Nashville Predators hire new CEO and President from Dallas, Tampa organizations

This afternoon at a Bridgestone Arena press conference, the Nashville Predators will announce moves to strengthen their executive leadership, but Tripp Mickle of Sports Business Journal broke the news already via Twitter:

Predators have hired Dallas Stars Prez Jeff Cogen as CEO and former TB Lightning COO Sean Henry as President. Two experienced execs.

Follow after the jump as we look at what this means for the Preds' organization...

Jeff Cogen

Cogen has served as the Stars' President since 2007. This comes from the press release at that time:

Cogen, who has served as president of the Texas Rangers for the last three years, has over 20 years experience in professional sports. Prior to his three-year stint with the Rangers, he served as chief operating officer for the NHL’s Florida Panthers from 2001-2004, responsible for all business operations of the hockey club as well as the business operations of the National Car Rental Center/Office Depot Center.

For a bit of insight, I consulted Brandon Worley of Defending Big D, SB Nation's Dallas Stars blog:

He's very familiar with marketing a team in a non traditional market, and should do a great job in Nashville.

Dammit. This sucks.

Sean Henry

Sean Henry apparently (in part) takes the place of Hugh Lombardi, who ran the operations at Bridgestone Arena from 2002 until earlier this year, when he left to take the helm at Boston's TD Garden. Under his tenure, the arena won a number of industry awards as one of the top venues in the country (2007, 2008, & 2009). His responsibilities will be broader than just that side of things, however.

With the Lightning, he served as COO of the team for several years, and after a change in leadership there, was still brought back as a business consultant. Tampa's press release at the time included this note:

He also led an arena management and event operations department which helped the company turn the St. Pete Times Forum into one of the busiest and best marketed venues in the world year after year, while securing $35 million of county tourist tax dollars earmarked over 14 years to help keep the arena at the nation’s forefront, maintaining its competitiveness in competing for events with newer venues.

With the negotiation of a new arena management fee looming over the horizon for the Nashville Predators and the city, bringing in an executive with proven experience working with such arrangements is a plus.

Pursuing the vision statement

Team chairman Tom Cigarran has been quite vocal about establishing the Bridgestone Arena as the country's preeminent sports and entertainment venue, featuring a championship hockey team as its centerpiece. These moves would appear to boost the team's efforts in that direction.

Between this development and all the marketing positions the team has been hiring for this summer, you get the impression that the Predators are making a major push to position themselves for long-term growth in the Nashville market. While this won't bring a pricey free-agent star onto the roster anytime soon, hockey fans in Middle Tennessee should be encouraged by what we're seeing.

What remains unknown at this point is what impact these changes will have on the role of Ed Lang, one of the initial employees of the team who has risen over the years to the position he holds currently, President of Business Operations and Alternate Governor. Brandon Gee at the Nashville Business Journal reports that both of these new positions are new ones, but there does appear to be overlap between the background of Cogen & Henry, and what Lang already brings to the table.

UPDATE: Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports that Ed Lang is actually leaving the Preds.

The following press release comes from the Preds:

The Nashville Predators and Bridgestone Arena are strengthening their top leadership with the addition of a new Chief Executive Officer and a new President/Chief Operating Officer for the NHL franchise and arena.

In a move aimed at continuing the positive momentum of the organization and strengthening business operations, the ownership group announced today that Jeff Cogen has been named CEO and Sean Henry will serve as President/COO.

Jeff Cogen comes to the Predators from the Dallas Stars, where he served as the franchise's President and alternate league governor and was a Board Member overseeing the operation of Dallas's American Airlines Center. Under Cogen's leadership, the Stars were consistently in the top 10 in the NHL in attendance and considered the preeminent NHL Sun Belt franchise over the last 15 years.

"Jeff has an absolutely exceptional track record of transforming the business operations of major league sports teams, specifically hockey, and we are excited to bring his expertise and experience to our top business leadership position," said Tom Cigarran, a member of the ownership group and Predators Chairman. "His ability to not only manage the business side of our organization, but to also expand the excitement of Predators hockey and Bridgestone Arena on a citywide, regional and national level makes him the perfect person for the job." Cogen will report directly to the Board. David Poile, President of Hockey Operations, will also continue to report directly to the Board. Cigarran continues as Predators Chairman.

Sean Henry comes to the Predators from the Tampa Bay Lightning and The St. Pete Times Forum, where he served as the interim CEO and, prior to that, as the team and arena's COO since 1999. During his 11 years with the Lightning, Henry was instrumental in turning the franchise around by significantly growing suite and ticket revenues, expanding sponsorship revenues, structuring new partnerships with the city/county, and turning The St. Pete Times Forum into one of the busiest venues in the country. Henry brings a long history of success in the sports and entertainment industry, created by centering the organization on continuously improving the fan experience. Said Cigarran, "Sean is an exceptionally talented sports and entertainment executive whose experience, skill and commitment will add a major new dimension to our leadership team."

Ed Lang, who served as President of the Nashville Predators since December 2007, will be leaving the organization after a transition period. "Being a part of the Predators has been gratifying professionally and personally," Lang said. "However, at this stage of my career, it is time to move forward to the next chapter. I am excited about a number of new opportunities that I am considering. I will always be a Predators fan and look forward to the day the Predators win Nashville's first Stanley Cup." "Ed has worked tirelessly to build a foundation for future Predators' success and we owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for his management of the team's business operations," Cigarran said. "Thanks to his hard work, the team is now positioned to greatly expand its reach, visibility and support in Tennessee and beyond."

The Nashville Predators wrapped up last season with a 47-29-6 record, earning their fourth appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the last five years, and have considerably strengthened the team in the offseason in preparation for the 2010-11 season. "The ownership group is committed to making this organization a strong entity both on and off the ice, and to having the Bridgestone Arena become the No. 1 sports and entertainment venue in the United States," said Cigarran. "These changes we are making are focused on putting the strongest management team in place that will successfully guide this organization for years to come. We are convinced that adding these two individuals to our many existing talented executives creates the ideal leadership team to accomplish that."

The 2010-11 season will kick off with a home game against the Anaheim Ducks on October 9 at Bridgestone Arena. "This is an exciting time for our organization," said Cigarran. "We have great momentum and can't wait to start the new season."

For information and prices on 2010-11 Nashville Predators season-ticket packages, skate to www.nashvillepredators.com or call (615) 770-PUCK (7825) to speak to an account executive.

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