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6 posts from March 3, 2014

March 03, 2014

FINAL ACT: Michael Yormark Leaves Florida Panthers, Rory Babich & Dale Tallon to Split Duties

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

BOSTON -- After a tumultuous decade of running the Florida Panthers and its related companies, team president Michael Yormark left the organization on Monday.

Yormark is now president and Chief Strategy Officer for Roc Nation, an entertainment and sports marketing firm headed by Jay-Z. Yormark begins his new job Wednesday in New York although his family will remain in Boca Raton.

The Panthers made the playoffs once since he joined the franchise in 2003, although the Broward County-owned BB&T Center became a top entertainment venue and helped keep the hockey team financially afloat.

"I'm thrilled,'' Yormark told the Miami Herald on Monday evening. "At the end of the day, I've been here 11 years. I've had a lot of opportunities come my way during that period of time. But I've done everything I can do here.

"Based on what I controlled and what I could impact, I did everything I could. This opportunity really puts me on a global platform. This takes me to a completely different level in my career. I had to go for it, I really did.''

Rory Babich, a New York-based attorney, has been advising new owner Vinnie Viola since he bought the franchise in September. Babich becomes the team's new CEO and president.

Babich will work with general manager Dale Tallon on both the hockey and business side of the organization. Both were named alternate governors of the franchise on Monday.

Tallon and Babich have been working together since Viola and Doug Cifu took over the organization.

"We're incredibly optimistic,'' Babich said. "Vinnie and Doug bought the team with the belief it can be very successful in South Florida. Dale and I certainly share that vision. That's why we're both here today.''

Said Tallon: "We've developed a good relationship in a short amount of time. We're going to be partners in all these initiatives on and off the ice. I'm excited about it. I think it's going to be great.''

Viola has said the Panthers will increase their payroll significantly next season and be closer to the salary cap ceiling ($71 million) than its floor.

With the NHL trade deadline coming Wednesday, Florida has the lowest payroll in the league but is expected to be busy.

Tallon is shopping a number of pending free agents who he doesn't feel fit with the Panthers' future plans. Tallon could also bring in players to help finish this season and return next year.

"We're building for the future obviously, but that's a whole different process,'' Tallon said. "This is another stepping stone.''

The departure of Yormark didn't come as a complete surprise as rumors had been circulating since last month following his appearance at a Broward County Board of Commissioners workshop in which the Panthers are requesting to restructure their contract and lessen (or completely erase) their financial obligation for use of the Sunrise arena.

Yormark has been at the forefront of the team's dealings with the county over the past decade and secured funding for a $4.2 million scoreboard and video command center last summer.

The commission appears poised to help the Panthers shed a good portion of their financial obligation to the county on a lease that runs through 2028.

Babich will join Cifu in working with the county as Yormark moves on.

"Having a strong hockey franchise here in a county-owned arena that brings in all of the top acts really does benefit the city of Sunrise, Broward County, right from the beaches to the Everglades and all of South Florida,'' Babich said. "We're looking to be cooperative and continue discussions with the commissioners.''

Brett Yormark, Michael's twin brother, is CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and the new Barclays Center and a business associate of Jay-Z.

Roc Nation as well as concert promoter Live Nation have had a close relationship with Yormark and Sunrise Sports & Entertainment over the years. Two of Yormark's closest employees with the Panthers recently took jobs in New York with Roc Nation.

When Viola and Cifu bought the team last summer, Yormark was promoted to CEO and allowed a small financial stake in the organization from stock options. Yormark will not take any ownership in the team moving forward.

"I'll still catch games when I can,'' Yormark said, "catch concerts and shows here when I can -- especially when we have our artists here. I'll be around. I wish Vinnie and his family the best of luck. I hope they can take this thing to the next level. That's what our fans want to see. I'll be cheering for them.''

 

MICHAEL YORMARK TALKS: Takes Pride in Keeping Florida Panthers Alive

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards


Below is the transcipt from an interview I did with former Florida Panthers president Michael Yormark on Monday evening.

There is some pretty good stuff in here.

And regardless of what you think of Yormark or how he ran the organization these past 11 years, you have to give him credit for continuously and tirelessly working to make things work down here. The guy just never stops.

Anyway, here you go:


I'm thrilled. At the end of the day, I've been here 11 years. I've had a lot of opportunities come my way during that period of time. But I've done everything I can do here.

I came here to build a first-class organization, to put this building on the map, to help this arena, to make the hockey team relevant in South Florida. Based on what I controlled and what I could impact, I did everything I could.

This opportunity really puts me on a global platform. This takes me to a completely different level in my career.

I had to go for it, I really did.

