Brampton Beast up for sale, with hopes of attracting local investors

Team president and GM Cary Kaplan discusses the plan to infuse the team with local ownership.

Brampton Beast team president and general manager Cary Kaplan was on TSN1050 Radio on Wednesday to discuss the team’s initiative to sell off 49% of the franchise to local investors.

The franchise was initially awarded to Gregg Rosen, who owns 97% of the team, in 2013, but he is based in Kingston, and there is a desire to have more local representation for the team to help continue growing the fanbase with the help of various grassroots initiatives in the community.

The Beast are currently the only Canadian team in the ECHL, yet have been able to grow their attendance year-over-year since the inception of the team in the Central Hockey League in 2013. When that league merged with the ECHL in 2014, the Beast came along for the ride.

Playing in the 5,000-seat Powerade Arena, the Beast have gone from 44% capacity to 62% in four years, which is a testament to their brand strength in a crowded GTA sports market that counts on the numerous Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment franchises and OHL junior hockey not far away in Hamilton and Mississauga.

These attendance figures far surpass the figures that the now-defunct OHL Brampton Battalion were seeing during their run from 1998 to 2013, showing that there is indeed a growing fanbase of Beast-specific fans.

The plan to localize the ownership is similar to an investment shares-type arrangement in publicly-traded companies. An initial ballpark value of the team’s worth is in the broad $5-10 million range, with the value expected to rise. The local investors would in turn become vocal ambassadors of the brand, and could help spread the grassroots messaging with a targeted local presence.

Kaplan mentioned that the Montreal Canadiens are a tremendous partner for the on-ice product, but work needs to continue to happen off the ice, and this local ownership opportunity will help in that regard.

Underneath the positive PR spin lies a more urgent necessity; to help steady a financially struggling team. In January, the club approached the city of Brampton to provide the $750,000 infusion it needed to cover forecasted operating losses for the 2017-18 season. By March, the proposal had changed and became a bit more of a longer-term investment, with the city council voting 8-2 to give $1.5M over three years.

With the city’s support, the sell-off of shares can possibly be a way of unburdening Rosen from the operating losses, without abandoning ship entirely, and also bringing in the local representation to champion the franchise’s cause and hopefully continue to grow the team to profitability.

Kaplan let it be known that the Beast own a 50-mile (~80 km) radius for AA hockey, so that gives them a pretty exclusive footing in the area for that level of hockey. This reaches past Oshawa to the east, Brantford to the west, Barrie to the north, and Ste. Catherine’s to the south; essentially granting exclusivity in the most populous area of Canada for AA hockey, with interest in the league growing.

The Beast saw their most successful season in franchise history last year, making the playoffs for the first time. However, they lost several key players over the summer to free agency, including top scorers David Pacan and David Vallorani to European clubs.

It will be interesting to follow both these storylines over the summer to see how the club manages to improve the on-ice product and grow the off-ice brand. Kaplan is hoping to have an initial round of meetings with potential investors later this month.

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