Thursday, November 09, 2006

Sometimes, The Rich.....

....Really Are Like You And Me


The big news around town today was the announcement that the Aquilini family bought-out Seattle bazillionare John McCaw to acquire total ownership control of the Vancouver Canucks and the barn they play in, General Hummer's Place.

All of which has been greeted with high-pitched hosanahs from the area's sports pundtwits because it means that a local family is once again in control of the city's NHL franchise.

And with each report the twitterers invariably mention the Canuckeheadland's first family, the Griffiths.

But only in passing.

As such, they rarely mention is that it was papa Frank Griffiths that acquired the team in the '70's and that he worked hard to make it into a local institution, even when it was losing, which was often, while he simultaneously built a communications empire which, at it's peak, consisted of ten television and twelve radio stations which included Vancouver market leaders BCTV and CKNW.

And what the twittering tweety birds mention even more rarely* is the fact that it Frank's son, Arthur Griffiths actually 'lost' rather than willingly 'sold' the hockey team.

So, how did that happen?

Well, nobody but Arthur and his accountants know for sure, but the best accounts make it very difficult not to conclude that the younger Griffiths over-extended himself when he borrowed huge sums, hand-over-fist, to build a new arena and bring the ill-fated NBA Grizzlies franchise to town.

Then, when the loans started coming due Arthur tried to bail himself out by selling off the family's communication assets, but when that wasn't enough he turned to an old-school-tie friend from his youth, a very fine-fellow named John McCaw to bail him out.

McCaw happily obliged and then, almost immediately the real squeeze play began in earnest. As a result, within three years Arthur lost his grip on the hockey team entirely and he was thrown out of his office at GM Place.

Anyway, this morning on my way to work I heard an interview with Mr. Griffiths the Younger on one of the local radio stations his family didn't use to own. And to his credit he was gracious in his comments about the McCaw era and his limited involvement in it.

He also had some very insightful things to say about how things have changed since his family owned the Canucks and the new market pressures the Aquilinis will face.

At the end of the interview Griffiths was asked what he is up to now. He replied that he is in the web streaming business.

'Hmmmmm - interesting, he must be building a 'new media' empire,' I mumbled to myself.

Then, with a little further prodding, Arthur went on to say that his latest 'exciting' projects include the streaming of images from a set of webcams placed near the resident grizzly bears on Grouse Mountain and the webcast of a local nightclub act.

'Wow!', I thought, 'that sounds almost as lucrative as this blog'.

Which just goes to show you, F. Scott Fitzgerald can't be right all of the time.



From the credit where credit is due dep't: Ian MacIntyre in the Sun had a pretty good barebones summary of Arthur Griffiths' downfall.

In the comments Scout points out that Arthur is actually trying to cash in on the Hornby Island eagle's nest thing which his company got involved in on the back end. So maybe I'm being too harsh. After all, perhaps lightning, and pet rocks, really do strike twice.


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