockey company is rigorously based on a business plan focused on economic viability.
ASE has been interested in the Swiss ice hockey scene for a long time. It has very successfully recruited Swiss ice hockey players in the past. Portland Winterhawks has signed up stars including Luca Sbisa, Nino Niederreiter and most recently Sven Bärtschi, for example. All of these talents developed to become first-round draft picks in the National Hockey League.
ASE will use this positive experience for targeted talent development at Kloten Flyers. At the same time the company is well aware of the differences between American and Swiss ice hockey cultures, so it is keen to involve existing Flyers stakeholders (board, management, sponsors, donors, fans and the town of Kloten) in plans for the club's successful future. Potential synergies will be carefully explored and structures will gradually be adjusted to ASE's successful model.
The chairman of Avenir Consolidated Corporation, entrepreneur and investor William M. Gallacher, is the owner of Avenir Sports Entertainment LLC. Gallacher is a board member at several companies in which his group is invested. William Gallacher, an engineer by training, made his first investments in the oil industry.
The ASE team that will provide Kloten Flyers with expert support consists of three managers with great ice hockey experience. Avenir’s Doug Piper, Ken Stickney and Bob Strumm bring a nearly 90 years of combined experience at all levels of professional hockey, including decades in the NHL on both the hockey operations and business side of franchises.
William Gallacher says the following about the acquisition of Kloten Flyers: “We’re impressed by the standard of play in the Swiss National League A. It is one of the top professional hockey leagues in the world. Kloten Flyers have a proud history and our goal is to return the team to its rightful place in the upper echelons of the league. Our management team has extensive experience in turning around struggling franchises, the most recent example being the Portland Winterhawks. We took them from being a last place team to league champions, and we’re excited to apply those principles here.”
Gallacher continues: "We’d also like to take the opportunity to thank Mr. Philippe Gaydoul for his role in the transition. He has been a great owner for Kloten Flyers and we’re excited by the opportunity here. We’re also looking forward to working with Sean Simpson. We believe Sean is one of the best coaches in hockey today.”