Former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam Nearing Deal to Purchase the NHL’s Nashville Predators

by Bryan Fyalkowski

Former Tennessee governor Bill Haslam is nearing a deal to buy the Nashville Predators. It would be the second NHL franchise to be sold in the past year, as the Fenway Sports Group bought the Pittsburgh Penguins in November.

According to Forbes, Haslam – who is the brother of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam – is worth $2.3 billion. The Predators are valued at $600 million by Forbes and $680 million by Sportico, who first reported the rumor yesterday evening.

The team’s current ownership is led by chairman Herbert Fritch, although the franchise lists 16 other owners on the team’s official website. Sportico says specific reasons for selling “Smashville” are unclear at this time.

Background on “Smashville” and Haslam

Although the Nashville Predators’ estimated value of $680 million ranks 26th among the 30 NHL teams, it is still an appealing buy.

Since the league’s return from the 2004-05 lockout, Nashville has averaged at least 14,428 in attendance at Bridgestone Arena. This past season, the team had the NHL’s second-best attendance percentage (100.6%) to the Vegas Golden Knights (104.2%).

The Predators have made the playoffs in 15 of the past 18 years, including a run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017. Nashville lost that series in six games to the Penguins.

Haslam, meanwhile, was the Volunteer State’s governor from 2011-19. Prior to that, he was the mayor of his hometown of Knoxville from 2004-10. The 63-year-old currently serves as a visiting professor of political science at Vanderbilt.

The majority of his and his brother’s wealth comes from his father, Jim, who founded the Pilot Corporation in 1958. Haslam served as Pilot Corp’s president from 1995-99. After that, he left to become the CEO of Saks Fifth Avenue for two years. Then, before running for mayor of Knoxville, he was on the board of Harold’s Stores, Inc. for two years.