The easy thing would have been to stay, continue to do the same thing I did for 11 years. But I'm in the prime of my career and this opportunity opens up numerous doors. I'm working with such talented people at Roc Nation. It's one of the leaders in entertainment space on a global level. I'm just excited to be part of it.

This was once in a lifetime and it allows me to integrate entertainment with the sports side. It's really never been done before. I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to miss being down here, but I'm going to stay in South Florida, my family is still living in Boca Raton. I'll still catch games when I can, catch concerts and shows here when I can -- especially when we have our artists here. I'll be around. I wish Vinnie and his family the best of luck. I hope they can take this thing to the next level. That's what our fans want to see. I'll be cheering for them.

 

When I look at my legacy here, I look back and I helped keep hockey alive here in South Florida.

If you think about it, we had one playoff experience in 11 years. Yet the team is still here. We have a thriving arena, a thriving entertainment business. The team is hopefully about to turn the corner. Will all of that we kept moving the business forward. We built a brand that was revelant in the market and I'm proud of that. I can't tell you how many e-mails I got from people today, from fans to partners to business associates who said 'Michael, we appreciated your 24/7 effort. You did it against all odds.'

Think about it. And I told my staff this today, since I've been here, we've had multiple owners, coaches and general managers as well as two work stoppages. And, the Heat have won three championships -- and working on a fourth -- the Marlins won a championship. And on the entertainment side, there is all kinds of new places that have opened in the past 11 years. Case in point, the Hard Rock. Despite all that, we survived. We continued to move the business forward.

When I look back, I'm proud of what I accomplished. We didn't get a lot of help, but we perservered and worked our butts off every single day. I will tell you, we always had the hardest working staff in America. Every person who worked for this organization over the past 11 years worked 24/7 to build this brand and help keep this business alive. That's what I'm most proud of, I really am.

The difference from where I am and where I'm going is here, the challenge was to keep it alive. Where I'm going, the challenge is to build something great. I have an opportunity to really build something with Roc Nation, Jay-Z and the senior management team here. Where I've been the past 11 years, I was focused every day on surviving in a very competitive market. We did.

 

NEW MANAGEMENT: Rory Babich, Dale Tallon Meet the Media

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Here is the Panthers' official release on their new management team with Michael Yormark leaving the team for a gig with Roc Nation. My conversation with Michael comes up next.

Below the italicized press release is the transcript from Rory and Dale's teleconference with the South Florida media on Monday night.

 

 

SUNRISE, FLA - The Florida Panthers and its parent company Sunrise Sports & Entertainment, LLC announced today that Rory A. Babich has been promoted to Chief Executive Officer and President. Michael R. Yormark, the former CEO and President, announced today that he is resigning to accept an offer to join Roc Nation. In his capacity as CEO and President, Mr. Babich will be responsible for all business and hockey operations, where he will partner with Dale M. Tallon, currently the Executive Vice President and General Manager, who will also have his responsibilities expanded to include business operations. Both Mr. Babich and Mr. Tallon have also been named as Alternative Governors to the National Hockey League’s Board of Governors.

 

Panthers owner Vincent Viola said, “We appreciate Michael's many years of hard work and service to the organization and wish Michael much continued success in his new role. While we are sorry to see Michael leave, he has received an offer for a tremendous opportunity and we are fortunate that we will be able to continue working with him in his new role. Rory has been working with us throughout our acquisition of the team and has been partnering with Michael on the business side and Dale on the hockey side since he joined us. Rory and Dale have developed an extremely close working relationship and we look forward to having them continue our mission to develop a team that makes Sunrise, Broward County and South Florida proud on and off the ice and continues to attract sports-loving tourists from all over the world to Broward County. We will continue to focus on bringing the Stanley Cup to Broward County and South Florida while also offering the best entertainment and biggest names at BB&T Center in Sunrise."

 

Panthers co-owner Douglas Cifu said, “I have known Rory for nearly 25 years. He is an experienced senior business executive with an incredible knowledge of sports in general and hockey in particular. Together with Dale Tallon, who led the effort to build the foundation of the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks and is building a similar model here with our young guns, the two of them will pool their talents as we advance on our journey to bring the Stanley Cup to South Florida."

 

Growing up in the sports world with a father who was a college baseball coach and doubled as a sportswriter, Babich, who was born in NY, NY, has been working with the owners of the Panthers since they started exploring buying the team last summer. Before launching his consulting business, Babich was a senior executive responsible for running the day-to-day business of a division of Fortress Investment Group, a financial services company listed on the NYSE. Babich also has over 20 years of experience as a leading international corporate attorney. Babich said, “I am very excited about this opportunity to help take the team and the organization to the next level as we build a successful hockey team while also strengthening our bonds with our many supporters throughout Sunrise, Broward County and South Florida and having hockey-loving fans from Europe who vacation in South Florida adopt our team as their team. I could not ask to work with a better partner than Dale, and we are very optimistic about the future.”

