Tom Stillman officially took over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday morning, along with a group of investors who give the team local ownership for the first time since 1999.
Stillman, the CEO of Summit Distributing, a St. Louis beer distributorship, purchased the team from New York-based SCP Worldwide, headed by Dave Checketts.
“Our group is honored and humbled to take ownership of our hometown Blues,” Stillman said at the announcement in the atrium at Scottrade Center. “We're 100 percent local, 100 percent committed to the Blues and the city of St. Louis. We see the franchise as a hometown institution, a critical city asset. We see ourselves more as stewards of the Blues than as owners. We will make decisions in the best interests of the franchise, our loyal fans and the city of St. Louis.
“We come to this with a real love of the game of hockey and a special passion for Blues hockey. Most of the members of our group are lifelong Blues fans, everyone has season tickets or suites or both, at least three of us still play on a regular basis. Our top priority will be to put a serious contender on the ice year in and year out and we do intend to win a Stanley Cup for the city of St. Louis.”
Stillman said a big issue going forward will be the financial security of the team.
“We aim to put the Blues on solid financial footing,” Stillman said. “We need to make the franchise stable and sustainable. On the ice, we're now one of the elite teams in the NHL. We're strong, talented with a mostly young core. This team accomplished a lot this year.
“On the financial side, we have work to do. It won't be easy, but with the support of fans, businesses large and small, and with everyone's help we'll get that done to assure the Blues franchise is strong and successful in St. Louis for generations to come and insure the long-term health of the St. Louis Blues.”
Stillman sounded emotional at times as he took over the team.
"To have the opportunity to lead this organization," he said, "to be stewards of its present and future, is way beyond my wildest dreams. It's an honor that I take very seriously, as will the rest of our group."
Stillman was joined at the news conference to announce the deal by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. Many Blues players also attended the announcement, as did the Blues front office.
"A monumental, historic and really terrific day for St. Louis and the Blues," Bettman said. "We know how important St. Louis is as a hockey market and how important the Blues are to the city. ... The future is bright, bright, bright. Tom's as committed as anybody to running the franchise in a first-class way. "
Bettman said with the sale, the team is already on better financial footing.
"The franchise is less leveraged, there's more equity in it, which are all good things," Bettman said. "If not for Tom's passion and persistence, this (sale) would not have happened."
The sale comes almost exactly two years after TowerBrook Capital Partners, the club's No. 1 investor, announced it was looking to sell its 70 percent share of the team, a decision that eventually led to Checketts putting the franchise up for sale.
After a few false starts and failed efforts, Stillman, a minority owner of the team, put together a group of investors to buy the team. Among the investors are former U.S. Senator John Danforth (Stillman's father in law), Steve Maritz, CEO of Maritz Inc., Donn Lux, CEO of Luxco, and the Taylor family, owners of St. Louis-based Enterprise Holdings.
"A lot of times I didn't think it was going to happen," Stillman said. "It was something I thought and the members of our group thought, was the right outcome. I said to some people if there was another strong local option, I'd have been OK with that, too. I thought it best to have the Blues franchise in the hands of local owners. That's the best outcome for the Blues."
In addition to the Blues, Stillman's group gets the team's lease on Scottrade Center, the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL (the Blues' minor-league affiliate) and the adjacent Peabody Opera House.
The full ownership list of Stillman's group:
• Thomas H. Stillman, Chairman & CEO, Summit Distributing
• Jerald L. Kent, Chairman & CEO, Suddenlink Communications, CEO, Cequel III
• Donn S. Lux, Chairman & CEO, Luxco
• James A. Cooper, Managing Partner, Thompson Street Capital Partners
• Jo Ann Taylor Kindle, President, Enterprise Holdings Foundation
• W. Stephen Maritz, Chairman & CEO, Maritz Inc.
• Edward M. Potter, Private investor
• Mr. & Mrs. Andrew C. Taylor, Mr. Taylor is Chairman & CEO of Enterprise Holdings, Inc.
• David L. Steward, Chairman, World Wide Technology, Inc.
• James P. Kavanaugh, CEO, World Wide Technology, Inc.
• John C. Danforth, Partner, Bryan Cave LLP, Former U.S. Senator, Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
• Christopher B. Danforth, Owner & CMO, Kennelwood Pet Resorts
• James L. Johnson, Senior Vice President, Stifel Nicolaus & Co.
• Scott B. McCuaig, Former President, Stifel Nicolaus & Co.
• John S. Ross, Jr., President, Summit Development Group
• Thomas F. Schlafly, Partner, Thompson Coburn, Founder, The Saint Louis Brewery