A Q&A with Arizona Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway
Andrew Barroway met the local media for the first time since buying out the Coyotes minority owners on June 12. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ArizonaSports.com on Wednesday that the NHL Board of Governors had approved the sale, noting that the “process is complete.”
While that transaction is complete, Barroway faced a host of other questions at a press conference Thursday at Gila River Arena to introduce new coach Rick Tocchet and new president, CEO and alternate governor Steve Patterson. Flanked by those two men, COO and general counsel Ahron Cohen, and general manager John Chayka, who added the title of president of hockey operations on Wednesday, Barroway was arguably the main attraction.
Following the press conference, ArizonaSports.com caught up with him for a lengthy Q&A.
Why did you buy out the other minority owners?
Barroway: “I wouldn’t say it wasn’t working, it was just a lot of voices. We had 10 different limited partners. Anyone who has been in business, with 10 partners there’s going to be some different opinions sometimes, but it was always my dream to own the entire thing and that’s why I doubled down on my investment.”
You mentioned in the press conference that you thought the team would be better run now. What did you mean?
Barroway: “One voice, one vision, everyone heading in the same direction. Everybody is getting along famously. It’s collaborative yet the boundaries are clear, too. It makes it easier to make the tough decisions when it’s obvious where it’s coming from.”
In general terms, what does this buyout mean for the Coyotes’ future in Arizona?
Barroway: “This is a dream come true for me. I’ve wanted to own a sports team since I was 6 years old. When I was 6, I told my dad I would buy the Philadelphia Eagles. That didn’t work out, but ever since I can remember, this is only thing I wanted. I didn’t care about making money for money’s sake.
“My family couldn’t be any more excited and we couldn’t be any more excited about the bright future of hockey in the Valley. I made the decision to expand my ownership in the Coyotes for a few reasons. First, I love this team, I love hockey and I love being here in the Valley. I am a homeowner here. I voted here. We’re committed to Arizona long-term. This is where we want to be.
“We’re not relocating and I have no exit strategy here. My son would never forgive me. He (Jake) is transferring to the University of Michigan to study sports management and the plan is, when he is old enough, he’ll be the future governor (of the team). I’m not flipping it. This is a family enterprise. This is the longest long term you can picture — beyond my lifetime. I want this team to be in the family for generations.”
What have the past few years been like for you with this franchise?
Barroway: “It’s been fun, it’s been challenging, it’s been captivating. Buying a team is the hardest business thing I was ever able to accomplish and fixing it is even more challenging. It’s been the highest highs and the lowest lows, but I have to tell you I absolutely love it.”
There were reports of a $20 million cash call last season, Forbes estimated your net worth outside of the hockey team at around $50 million and there is continued concern you will be able to go it alone in this venture with the amount of debt you have incurred as a result of this buyout. What would you say to allay those concerns?
Barroway: “The league thinks I can handle this. I think I can handle it and I do run a billion-dollar hedge fund (Merion Investment Management).”
Will you bring in additional investors at some point, and if so, what does that timeframe look like?
Barroway: “On that one I don’t have a plan really. I’m enjoying being the sole owner. If the opportunity presents itself, I’m open to discussing it, but I am thrilled with where I am right now.”
Last summer, hockey operations staff members Gary Drummond and Dave Tippett said they anticipated this team spending to the middle of the cap, rather than being near the floor. Right now, the team is just below the cap floor with a pair of restricted free agents left to sign. What is your plan for spending this season and beyond?
Barroway: “Going forward, we’re not going to comment on our spending. I never thought it made any strategic sense to let other teams know what we’re going to spend or do, but I can tell you if John Chayka has people of value that can help us in the short term, I’m certainly open to it.”
You said in the press conference you would have a new arena in this market. It’s just a question of when. What makes you so confident about a new arena and how can Steve Patterson help?
Barroway: “We don’t have a choice. Failure is not an option and we’re going to keep doing it until we get it right. Steve has the combined skills and experience and local contacts to help go about it. Going forward on stadium stuff, we’ll do everything aggressively and privately and when we have a firm deal to announce, we’ll announce it.
“I think people want to know when it’s a done deal. They don’t need to live through the daily drama of it. There’s no benefit to discussing it publicly until you have something to report. You’re not going to get any false timelines from us, but trust me, I get up in the morning thinking about a new stadium and I go to sleep thinking about a new stadium”
What, if any, have been your conversations with the league about the arena?
Barroway: “As far as the league is concerned, their commitment couldn’t be any stronger. Gary Bettman has provided so much help to the franchise and I don’t think he gets enough credit for it in local media. We have to make it work here. I’m not going to give it a timeline. We have to get it done it and we will get it done, but I can’t tell you when.”
“I should tell you the league is 100 percent aware of everything we do. Gary Bettman knows everything about the Coyotes. He feels like if we get a new stadium this is a home run. That’s the only thing holding us back. We have great young talent, the best young GM in the league and a coach everybody wants to play for. We just need an arena in the right location.”
What is your confidence level in the hockey operations department of John Chayka, Steve Sullivan and others?
Barroway: “I think it’s clear, it’s tight and it’s all good. I have tremendous respect for John. I’ve never seen someone with his level of poise at his age. At the Draft, he was so cool. He never gets flustered or too emotionally attached. He makes the right decision each time.”
Can you explain your decision to cut ties with Shane Doan?
Barroway: “I think the hockey decision was the right one, but I didn’t handle it as directly as I should have. I should have flown out personally and talked with Shane. I apologized to him for that and I apologize to the fans. He’s a bedrock of this community and I should have handled it better.”
Is there a role for Shane Doan in this organization moving forward?
Barroway: “That’s really up to Shane. He hasn’t made a decision yet if he wants to play and I need to respect his timeline. I have no idea what he’ll do, but once he decides, I’ll sit down with him in person. I’ve learned from my mistakes.”
Can you explain your decision to cut ties with Dave Tippett?
Barroway: “We were undergoing a lot of different changes. He just felt it was time for a change. He’s a great coach and a great person and the next job open will probably be his. It’s a fresh start, nothing more than that.”
Was there a conscious effort to break with the past and usher in the new with some of these moves like the Mike Smith trade, Doan and Tippett?
Barroway: “No, it was a conscious effort to win. We’re not making changes for change sake. It’s not this ‘out with the old, in with the new’ stuff you’ve heard. We’re trying to put the most competitive team we can on the ice. Derek Stepan will help fill a hole in the middle. With Antti Raanta, we got the best available goalie and with Niklas Hjalmarsson we got the No. 1 stay-at-home D in the league.”
Now that you are the sole owner and therefore the face of ownership for this franchise, what sort of image do you feel the owner of a professional franchise should project through his conduct and words?
Barroway: “Accessibility and that I’m not going to back away from the tough decisions. I also recognize this is a sport and it’s supposed to be fun. I love going out and spending time with the kids, signing their hats or bobbleheads. I’ve come to enjoy this community. It’s a gorgeous place to live.”
How do you want the public to perceive you?
Barroway: “That I was honest, that I was caring, that again, I was accessible and that I did my best to win. I want to bring a winner to the Valley and have fans’ hearts and minds on the ice. I want people to go to games and get that top-notch, first-rate experience that people that live in the Valley deserve. People don’t deserve to drive an hour and a half during the week for a game. This is the best market available. We just have to put the stadium in the right place.”