 

Tallon, originally from Noranda, Canada, has been an Executive Vice President and the General Manager of the Panthers since May 2010. After helping build the Chicago Blackhawks into a Stanley Cup winner, Tallon is now in the process of working with Babich to replicate that success through careful drafting and development of young players with additional players added through trades and free agency. During his tenure, Tallon has led the Panthers to their first Southeast Division title during the 2011-2012 season and was selected as a finalist for the National Hockey League’s 2011-2012 Executive of the Year. Tallon said, “In the time we have been working together, Rory has become a trusted partner on the hockey side for me and I look forward to working with Rory on all parts of our business. Vinnie has given us the authority to become a cap team and we look forward to adding the right pieces and building the team the right way to ensure long-term success.”

RORY BABICH

We're very optimistic about the future here. Dale and I have been working together for a number of months and have built up a very close working relationship. Dale and I, together, will be partnering on all aspects of our business. Hockey, business and entertainment as we work on growing the business in Sunrise, Broward County and South Florida.

 

I've been involved in different sports throughout the years in the New York/New Jersey area. In terms of baseball, basketball, hockey -- there have been different roles over the years. Hockey is a sport I have loved ever since I've been a child. I was a longtime New York Rangers fan, have been a season ticket holder for over 20 years. I've followed the sport very closely. Since joining the Panthers, I've been working with Dale working on our strategy moving forward.

 

As everyone is aware, Vinnie and Doug purchased this team in September. Really, the vision of this franchise comes right from the top. We've been working closely with Dale since the new owners came in. Me stepping in as CEO doesn't change the vision of the owners or their commitment to build a successful franchise down here, make ourselves a cap team and continue the disciplined mind that Dale has instituted.

 

On Broward County: Obviously the owners have been part of this process and I'll be stepping in. Doug has met with the commissioners and will continue to interact with them as I get involved. As we look at the situation, I think it's always important to remember, when Vinnie and Doug bought the team and took the approach on going to the county commissioners with their request to help build a stable long-term franchise here, committing their own money as well as asking for additional support from the county to help support these initiatives, everything is meant to be supportive as we deal with the county and local residents. Having a strong hockey franchise here in a county-owned arena that brings in all of the top acts really does benefit the city of Sunrise, Broward County, right from the beaches to the Everglades and all of South Florida. We're looking to be cooperative and continue discussions with the commissioners. Any time something goes before the county in the States, there's always healthy debate. That's part of being in a democracy. We recognize that and welcome healthy debate around the issues and continuing the discussion.

 

We're incredibly optimistic. When Vinnie and Doug bought the team -- and we've seen this in other areas where franchise have been moved or various commitments made before owners purchased -- Vinnie and Doug bought the team with the belief it can be very successful in South Florida.

Dale and I certainly share that vision. That's why we're both here today.

We really do believe in building a successful franchise both on and off the ice, attracting the top talent and building that supportive fan base. People ask if hockey can really make a go of it in South Florida in a non-traditional market. The reality is South Florida is an incredible sports market. People like exciting sports. The team will be improving and building the bonds with the community. We're looking at a lot of community outreach either youth hockey or other areas where the Viola family and the Panthers can support the community. On all fronts, success on and off the ice, we believe the sky is the limit here.

 

DALE TALLON

 

I think this is an exciting time for us. Rory and I have been together since December and have developed a close relationship in a short amount of time. We have the same philosophy. We're partners in this and we're excited about what we're going to do and how we're going to do it. We're going to work together as a team to bring a Stanley Cup to the Florida Panthers and their fans.

 

On Bill Torrey: He'll have the same role he's had since I've been here; that's right there beside us at all time. He's involved in all decisions. I rely on him heavily because of his great knowledge and experience. He's a champion. Nothing is changed as far as that concerned.

 

Trade deadline: I think it's a different thing. We're building for the future obviously, but that's a whole different process. This is another stepping stone. First we look at the deadline to see what suits the franchise as far as the future is concerned. Then we'll focus on the draft and after that, free agency. We'll be aggressive in all those areas. Every move we make in the next day-and-a-half will be with regard for what's best in regard for this franchise in winning Stanley Cups.

 

Brad Boyes: We're still in negotiations. We've made an offer, had discussions today with his agent. We're hopeful we can get something done.

 

On meeting Rory: I wasn't apprehensive. We've been on the same page since the first day we met. I like Rory's personality and his approach to things. We're very similar in a lot of ways. We agree to disagree on some things, but we're very civil. We've developed a good relationship in a short amount of time. We're going to be partners in all these initiatives on and off the ice. I'm excited about it. I think it's going to be great.

