The latest Forbes valuations of the various NHL teams was released today. Coming in at #12 was the Calgary Flames at $245M – a 11% bump over their previous evaluation by Forbes a year ago.
Before we get into the details, it’s important to note that all of the Forbes numbers are estimates based on what they can find through publically available means. The Flames are a private company and therefore not compelled to open up their books to external entities. Call the Forbes valuation, at best, "an educated" guess.
That caveat applied, it’s interesting to see the club’s valuation climb despite a third straight year of no playoffs and one of the most expensive rosters in the league. Calgary nevertheless finished with an operating income of $11M according to Forbes, aided no doubt by one of the highest average ticket prices in the league and consistent sell-outs. the Flames gate receipts for 2011-12 reportedly topped $61M.
The Forbes page on the Flames includes this interesting little infographic –
which shows the various sources of revenue/value for the organization. In the context of the Darryl Katz/Edmonton arena battle up north (and potential pending battle here in Calgary), the "stadium" chunk is noteworthy. It’s unclear whether the valuation of $78M is a net present value or other accounting trickery, but the fact it represents nearly 32% of the $245M total shows why sports teams and owners are so keen to pursue public subsidies and/or favorable lease deals with new public arenas: a good facility with limited liabilities and strong revenue potential can goose your franchise’s value to a significant degree.
The "sport" segment is the value attributable to the revenue shared by all the team sin the league while the "market" and "brand" segments are the values of, well…the Calgary market/fanbase and the power of the Flames brand respectively.
Again, it’s hard to know just how much faith to put into these numbers since we can’t be certain just how accuratly public information reflects the Flames true income and expenses. As Jonathan Willis showed in this investigation, NHL teams can often operate as a smaller business within larger conglomerate where the vagueries of accounting can obscure the reality of an organization’s true profits and losses.
Even if this Forbes valuation is only approximately on target, it shows how strong of a market Calgary is despite its relatively small size. The Flames have made it past the first round once since winning the cup in 1989, have had only a handful of marquee stars since their juggernaut team dissolved in the mid-’90s and have been, uh, curiously managed from an on-ice perspective recently…but still remain a strong draw with consistent corporate and grassroots support.
Of course, Calgary isn’t quite the Toronto Maple Leafs, who can apparently print money even if the team is managed by a lobotomized monkey (this is not a comment on Burke in particular, only that Male Leafs demand seems inelastic, rendering success or failure moot), but absent the Canadian dollar bottoming out again or Oil finally being usurped as the world’s go-to energy source, the Flames look fairly sturdy and stable business-wise.
Now, imagine what would happen if the club started winning something once in awhile…
The final bit of interesting trivia I found via Forbes was the fact that the Flames donate about $1M per year to charity as a part of their lease agreement with the Saddledome Foundation. Right now, that money goes to the the Calgary Parks Foundation, CODA (Calgary Olympic Development Association) and Hockey Canada.
It will be interesting to see what happens to that agreement when the Saddledome lease expires in 2014.