You had great promoters, a great market, the business was there. I bet you learned a lot career-wise.
For me it was probably the best thing that had ever happened in my career, to deal with running two major facilities and the Raiders and the Clippers. But to be able to get to know all those agents and managers socially; you get to know the person, and then if you're working on something, you can say, "just come down and we'll have lunch," which every other place in the world doesn't get to do. That was a really fascinating time in L.A., just like that new movie with Tom Cruise "Rock Of Ages," that's when I was there, '87 through '93. It was really fun, and those people you were dealing with professionally you got to know personally, and those relationships carry over to today. Every now and then we have an issue somewhere and [CAA Managing Partner] Rob Light, for example, has his people dealing with it and we've got ours, and Rob will call me up out of the blue and say "let's work on this."
Rob and CAA, along with the other agencies, now seem to turn to the building more than ever for help on the marketing side.
Absolutely. To Tony Tavares' credit, we were the first arena or stadium people to be dealing directly with the agents and managers. We supported the promoters, and we told them that. But they didn't always believe us and they'd get pissed off, and we didn't really care. And Rob, from the agency side, was very in tune with what was going on with the buildings. As were Dennis Arfa, Howard Rose, Irving, [manager] Howard Kaufman. I'd say those are the five guys from the management/agency side that really got it. They saw you could work with the buildings, that arenas could help market events, and also could be very heavily involved in the merchandising side.
Why did you come back to Philadelphia?
I came back here in '93 as President of the Spectrum and I had business responsibilities for the Flyers. The Spectrum was part of SMG in the merger, but still wholly-owned by Ed and paid SMG a management fee. In '93 I came back as president of the Spectrum to work directly for Ed, so I kind of left SMG.
Was that a tough decision?
No, not at all, because I had come to the dance with Ed Snider. Ed had wanted me to come back here as they looked at building the new building [now Wells Fargo Center]. I also oversaw all the premium seating and ad sales for the Flyers and the building. So we built the building in '96, and we were approached by [Comcast chairman/CEO] Brian and [Comcast co-founder] Ralph Roberts, who had an opportunity to buy the Philadelpia 76ers, and they wanted to know if we were interested in combining the Sixers and Spectacor, and forming a joint venture. We did a deal with them to form Comcast-Spectacor, which [operated] the Wells Fargo Center and the Spectrum. Spectacor was the Spectrum and the Flyers and our one-third of SMG.
How did that lead to Global Spectrum?
In '98 we sold our interest in SMG and had a two-year non-compete outside of Philly. In 2000, Mich Sauers, who had left SMG and started his own company Globe Facility Services, we bought that, and started up again with Global Spectrum. Then we started competing. We're at 113 facilities now.
What were the initial targets for facility management?
Anything that came out to bid. It was just like when we had SMI and SMG, any contracts that were up for bid we were bidding.
What was the first building outside of Philly that made you feel like you were on your way?
[John Labatt Center in] London, Ont., in 2001 was a game-changer for us in that we invested $10 million in the project with our partners from the construction company. We cut a deal with the hockey team owned by Dale and Mark Hunter, and the building has been an incredible success. The games sell out every night, it's a great stopover between Toronto and Detroit, we've done major, major shows, and the building has been an out-and-out home run. I think our next game-changer was getting the stadium in Phoenix (University of Phoenix Stadium), that was our first major stadium. Then the Greater Miami Beach Convention Center was our first major convention center.
Did you foresee getting into ticketing, marketing and food and beverage?
Let me tell you what happened. SMG was smart, they had Savor, their food services company. And we were looking at situations where we had to bid both the F&B and the building management at the same time. We could have partnered with an Aramark or Volume Services, they're good people, but [Ovations Food Services'] Ken Young and I had been very good friends for a number of years, and he had started a small company called Leisure Food Services with [Ovations SVP] Todd Whitman. They were growing, but they needed some muscle and capital to get things going, so we made a decision to do a joint venture with them. They retained a fairly decent stake in the company.
It seems you'd want them to have a stake, because they understand that business.
Absolutely, and they're entrepreneurs and you don't want to kill that spirit. So we did our joint venture right after we started Global Spectrum, we started Ovations with Ken and Todd. That was really so we could bid on those situations. But we made one strategic decision that turned out to be very smart: we kept it two separate companies, knowing that there would be a lot of bids that didn't entail food from a facilities standpoint, and there would be a lot of food services bids that didn't have anything to do with facility management. You wanted people concentrated on facilities, and people that would concentrate on food, and then come together in situations that made sense. Also you have two companies as opposed to one, which I think is the way to go here.