Thomas K. Scallen loved entertainment and he loved to make deals. Those two passions drove him to acquire interests in professional hockey, basketball, ice skating, theater and restaurants. At one point his far-flung empire included a Hollywood company and several TV stations.
"It was a wild and wonderful roller coaster with my dad," said his son Tommy Scallen. "He never put a quarter in a slot machine, but he rolled the dice by putting millions of dollars on the table to run these companies. He loved show business."
Thomas K. Scallen died at his Minneapolis home on Saturday. He was 89 years old and had been in failing health for the past few years.
"Making deals was what motivated that man," said his daughter, Maureen Scallen Failor.
In a long and colorful career, Scallen owned partly or in whole the Harlem Globetrotters, the Vancouver Canucks, Ice Follies and Ice Capades, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres and the Lexington Restaurant. He produced and directed specials for network TV, Caesar's Palace and the Tropicana Hotel. He was a senior vice president at 20th Century Fox during the reign of Darryl Zanuck.
Scallen suffered several setbacks — taking his International Broadcasting Co. into bankruptcy in the early 1990s and publicly tangling with suitors who had tried to take over the company years earlier.
In 1975, he served nine months in a Canadian prison on a securities fraud conviction in connection with his part ownership of the Canucks. He maintained his innocence and later received a full pardon from the Canadian government.
"He was a man who had everything, lost everything and gained everything," said Maureen Failor. "His resilience is something that I deeply admire."
A graduate of St. Thomas Academy, Scallen worked with his father after getting his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Denver. He worked in banking in the early 1960s before taking a leadership role in the Ice Follies. He helped make Olympic champion Peggy Fleming a commercial success.
"He loved the ice shows," said Tommy Scallen. "I remember when he came home one day and said, 'I bought the Ice Follies.' "
More deals followed, in show business, professional sports, the medical profession, agricultural products, hotels, real estate.
His International Broadcasting Co. bought the Ice Capades, the Globetrotters and a collection of ice-skating rinks from Metromedia in 1986 for $30 million.
Along the way, he owned the Minnesota Pike Arena Football team and tried to bring a U.S. Football League franchise to the Twin Cities in the early 1980s.
Scallen bought Chanhassen Dinner Theatres from Herb Bloomberg in the late 1980s and sold the company to a group headed by artistic director Michael Brindisi in 2010.
"My first meeting with him was pretty colorful," Brindisi said. "He asked me what show we were doing next and I said 'Pirates of Penzance,' and he said 'No, you're not.' "
Scallen declined after a stroke, and the 2008 recession hurt business to the point where he felt the need to sell the theater in 2010. Shortly afterward, he sold the Lexington, one of St. Paul's grand old restaurants.
Concert promoter Fred Krohn remembered Scallen as someone who "definitely commanded the room and he was an old-school impresario. If it attracted people, he wanted to be a part of it."
Besides Maureen and Tommy, Scallen is survived by children Sheila Gregory, Patrick, Eileen and Timothy; his wife, Billie Jo, and brothers Raymond, Stephen and Terrence. Services will be Thursday at noon at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.