The acquisition of the St. Louis Blues by Tom Stillman is a second step by visible minorities into NHL ownership.
When Stillman officially announces his purchase Thursday and reveals his investors, one of them will be David Steward. He represents the second significant investment in an NHL team by an African-American, although he is not expected to take an active role in the Blues' operations.
Steward, 61, is the co-founder and chairman of World Wide Technology Holding Co. Inc., which is often called the largest black-owned company in the United States. Steward founded the St. Louis-based information technology company in 1990 with a handful of employees. The company now employs more than 500 people and earned $3.2-billion (all currency U.S.) in revenue in 2011.
The NHL's other black part-owner is Sheila Johnson, the vice-chairwoman of the Washington Capitals. She is the wife of Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, who became the first African-American majority owner of a major sports team when he bought the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats in 2003. He later sold them to a group led by Michael Jordan.
Stillman, who also owns Summit Distributing, a beer distributorship, put together a well-heeled group of fellow St. Louis citizens to win the approval of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the board of governors. Those familiar with the financial struggles of the NHL team under former owners Dave Checketts and TowerBrook Capital Partners say the local ownership is the key to stabilizing the franchise.
Other members of Stillman's group are his father-in-law John Danforth, a former Republican U.S. senator, Steve Maritz, the chief executive officer of Maritz Inc., and Donn Lux, the CEO of Luxco.
One report claimed Richard Lehman, a prominent St. Louis surgeon and investor, was also part of the group. However, Lehman is a part-owner of the Florida Panthers and is not an investor in the Blues, although he did have some discussions with Stillman.
Also coming on board is Brett Hull, whose best years as an NHL player were spent with the Blues. He will have a position in management, although it is not yet clear what his duties will be.
The current management team of president John Davidson, general manager Doug Armstrong and head coach Ken Hitchcock will remain in place.
The exact purchase price of the team is not known, although it is thought to be around $130-million. That includes the Blues, their American Hockey League farm team, management rights for the Scottrade Center and a share of the Peabody Opera House.