Checkers owner invests in Canes

Kahn hopes for 'transparency' in relationship between clubs

calexander@newsobserver.comOctober 14, 2011 

— The relationship of the Carolina Hurricanes and Charlotte Checkers now goes beyond being cross-state hockey affiliates.

On Thursday, Hurricanes majority owner Peter Karmanos Jr. announced that Michael Kahn had become an ownership partner in the NHL team. Kahn is the Checkers' owner and said he was eager to accept Karmanos' offer to invest in the Hurricanes.

"I think the time was right (to invest)," Kahn said. "Honestly, when (Karmanos) decided he wanted to look for investors, when the opportunity presented itself, I was pretty much right there. And I'm sure other people will join in."

In a visit to Raleigh a few weeks ago, Karmanos said he had completed the sale of $20 million in equity of the Hurricanes, a franchise he valued at $240 million. He said there were seven or eight investors but did not name them.

The financial terms of Kahn's minority investment were not disclosed. No other investors have been announced.

The Checkers are in their second season as the Hurricanes' American Hockey League affiliate, but Kahn said there were other reasons for becoming a partner.

"My commitment to hockey shows that hockey is important to me," he said. "I believe in what Mr. Karmanos and (general manager) Mr. (Jim) Rutherford are putting together, and I'm doing this for hockey in the Carolinas and hockey in the South. I really think this sport is on the cusp of getting bigger."

The Hurricanes made their first appearance in Charlotte last month, playing the Winnipeg Jets in an exhibition at Time Warner Cable Arena and drawing a crowd of more than 10,000. The Canes' Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner and Cam Ward also came in a day early to participate in the Fan Fest.

Kahn called the event a "huge success." He said the Canes playing a preseason game annually in Charlotte is something that's being "definitely considered," though he noted a game would not be scheduled next season because of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

Karmanos could not be reached for comment.

Kahn was born and raised in Atlanta and has been involved in a family-owned wine and spirits business much of his life. He's the chief operating officer of Empire Distributors Inc., which was founded by his grandfather.

Kahn said his love of hockey was sparked, in part, as a young fan of the Atlanta Flames before the NHL franchise was relocated to Calgary in 1980.

"I still have my old Flames paraphernalia," he said.

Kahn said he has been a Hurricanes season-ticket holder for the past 10 years and attended the season opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Wednesday's game against the Boston Bruins. Now, he's an investor and partner.

"We felt with the relationship of the Checkers and the Hurricanes, this was a little deeper and could be more meaningful," he said. "This should provide more transparency to the relationship between the Checkers and Hurricanes."

Kahn said he was optimistic about the Canes' season. Carolina, which missed the Stanley Cup playoffs the past two years, was 0-2-1 before a 3-2 win Wednesday night against the Boston Bruins, the defending Stanley Cup champions.

"It's a marathon, not a sprint," he said. "I think there's a lot of talent. We have some good young kids and Cam Ward might have been the best goalie in hockey last year. I think we'll come around. I think we've got a good thing started."

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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