Will New Ownership Lead to Dramatic Change for San Jose Sharks?

Scott Semmler@@ScottSemmler22Analyst IIJanuary 31, 2013

Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Change is good, and the structure of the San Jose Sharks franchise changed dramatically on Wednesday. The Sharks have steamrolled the competition early in the lockout-shortened NHL schedule to jump out to a 6-0-0 start and may have received even better news for the future of their franchise.

Co-founder of SAP, Hasso Plattner, purchased the shares of former Sharks majority owners Kevin Compton and Stratton Sclavos to become the new majority owner of the Sharks, the team announced on Wednesday.

One thing is known about Plattner, he has money—and that may be all anyone needs to know about him at the moment.

His 2012 net worth totaled $7.2 billion, making him currently the fifth-richest owner in sports just behind the likes of Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov ($13.2 billion) and Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazers owner Paul Allen ($14.2 billion).

Does that mean the Sharks will now start to unload their wallets for high-priced stars who will get the team over the Stanley Cup hump? Not quite.

According to CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz, Plattner has been the Sharks’ majority owner since 2010, only purchasing an even larger amount of stock from Compton and Sclavos to make him the official man in San Jose. In other words, nothing has changed and the business model remains the same. At least, that is the plan for the time being.

However, there is something to say for a team with this much cash at the forefront of their franchise. Prokorov has changed the Nets substantially since he took over the franchise, even moving the team to Brooklyn with a new identity and some new stars to build the team around. Hockey may be different than basketball, but money talks in sports, and Plattner has plenty of it (per Kurz):

“The financial situation is not better this year than last year,” he said. “On the other hand, I said this to the employees, don’t worry. My credit line is good enough, if you look it up. 
“That doesn’t mean that we spend money foolishly. We have to work hard...” 

Plattner and his money will be thrown into the fire fairly early, as Ryane Clowe will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, although there have reportedly already been talks for him to re-sign in San Jose. 2014 will be an even bigger year, as Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski will all be unrestricted free agents, with Logan Couture becoming a restricted free agent.
Plattner and his money picked a good time to come aboard in San Jose.

CSN Bay Area’s Ray Ratto mentions that Plattner’s checkbook is likely to increase the Sharks’ presence in the NHL, as he will be San Jose’s representative on the NHL’s Board of Governors:

Thus, the Sharks continue their chase for a Stanley Cup, but they plan to do so from a greater position of strength in the Board of Governors meetings. If $7.2 billion doesn’t get someone’s attention, then that someone probably doesn’t have that much attention to pay.

Change appears to be coming in San Jose, but maybe not as much as people would like to assume, or as fast some people would like to think. The Sharks now have money—boatloads of it—but the Sharks have always run their franchise with a business model in mind and have yet to stray too far off the beaten path of what is logical.

Maybe Plattner, with his newfound majority ownership, can bring the illogical into the hockey equation. His bank account only supports that notion.

Follow me on Twitter @ScottSemmler22


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