For years, rumors circulated among Western New York business leaders that Terry Pegula was about to sell the Buffalo Sabers.
Time and time again, his executives have emphatically denied this notion when questioned. That person was usually COO Ron Rakuya, who had been fired three weeks earlier. Now comes more news that WNY is buzzing about a potential sale.
The dissolution of Pegula Sports and Entertainment, the umbrella company that oversaw all of the family’s non-oil businesses, was announced on Monday. Only Bills employees will handle the Buffalo Bills. Sabers will be handled by Sabers employees only.
With the exception of Pegula who serves as President and John Roth as Chief Operating Officer of both clubs.
“Terry is very excited about swords,” said Roth. “He loves this team. He’s fired. He’s investing his own money in this roster and arena. I think you can tell by his actions how great a support he is of the organization.”
Roth said Pegula will pay for KeyBank Center’s new roof, acoustics upgrade, and video scoreboard replacement.
Why no longer specifically PSE? It was just a matter of getting rid of too many employees who had overlapping duties, Roth said. It has been an often frustrating dynamic for al Qaeda. Sabers team sources say fewer than 10 people were terminated, with steps being taken to reduce redundancy, according to the source.
“These moves are all made for efficiency and better focus,” said Roth. “We had a lot of repetitions. None of these moves were performance related.
However, rumors of swords selling rose again on Monday. While the chances of this being true are close to zero according to team sources, that will not prevent speculation from being revived today.
Roth was brought on board as daily host for the Sabers and PSE in January, and has since made a series of moves to streamline operations. Roth has no athletic background. He was previously an investor and portfolio manager.
One unspoken aspect of this series of business moves is how determined Terry Pegula and Roth were to come to the conclusion that Kim Pegula’s biggest business ideas proved unworkable. Unable to work after suffering a debilitating heart attack last year, her creations and her closest allies continue to disappear from the company.
Kim Pegula was the driving force behind creating PSE. She also brokered a deal in 2017 for her and the children to buy 70 percent of Raccuia’s ADPRO Sports, which was sold this month to Legends, the same company the Bills contracted with for much of the new stadium business, including PSLs, sponsorship merchandise and concessions.
PSE previously sold most of its restaurant businesses, most notably Showcase (716) Food and Sports to Southern Tier Brewing Company in 2021 and its Tim Hortons location in 2020.
Other entities from the PSE portfolio, including the Buffalo Bandits and Rochester Knighthawks of the National Lacrosse League, the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League and Black River Entertainment, will remain essentially unchanged with their leadership continuing to report to Roth. — Graham
What does this mean for swords
This reorganization will create a lot of questions regarding the Sabers even beyond the notion that this makes it easier for Pegula to sell the franchise, Tim mentioned.
Having Pegula take over as president isn’t an unusual move for the franchise considering Kim Pegula held the role prior to her health issues. The curious part of the announcement is that the Sabers and Bills “will separate resources between the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabers, allowing each organization to focus individually on its efforts.”
But Pegula will be the president of both teams, and Roth will be the COO of both teams. On Bill’s side, the business operations are managed by a committee made up of Ruth, Kathryn D’Angelo, the team’s general counsel and senior vice president of business administration and Josh Dzorlikovsky, who is senior vice president of finance and business administration. It’s not yet clear if the Sabers will form a similar structure for their business operations, but the team release only mentioned Pegula and Roth working collaboratively on the business side of the organization.
All of this comes at a critical time for the franchise on and off the ice. The team plans a series of arena renovations in the next few years and on the ice, the Buffalo Roster is about to become a playoff contender and boasts as much young talent as any team in the league. Ever since Pegula cut jobs with the Sabers in 2020 and said his goal was to be “efficient, efficient and economical,” fans have wondered if the team was operating on an internal budget. The Sabers haven’t spent the salary cap in recent years, but that can be attributed to the youth movement and rebuilding that general manager Kevin Adams has implemented. But more of these young, up-and-coming players need contract extensions and the team gets closer, so Pegula’s spending habits will tell the story for the next few years.
The Pegulas purchased the Sabers in February of 2011, and the team has not made the playoffs since that season. Adams seems to have been trending the snowboarding product in the promising direction for more than a decade. Hockey fans in Western New York are hopeful that Pegula will continue to take a hands-off approach to their otherwise smoothly running hockey division. — Fairburn
(Photo by Terry Pegula: Justin Pearl/Getty Images)
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