In what has already been an uncharacteristically busy summer for the Carolina Hurricanes, the move that has perhaps been the longest-awaited is reportedly in the works, as the team has signed a letter of intent to sell. Chuck Greenberg, the former CEO and managing partner of the Texas Rangers, will buy the Hurricanes for $500 million, according to Scott Soshnick, a Bloomberg sports business reporter.
Owner Peter Karmanos Jr. has said that he is open to selling the team (after years of an unofficial but well-founded understanding that the team was on the market), but was looking for a buyer to keep the team in Raleigh, among other stipulations. It seems he has found said buyer in Greenberg, a sports attorney who currently owns three Minor League Baseball teams.
What sticks out about Greenberg, though, are his noteworthy hockey connections. He began his career in 1998 as a sports lawyer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with Cohen and Grigsby P. C. and Pepper Hamilton LLC for 13 years, where he essentially saved the Pittsburgh Penguins by facilitating the sale of the then-bankrupt team to Mario Lemieux and his ownership group as well as the creation of what is now PPG Paints Arena.
Greenberg was also in on the sale of the Dallas Stars in 2011 as a potential buyer, but decided against the purchase after the team could not secure a long-term TV agreement.
Disappointed but not bidding on Stars. New long term TV deal was key to turnaround plan. Got very close but could not get agreement.— Chuck Greenberg (@chuckgreenberg) October 22, 2011
In 2002, Greenberg went on to head a group that bought the Altoona Curve, a Double-A baseball team in Pennsylvania. The team flourished from a business standpoint under his ownership, winning awards for marketing and promotions, fan experience, and community service, among other things. The Curve also won the John H. Johnson Presidents trophy in 2006 for “overall quality and performance” of a Minor League Baseball franchise.
While still owning the Curve, Greenberg also took over as president of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans of the Single-A Carolina League, where he pushed for stadium enhancements in the form of a new video board, new seating arrangements, and other improvements to fan engagement and experience. The result? The franchise has set all-time attendance records four times since the renovations.
Greenberg’s first time in direct management of a premier professional sports team came in August of 2010 when he and former MLB star Nolan Ryan, both of Rangers Baseball Express, won an auction to purchase the Texas Rangers for a total of $593 million.
His time as the Rangers’ CEO lasted only seven months, perhaps hurt buy his comments made about New York Yankees fans during the 2010 MLB playoffs, but it’s apparent that his relationship with Ryan (and others) suffered during their time as executives with the Rangers. Nonetheless, Greenberg continued on his path, adding yet another Minor League Baseball team under his watch in the Frisco RoughRiders, the Double-A affiliate of the Rangers. His “renovate the ballpark and drive up attendance numbers” method hadn’t failed before, so Greenberg made changes as he saw fit there as well. It worked out well.
So what would this move mean for Hurricanes fans? It was known before that the team was being shopped, but the news of a baseball owner possibly buying a non-traditional hockey team seemingly came out of left field (pun not intended, I promise). But don’t forget his prior hockey ties that may have actually helped this sale:
If Greenberg and Mario are indeed good friends (per Gravley) then he probably also knows Ron Francis well.— Jamie Kellner (@jbkellner) July 13, 2017
His track record of succeeding in the form of attendance numbers following his arrival is a promising sign for Canes fans, and his method deserves credit. Greenberg is known for his down-to-earth, fans-first approach to running a team — a definite change from the “laissez-faire” approach seen from Karmanos during his tenure.
When he began with the Rangers, Greenberg spoke about the type of atmosphere he wanted, saying "You guys (fans) are my customers, of course I'm going to listen to you. I want the Rangers to be a family atmosphere. I want the experience of going to Rangers Ballpark to be a feeling you can take home with you. If you don't like something, I want to hear about it." (per the Dallas Observer, linked above).
Clearly, fan experience is paramount to a Greenberg-run team — something that would have definite positive effects on the Canes’ suffering attendance. His experience in not only managing the business side of a team, but improving it, would be like found money on top of the apparent agreement to keep the team in Raleigh. Changes could come in the form of arena upgrades, new promotions, or even additions to the area around PNC Arena, but it’s clear that if and when this deal is finalized, it would mean great things for the team’s future in Raleigh.