 

Dale booking concerts?: Why not. A little bit of country, little bit of rock and roll. A little bit of this, a little bit of that.

 

HOCKEY STUFF: Pirri Could Play vs. Bruins; Jimmy Hayes Getting Islanders Goal?

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

BOSTON -- Coach Peter Horachek said center Brandon Pirri was expected to join the team Monday in Boston. The Panthers didn't practice on Monday prior to Tuesday's game against the Bruins.

Pirri, acquired Sunday from Chicago for two draft picks, could play on Tuesday although that decision hasn't been made yet.

Horachek did talk about Pirri to Panthers forward Jimmy Hayes who played with Pirri in the Blackhawks' organization.

"I don't know much about him,'' Horachek said. "I've seen his stats, a couple of our guys played with him. It may be a little strange throwing him in there, but that could just be a good thing. We'll see what happens after the morning skate.''

-- Horachek said he would look into having the league review Florida's fifth goal from Sunday's 5-3 win over the Islanders. The goal was credited to Scottie Upshall, but the puck clearly went off Hayes' skate and into the net.

"What's right is right,'' Horachek said. "If it goes in, he did it. I think we should get things right.''

 

TUESDAY: PANTHERS AT BRUINS

When, Where: 7 p.m.; TD Garden, Boston

TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM-560

The series: Boston leads 39-32-6

Scouting report: The Bruins, coming off Sunday's 6-3 win at the Rangers, have beaten the Panthers six straight times. Tim Thomas is expected to make his second start at the Garden as a member of the Panthers.

 

OPEN LETTER: Michael Yormark Says Goodbye to Florida Panthers

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

BOSTON -- Here is an email that Michael Yormark sent out this afternoon.

 

It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you that after 11 years of incredible memories, moments and relationships, I am departing Sunrise Sports & Entertainment to open an exciting new chapter in my career.

I am honored and humbled to be joining Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports as President & Chief Strategy Officer. Roc Nation represents a wonderful new adventure for my family and me, and I am thrilled to join an exciting, innovative organization led by Desiree and Juan Perez.

Roc Nation Sports is poised to grow in to one of the most influential companies in the industry and I am looking forward to taking on this new challenge.

That said, I will always remember the wonderful moments and relationships that I had during my tenure as President & CEO of the Florida Panthers and the BB&T Center. I had the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people including our staff, partners and fans and I will never forget some of the great memories and challenges that we shared together.

I believe strongly that new owner Vinnie Viola, his partner Doug Cifu and new CEO Rory Babich have the organization headed to even greater heights and I have no doubt they will continue to steward this company in a professional and first-class manner, and become significant leaders in our community.

Clearly, they are committed to winning on and off the ice and being a great partner to Broward County and I will always be available to support them on their journey.

Moving forward, I will be working out of Roc Nation’s New York City offices while maintaining my residence in South Florida. I look forward to staying in touch with you and all of my dear friends.

Thank you once again for everything you have done for me over the years and I will see you again soon.

Best Regards,

Michael

 

 

 

MICHAEL YORMARK OUT: Longtime Panthers President Leaving Organization; Rory Babich In

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
BOSTON -- After more than a decade of running the organization, team president Michael Yormark is leaving the Florida Panthers.
Sources close to the situation say Rory Babich will take over for Yormark and be introduced to the media on Monday afternoon.

Yormark is leaving the Panthers to run the business side of Roc Nation -- a sports and entertainment agency headed by Jay-Z. Two former Florida employees with close ties to Yormark already left for Roc Nation over the past few weeks.

Yormark was given a small financial stake in the team when Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu bought the franchise in September. He will not be retaining it when he leaves.

Babich is a New York-based attorney who has been working closely with Panthers general manager Dale Tallon since the beginning of the season.

Tallon, whose job is said to be "100 percent" secure, pushed for the Panthers to hire Babich in some capacity.

Although Yormark has had little to no say in the hockey side of the organization at least since the new ownership came on, that will not be the case with Babich. Sources say the two will continue to work closely together as Babich works both sides of the business.

The Panthers, who say they are going to significantly increase salary next season, are trying to transform their standing in the local marketplace and hope finally putting a winning product on the ice will bring fans back to Sunrise.

Under Yormark's watch, the Panthers went through seven coaches, five general managers and four different ownership groups. Yormark was hired from the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003 by then-owner Alan Cohen. Florida had three different coaches that season.

Florida made the playoffs once since Yormark joined the franchise.

Attempts to reach Yormark on Monday morning were unsuccessful.