Forbes Delivers a Poke Check

Times Staff Writer

The latest issue of Forbes magazine includes a study that indicates NHL teams aren’t losing nearly as much money as owners claim, a report that a league official called “inaccurate” and “irresponsible.”

Forbes estimated that the 30 NHL teams lost a combined $96 million last season as opposed to the $224 million reported by the league. Forbes also said that the teams lost $123 million during the 2002-03 season, considerably less than the $273 million claimed in a report by former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Arthur Levitt, who was hired by the NHL.

“The fact is, Forbes is not privy to any of our information,” said Bill Daly, the NHL’s chief counsel. “Their numbers are inaccurate. We don’t think too much of their report.”

Other professional sports leagues have also taken issue with financial claims by Forbes. Telephone calls to the magazine for comment were not returned.


The Forbes article attributed the discrepancy in NHL numbers to discretion the league used as to what it considered revenue. For example, while the Chicago Blackhawks claimed no revenue on the 212 suites in the United Center, the magazine noted that team owner William Wirtz owns half the arena in a separate corporation.

Forbes estimates that player salaries consume 66% -- $1.5 billion of $2.2 billion -- of league revenue and said that 17 teams lost money last season.

The NHL lockout is more than eight weeks old with no end in sight. Owners and players’ union representatives have not held negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement since Nov. 9 and none are planned. More than 250 NHL players have signed contracts to play with teams in Europe, most with buyout clauses in case the NHL begins its season.

The Forbes article was another chance for the sides to disagree.

While Daly called the report “irresponsible journalism,” the findings were lauded by the players’ union.

“It is no surprise that Forbes found the NHL has vastly overstated its losses by not including all of the revenues earned by NHL teams,” Ted Saskin, senior director of the National Hockey League Players’ Assn., said in a statement issued Friday.

“We agree with Forbes’ conclusion that the NHL should show more transparency and disclose all of an owner’s sources of revenue in their financial reporting. We have been saying the same thing for many years.”