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Metro Sports Authority appoints financial liaison to work with the Nashville Predators

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The Tennessean reports that Nashville's Metro Sports Authority has appointed one of its members, former Vanderbilt University CFO Lauren Brisky, to act as liaison for the board relative to the financial interest that the city has in the Nashville Predators.

To me, this would seem to be a positive step towards improving the relationship between the Predators and Metro. The initial choice for the role, board member Rusty Lawrence, has often seemed more interested in shaking down the Preds when given the chance, and his public statements wondering about the stability of the team, based on a series of newspaper headlines, were simply reckless.

Since the Predators adjusted Senior VP Gerry Helper's role to act as the team's liaison with city government, hopefully he and Ms. Brisky can work directly with one another to both anticipate and alleviate concerns on both sides.

In short, the city of Nashville has a legitimate financial interest to protect and monitor, and Ms. Brisky sounds well-qualified to oversee it, far more so than "Rusty".


A natural question for observers to ask is, why is Metro concerned about the team going bankrupt?

This issue dates back to the renegotiated arena lease that was signed between the local ownership group and the city in 2008. Included in it was a requirement that the team owners had to submit yearly, certified statements attesting that their net worth met levels proportional to their share of the team, so that the city would have some financial recourse if the team went bankrupt, i.e. there would be some money to go after to recover the city's investment.

The owners have complied with this request, but the Sports Authority realized after the fact that part of each owner's net worth is their stake in the team. In other words, if the team did go under, would the owners' net worth go down the toilet too? In that case, the guarantee wouldn't be worth very much, would it?

This current endeavor appears to be geared towards providing some other avenue of assurance to the city that the team, and/or the owners, can back up the financial promises that have been made by each side. In essence, it's making up for a massive oversight on the city's part in crafting the guarantee requirement.

We do know that at least one member of the team seems to be doing OK; Herb Fritch, CEO of Healthspring, holds 3.78 million shares of the business as of a few days ago. Those shares bounced off lows early this year, and are currently valued at $65 million.

UPDATE: WPLN's report on this story seems to indicate that indeed this might lead to a more professional way of providing oversight:

Sports Authority member Lauren Brisky will review the Predators’ finances in private and report back to the board in January. She’s the former CFO of Vanderbilt University.

Board member Ralph Perrey says it seems like a good idea to avoid open meetings.

“When we speculate in public, that becomes news, not just here but in every NHL city.”

For her part, Brisky refused to answer questions after the meeting.