clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Canes Country Round Table, Vol. Three: Ownership

If Peter Karmanos gets more involved running the business operations of the team, is that a good thing or bad?

Peter Karmanos is inducted into the USA Hockey Hall of Fame in December of 2013.
Peter Karmanos is inducted into the USA Hockey Hall of Fame in December of 2013.
Gregory Shamus

Fans of the Carolina Hurricanes are becoming more and more acquainted with the team's Chief Executive Officer and Owner.  It seems they may become even more familiar with him in the near future.

Local interviews with Peter Karmanos have been pretty rare in the past, but he made himself available to the club's press corp after the recent Ron Francis press conference and he also had an interview with John Forslund, which was televised during the intermission of the Hurricanes game in New York, near the end of the season.

While having lunch with the media after the Francis press conference, the owner said that he was buying a place in Raleigh and would be taking over his team's business operations.  The former Compuware CEO should have the necessary time for this since he retired from his business in March 2013 and was terminated from his post-retirement consulting position for the company in October of 2013.

Karmanos has not always given the most politically correct interviews and he angered some fans when he stated that they needed to be more patient when asked about future attendance.

This week we ask our round table the following question:

Peter Karmanos said that he will be spending more time in Raleigh and will be actively involved in running the business operations of the Hurricanes.  Is this a good thing or bad?

Cory Lavalette - Editor

There's no denying that Karmanos is a brilliant business mind. On top of the success of his old company, Compuware, Karmanos had the foresight to envision the Triangle as a legitimate hockey market. Furthermore, Karmanos has often been cited as an absentee owner, a charge that will disappear if he becomes as involved as he plans to be.

All that being said, there are a few red flags. Karmanos has never been one to dance around a topic, and he has, at times, frustrated, angered or perplexed the fan base with some of his off-the-cuff remarks.

In the end, Karmanos should have a positive impact if he has more hands-on involvement. He is a champion of youth hockey — a key to continuing the game’s growth in the South — and is committed to making the game work in the Triangle. That dedication, coupled with his business savvy, will outweigh any negatives that could arise from his increased involvement.

Jeff Berrier (PackPride17) - Contributor

If you look at his history, Peter Karmanos has done some damn fine things in his life.  He co-founded and help build Compuware into a thriving software company with revenue over $1 billion annually.  He is a big contributor to cancer foundations, his home community of Detroit and youth hockey programs at many levels.  And he was the person who moved a struggling NHL franchise to Raleigh, North Carolina that ended up winning the Stanley Cup in 2006.  If this is the Peter Karmanos we are getting, the Carolina Hurricanes and Raleigh area is getting a man that can be a real benefit to the team and to the community.

But the issue is that while Karmanos does a number of good things, he lately has a way of being his own worst enemy when a microphone is in his face.  When he’s given a chance to speak, he does so and doesn’t seem to have a "filter" like a lot of hockey and business executives have.  In 2013, he publicly criticized Compuware’s new management team, which resulted in the cancellation of his consulting job for the company he helped found.  And as recently as within the past month, he put the blame on injuries to their goaltenders for the Hurricanes woes and claimed this team could be competing for the division title if not for those injuries.  These comments got some fans (myself included) a little up in arms and maybe questioning his sanity.  Karmanos is a rich and powerful man that has earned what he has, but it might be wise if he allows others to do his public speaking for him in the future.

So will his move to Raleigh be a good thing?  It certainly can be, but Karmanos needs to do what he said and stick with running the business operations.  If he starts mettling (that’s for you Jamie, J) in the hockey side, things could go from bad to worse.  I’m just concerned that Karmanos is moving here because he feels a little uncomfortable that he has a new General Manager without GM experience and he wants to "help" with the transition.  If that is indeed the case, then his move to North Carolina will likely be a good thing for the community and a bad thing for the Hurricanes.

Brian LeBlanc - Editor

I have a good friend who, for many years and reasons unknown, has always referred to Peter Karmanos as "Uncle Pete." It's a perfect nickname for a man who pretty much checks all the boxes on the Wacky Uncle checklist: a devoted family man, a businessman of some renown, and a man who has a frustrating propensity to stick his foot in his mouth at inopportune moments.

After Karmanos' retirement at the helm of Compuware, he was retained as the chairman of the board and, later, as a paid consultant. That ended poorly when he criticized Compuware management in an expletive-filled rant for valuing shareholders over employees and the community. He and his son, Jason, got into an as-yet-unexplained spat that ended with the father firing his son from his position as assistant general manager for the Hurricanes. Late in the season, Karmanos took to an interview with John Forslund and, essentially, told Canes fans that they had an obligation to be more supportive than they already have been.

With a track record like that, what could go wrong?

