Wild majority owner Craig Leipold has begun the process of buying out Matt Hulsizer’s 27 percent share of the team.
Hulsizer stepped in 18 months ago to assume Phil Falcone’s share of the Wild.
Leipold said he and Hulsizer are departing on friendly terms. The decision is driven by Leipold’s desire to keep the Wild in his family long-term and Hulsizer’s desire to eventually own a larger chunk of the franchise and be more involved in hockey decisions.
The transaction, which could take months to consummate, will bring Leipold’s stake of the Wild to nearly 95 percent.
“Ten years ago, I wasn’t sure if this was a long-term investment for me and my family,” said Leipold, who bought the Wild, the master lease of Xcel Energy Center and other entities for $260 million in 2008. “But now, I’m in this for the long run.”
Hulsizer, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Chicago-based PEAK6 Investments, L.P., purchased Falcone’s stake of the Wild in February, 2015. As part of that transaction, Leipold had the ability to call back Hulsizer’s shares after 18 months. If Leipold had not exercised that option, Hulsizer could have required Leipold to buy back his shares in another year.
Once Leipold explained to Hulsizer he wasn’t interested in selling a larger stake of the team, the two agreed to part ways.
“The economics of our business in this market and the economics of the NHL are such that this is now a business that is sustainable,” Leipold said. “This is a great generational business for our family.”
Hulsizer, a former Amherst College hockey player who has been parts of previous bids to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes and St. Louis Blues, told Leipold when he first bought into the Wild that he wanted to be involved in hockey decisions.
“He continued to have a higher interest level in being involved in the hockey side like the draft and trades, but I wasn’t willing to give that up,” Leipold said. “That’s not my style with [General Manager] Chuck [Fletcher], so I certainly wouldn’t let a minority owner have that kind of input to Chuck.”
Said Hulsizer: “It’s been a great experience. Craig’s a terrific partner. It’s been a good investment. Hockey remains my passion.”
Leipold greatly respects Hulsizer, he says, and will be an advocate if Hulsizer ever desires to own a team in the future.
“We would not be as far in the analytics if not for Matt Hulsizer,” said Leipold, referring to the recent hirings of war-on-ice.com co-founders Andrew Thomas and Alexandra Mandrycky. Leipold said Hulsizer “challenged our hockey ops to use analytics more in our play, scouting and drafting.”
Asked if he will seek another minority owner to replace Hulsizer, Leipold said, “I might. It’s not the highest thing on my radar, but I very well may. It won’t happen [imminently], but I think at some point I might. I liked him as a partner. I know he brought value.”
Last month, Leipold announced he will open a restaurant called “Herbie’s on the Park” inside Wild headquarters with the brother of the late Herb Brooks, Dave Brooks. The restaurant, which will overlook Rice Park, is due to open next month.
Also, Leipold is hoping to soon finalize the long-awaited deal for a practice facility at the former Macys in downtown St. Paul.