A majority of the Nashville Predators fanbase wanted change.
And now, they'll get it.
The Predators announced on Friday, that former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will acquire an ownership stake in the team from team chairman Herb Fritch. Haslam will become a minority owner of the team within the next few months and transition to its majority owner over the course few years, once approved by the NHL.
Sportico first reported the news of Haslam's involvement in team ownership, while Nate Rau of Axios Nashville first reported Haslam would be joining the ownership group and not becoming the sole owner.
Predators president and CEO Sean Henry said that a priority of the franchise was to have its ownership in local hands.
“The pending addition of Governor Haslam to the ownership group solidifies that local stewardship for years to come, with the shared philosophy for making SMASHVILLE the most unique sports market in our league and country as our players and coaches compete for the Stanley Cup each season," Henry said in a release. "We are excited and appreciative that he has agreed to join the ownership team.”
Fritch, a health care entrepreneur and current chairman of the team’s ownership group — Predators Holdings LLC — replaced former chair Tom Cigarran in 2019. The group, which consists of 17 co-owners, bought the Predators for $175 million in 2007 from former owner Craig Leipold and saved the team from a reported move to Canada.
Predators Holdings LLC also oversees the direction and management of Bridgestone Arena, which regularly hosts big events such as the CMA Awards and the SEC men’s basketball tournament. Bridgestone grossed $11.61 million in revenue and sold nearly 1480,000 tickets in the first half of 2022 — the sixth-most ticket sales in the U.S. and eighth-most in the world over that span.
The 63-year-old Haslam, who's the brother of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, served as the mayor of Knox County from 2003 to 2011, then served as governor of Tennessee from 2011 to 2019. He’s also a visiting professor of political science at Vanderbilt.
A Knoxville native, Haslam got his start under his father Jim as CEO of Pilot Corp., a petroleum corporation based in Knoxville that also owns several travel centers across the U.S. His current net worth is an estimated $2.3 billion, according to Forbes.
Sportico estimates the Predators to be worth $680 million — sixth-lowest among the 32 NHL franchises and 122nd among all professional sports franchises. The Predators ranked fourth in the NHL in home attendance during the 2021-22 season, averaging 18,495 fans per game across their 41 home contests.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_