CALGARY, Alberta – The Western Hockey League may have a new high-profile billionaire owner hours after it wrapped up meetings to discuss growing disparities among its 22 member teams and the long term economic future of the junior hockey league.
Darryl Katz, owner of the Rexall Pharmacy chain, reportedly purchased the Edmonton Oilers and its WHL subsidiary franchise, the Oil Kings, from the Edmonton Investors Group on Tuesday in a deal pegged at $200 million Canadian.
Western League owners did not discuss the possible sale of the Oilers, but were aware of the issue, said WHL commissioner Ron Robison.
“We were aware of it,” said Robison, speaking before news broke of the long-rumored sale. “We’ll wait for full details and, if the Oil Kings are a part of the sale, will review the transfer.”
The announcement came on the heels of two days of governors-only midseason meetings which wrapped up in Calgary.
After a lengthy examination of the league’s finances over the past five years, owners, including EIG chairman Cal Nichols – the Oil Kings governor – reviewed a long-term economic sustainability report written by committee headed up by former Medicine Hat Tigers general manager and Seattle Thunderbirds owner Russ Farwell. The content of the report was not released.
The 22-team WHL has expanded by four teams since 2001, bringing in an estimated $10 million dollars in expansion fees that were divided among the individual franchises.
The boom has also led to worries of competitive imbalance and even talk in some circles of a revenue sharing scheme.