Karmanos may well have been a sharp businessman when he founded Compuware in 1973 - check that, he clearly was; companies aren't founded by people who have no business sense. But his recent run of form indicates that he may not presently possess the acumen needed to represent the Hurricanes to a business community in the Triangle which, while generally supportive, hasn't exactly leapt at the chance to support the team in their 15 years in Raleigh.  The role Karmanos will take charge of has been filled by accomplished businessmen in Dean Jordan and Jim Cain, as well as an accomplished hockey man in Jim Rutherford.  It's a spot that calls for a capable, sharp, forward-thinking executive.

It is a good idea, a long-overdue one, to separate the Canes' hockey operations from the business operations. At times Rutherford seemed a bit overwhelmed with all of the requirements of managing both simultaneously. There are already multiple executives in the Canes' front office who would be a good fit to head the Canes' business initiatives: Mike Amendola (club CFO), Dave Olsen (PNC Arena GM), Kyle Prairie (individual and group ticket sales VP), Doug Warf (marketing/Kids 'n Community VP).  Any of these longtime members of the Canes' braintrust are qualified to lead the business office.  Instead, Karmanos is intent on doing things his own way.  We can only hope that his recent gaffes are an exception and not the face that the Triangle's only professional sports franchise will present to the community's movers and shakers.

C-Leaguer - Contributor

If you're here at Canes Country you probably not only know who Peter Karmanos is but you've also heard him speak publicly about the Carolina Hurricanes.  There are times when he can appear gregarious and pleasant. The way he carried himself when The Hurricanes were awarded the NHL All Star game that was originally planned for Phoenix shows that when he wants to be Karmanos can not only be a charmer, but also appeal to southern gentility.  However, his public comments are frequently terse and gruff to put it mildly.  While I personally appreciate his direct manner of speech I know many do not and even I think Karmanos needs to have a pr person with him that better understands the local market.

All of this would seem to suggest that Karmanos is not well suited for a larger and potentially more public role with the team he owns.  However, that fails to account for one item the Peter Karmanos is uniquely able to bring to the table.  Namely, access to a world that most of us could only hope to be a part of.  According to this website ( Peter Karmanos is worth close to $1 billion dollars.  That's billion with a "b".

Access to that world that is the one thing that Peter Karmanos, and only Peter Karmanos, can bring to the team.  With that access comes many new opportunities.  A new chip to bargain with when it comes to advertisers.  A certain level of gravitas when it comes to dealing with local elected officials.  An ability to speak directly with the highest oh high tier consumers in the area. For a team that counts every penny Peter Karmanos can have a direct and positive effect on the bottom line.

Is this to say that things will be all smooth sailing?  Certainly not.  Karmanos needs help in dealing with the locals and the local media.  The same brashness that works well in some markets can work poorly here and undo any positive impact.  Karmanos also needs to be careful that he doesn't simply assume that the same things that work in software will work in professional sports.  But, just like you can't teach some skills, you can't provide the access Karmanos can provide without a similar net worth.  Unless and until Jim Goodnight decides he wants to buy the team then only Peter Karmanos can fill that role.

There is a famous saying that sates you don't go to war with the army you want, but the army you have.  Karmanos is the owner we have.  It's time Karmanos has a local presence and a role with the team.

Jamie Kellner - Phoblographer, Editor

My first inclination is to say Peter Karmanos can do whatever he damn well pleases, because it's his checkbook, and after all the man did bring NHL hockey to North Carolina along with a draft and an All-Star Game and a couple of game sevens and that silver shiny thing.

That said, he's certainly better served keeping a low profile with the fan base, as there is usually not much good that comes out of his public appearances from a PR perspective.

As far as his getting directly involved with business operations, I think that's a good thing. First it keeps him away from hockey operations. Second, it takes business operations out of the hands of the general manager so HE can focus on hockey operations. Third, in theory his time doesn't cost the organization anything, and if times are tight I'd rather money be funneled to hockey operations. Last but not least, Hurricanes business operations deserves focused attention.

I'm hoping his deep dive is short-lived, because in the long run, business operations should warrant an executive in the role permanently.

Bob Wage  - Editing Manager

I cannot help but believe that, with all of his experience, Peter Karmanos would be a benefit to running the business operations of the team.  But while all businesses have similar aspects, hockey teams are not the same as software companies, so the proof will be in the pudding.

For all of his success in the business world, I could not disagree more with some of the things that Karmanos has said in interviews.  (Back in 2009, throwing Peter Laviolette under the bus, while minimizing the success of the Stanley Cup winning team,  a team which not only won the Cup, but did so well during the regular season that it just missed winning the President's Trophy as well.)

Then in a recent interview, telling fans that they need to be more patient, even though they have been more than patient throughout the past five years of failure.  This does not seem to be the best way to help sell tickets to the undecided out there.

But interviews aside, I am hoping that if he takes a more "hands on" approach and is more involved in the day-to-day operations of the team, it will be more positive than negative.