We are thankful to Jared Jacobson, the new owner of the Brandon Wheat Kings, for taking time out of his extremely busy schedule to answer our questions regarding his vision for the team and the acquisition of the franchise.
BDNMB.ca: What can fans expect to see different, if anything, right away?
Jared: Our intentions are to take the next 30 to 60 days to strategize and plan out the upcoming season which involves generating ideas around enhancing the in game experience for fans, enhancing player development on and off the ice and dealing with the proposed staggered occupancy for the Arena. We have already done one session with consultants and are creating action plans with Hockey Ops and Business Ops to roll them out. Our Vision will be to plan for normal as well as have a separate interim plan for this season. We will also be working closely with the League, the Province, and the Keystone Centre to create the best atmosphere for BWK fans.
BDNMB.ca: Will the scouting, management and operations staff stay the same, or will there be a few changes?
Jared: When we buy companies our first and most important due diligence focus is the people who work for the company. Being able to talk to them and make sure they are a fit to the group, the culture and the vision we have moving forward at J and G is a key to the decision. We are very pleased with both the Business side and Hockey Operations. We have no intentions of making any changes rather plan on immediately working with the staff to understand how they operate as a team and communicate how we operate as a group and continue to support them to grow the franchise.
BDNMB.ca: Now that you have purchased the team, would you consider down the road building your own facility?
Jared: Through due diligence we have analyzed arrangements with the Keystone Center and are happy with what we saw. We have meetings scheduled as early as today to discuss current state of the relationship and ways we can plan to enhance the game together for the fans. A new 5000 to 10 0000 seat arena would not be sustainable as a “hockey only” facility. It would need to be an entertainment facility and run full schedules like Bell Mts Place does in Winnipeg. Any discussion around this would involve the city, multiple levels of government and the private sector together. Our focus is on the team and over time there will be discussions about facilities, but that is definitely a long term discussion vs short term as the Keystone Centre is a great facility under great management and is a huge economic driver for the City and province at large. On a positive note, the Keystone Centre has an RFP currently out for a facility study so it will be interesting to see the results of that study as to what capital improvements are identified. It will be interesting to see what levels of Government will do for a multi year plan to help the facility catch up to where it needs to be maintenance wise. Right now regular funding goes towards chasing long overdue repairs vs enhancing the facility…..that method needs a solution or the building will continue to deteriorate over time. As a real estate landlord, you have to keep the structural components in good standing, give them cosmetic facelifts when needed and in turn that will attract the public to your business. I believe Jeff is trying to convince the right people that this needs to happen and the independent study is step 1 in the process.
BDNMB.ca: Will you be reaching out to the current Wheat King captains and leadership group about your plans moving forward?
Jared: We will be meeting directly with the Business side and the Hockey operations staff and meeting the members of the team as soon as possible. We have been busy completing the transaction and all the documentation for the league and have to focus on the right steps in the right order. We plan on getting to more introductions in the coming weeks. The Business and Hockey operations staff have been fantastic at helping us with this process.
BDNMB.ca: After all these years, did you have to pinch yourself that the deal finally got completed?
Jared: It felt like a giant weight off my back. It was tough the past several years when rumours kept flying as Kelly and myself are very transparent people and it was frustrating answering the question over and over as Kelly and I were only staying in touch, not making a deal. On the flip side it was even harder the past two or three months when I had to avoid answering texts about the team when I knew it was possibly going to be true. Brandon is a mid size growing city and the fans are very passionate about the team. It bothered me that I had to give fans a vague answer. In the end when yesterday came around it was a proud moment for our family and I want to say thanks to all the people in the community who have sent supportive texts. It took a huge weight off my chest to feel the support and to feel the positivity. I m glad the community knows and we can move on together ramping up for the season.
BDNMB.ca: How involved was your direct family, in moving ahead with this deal and project?
Jared: I let Robin know right at the start of the due diligence period and she was excited for our family. My dad also knew it was a possible acquisition early on as I appreciate his opinion and thoughts on deals. He was excited for us when I told him so that gave me confidence that it was the right time to move forward. We kept it to a very small group of consultants as Kelly and I felt it was very important to keep it quiet until the latter parts of due diligence when we required meetings with the staff.
BDNMB.ca: Finally, what was it like dealing with the WHL over the duration of the purchase?
Jared: When we started due diligence and got to the point where we had to call Ron Robison, I was a bit intimidated having to make the call as I had never met him before. From the minute he answered the call he made us feel like we were on the same page. The Executives at the WHL Office showed professionalism at all times and made us feel 100% confident that they wanted the J/G Group to be successful in purchasing the team. That was obviously subject to the fact we could meet all the conditions set out in the transfer agreements, which they provided helpful guidance and answers too in a timely and transparent manner. It was also humbling to see how excited they were for Kelly as the seller, which truly showed me the league cares about the owners and what they have contributed. During the final stages of due diligence we didn’t know what to expect regarding the Board of Governors/Owners approval as we have only met a couple of them over the years and were humbled to receive a unanimous vote. We look forward to being a great franchisee and colleagues in the league and know that the on the ice part of the game is super competitive, but in order to enhance the franchises and league as a whole, the owners need to work together with the WHL head office and the Canadian Hockey League to take the game to the next level. We look forward to being a part of that in any way we can.