Forbes values Canucks at $745 million; 6th among NHL franchises in 2015

Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports

The value of the Vancouver Canucks franchise has, like the value of most professional sporting properties, exploded over the past decade. 

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The Canucks’ current ownership, the Aquilini Investment Group, purchased the club for an undisclosed sum from John McCaw back in 2005. It was later revealed during legal proceedings between Tom Gagliardi, Ryan Beedie and Francesco Aquilini that the purchase was for somewhere in the neighbourhood of $250 million.

That investment has paid off in spades. Though the Canucks’ performance in Forbes’ annual franchise valuations has flat-lined somewhat over the past three years (after growing exponentially for much of the past decade), Forbes’ latest valuation of the franchise would suggest that the Aquilini Investment Group has essentially tripled their money in 10 years. And that’s a very, very conservative estimate.

On Tuesday Forbes unveiled their 2015 NHL team valuations and the Canucks were valued at $745 million, making them the sixth most valuable team in hockey. Click past the jump for more.

For the visually inclined, here’s how Vancouver’s franchise valuation has jumped over the past seven years:

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The club’s valuation actually fell this season over last, by about $55 million. We should note, though, that Forbes’ data isn’t all that reliable:

[Forbes’ numbers] are collected from publically available documents and filings and some are estimates. Even then, there are many things that can get counted in a variety of ways when it comes to corporate finances, so comparing them is never going to be an exact science. This is even more true when we get to Operating Income, because any well-run company with a semi-competent CFO is going to try and use accounting methods to minimize the bottom line as much as possible in order to reduce the tax burden.

As our pal Petbugs summarized a few years ago, Forbes’ numbers “are almost certainly wrong.”

The data may be imperfect, but it is extremely interesting, particularly because its been widely suggested that the Aquilini Investment Group may look to cash in their chips in the near future. Jason Botchford noted in a recent Provies that if the Aquilini family were to look to sell the franchise, they’d be seeking 20 percent above market value as the sale price, which, yeah doesn’t seem like a stretch at all.

  • Steampuck

    To what extent do the Canucks benefit from being the only franchise from the big four sports leagues in town? After Montreal, Vancouver must be the biggest city with only a single show in town. The Portland Trailblazers, for example, are similarly high in the NBA (12th @ $940 million) in a city of comparable size to Vancouver.

    Inaccuracy of the metrics notwithstanding, it would be interesting to gauge population base against competition from other sports against general affluence of the greater metropolitan area. And then consider history against recent success. The two NHL teams that stand out to me are Detroit (8th) and St. Louis (24th) as being lower than I would have guessed/expected.

    • Mantastic

      not much benefit considering the games aren’t even being sold out. being the “only big ticket” in town means nothing if consumers aren’t buying it.

      can’t imagine anyone buy the franchise at above market value, Vancouver isn’t like LA where the Clippers went way above market value.

      also i guess you’ve never been to Detroit or St. Louis, Detroit’s surrounding metro area is not very affluent at all, and still the 3rd biggest ticket in the city, likewise for St. Louis

      • Steampuck

        The valuation is much more than ticket sales.

        You might also note that I included an abstract metropolitan affluence in the list of criteria to measure. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Detroit in the top five. And the other franchises surrounding St. Louis are total bottom feeders and new teams: I would have put (which is to say: guessed) the Blues more comfortably in the middle of the pack.

        • Mantastic

          the NHL revenue is VERY gate driven… and yes merchandise does play a factor but when no one wants to go see the team live, no one would really want to pay for merchandise either. attendance correlates pretty strongly to merchandise sales. the larger and stronger the fan base is, the more the franchise is worth, it’s pretty evident from the evaluation forbes has given

          • Steampuck

            That’s ridiculous. The Leafs “only” get 20,000 to home games. Same with the Rangers. Or the Habs. The gate is a poor reflection of the fan base. As evidenced by exorbitantly expensive tickets. I’ll grant that teams that sell out every game suggest there is some harmony between ticket price and what the market might yield. But much of the time, merchandising and endorsement deals reach a far different audience. Factor in, too, relationship with the building, city, etc.

          • Mantastic

            i hope you understand “gate” means how much money they bring in by ticket sales in attendance, so obviously that takes into account ticket price and attendance…

            Attendance at the game has a strong correlation to TV viewership, merchandise and of course that affects ad revenue. everything is interconnected. the worse the fan base, the less reliable the income is.

            and yes, the NHL is largely GATE driven, this is a fact. regardless of how you want to look at it.

    • @Nick—the plummet started once Gillis stood up to the owner over the Torts’ hiring—and got fired for calling FA’s decision out.

      the franchise was up to #4 in the NHL during MG’s tenure….now listed as #6.

      In essence the owner, as he has so many times in the past, is his own worst enemy.

      • While it’s fun to point to things like this, it’s much more likely the culprit is simply the decline of the Canadian dollar from parity with the US dollar to ~$.75 on the dollar over the past three years.

        • @goon—I believe the franchise valuation stated by the Forbes report was in USD.

          While the CDN dollar has indeed fluctuated mightily from .75 right up to par in recent years, I don’t believe it factors into a US companies valuation of the franchise—as any sale would be in USD’s….just as the salaries are paid out in usd’s.


          • TrueBlue

            Of course it would… a large percentage of Canadian-based team revenue is collected in CAD. So that’s a fairly large chunk of capital that went from on-par with the USD to 25% less.

          • Marvin101

            @trueblue….I appreciate this is a hockey blog but you are incorrect in your premise.

            In simplest terms Canadian teams “hedge” against the vagaries of currency fluctuation. They employ “cap specialists” who must predict , with accuracy, how their on-the books contracts will align with the NHL salary cap. For that reason, the NHL publishes its salary cap well in advance for (Canadian) teams to shape their rosters to be under the cap.

            Cdn teams dollar cost average their gate receipts into USD. The dollars they booked 4 years ago at par are now worth 1.25….and conversely when the rate is against Cdn $’s.

            This is the ongoing challenge of a Cdn team working in a usd environment.

            And the price of a wide rate fluctuation is built into the price of everything the Cdn. team sells……the average 2014-15 NHL ticket is $62usd….in Vancouver it is $85 usd.

            In fact, the Canadian teams comprise 5 of the top 10 ticket prices in the nhl, largely due to having to match Cdn revenues to US teams.


            Note to Editors….it may be well worth a column to outline how Cdn teams manage their assets to compete with their us counterparts.

          • Steampuck

            You have convoluted a number variables

            First the price of tickets is not based on pegging to some USD exchange rate. Teams are price searchers; for years the Canucks were able to sell out, so they continually raised ticket price until the price exceeded the markets willingness to pay. As the product has deteriorated, the team is no longer able to sell out, and the bottom falling out on the secondary market suggests a cut in prices is necessary for some nights.

            The price of tickets in a local sports market is comprised entirely by what the people in that market are willing to pay.

            The purpose of hedging currency risk for sports teams is to smooth out fluctuations in currency for the current year.

            **Side-note feel free to skip
            The dollars they received 4 years ago were recognized as revenue 4 years ago, and it was reflected in their valuation. Whether they converted some portion to USD and retained for the future is not for us to know, and won’t matter for this Forbes valuation because…. Forbes doesn’t have access to their books to see retained earnings, and if they did, it would have been reflected in each years valuation anyway.**

            The reality is a Canadian team is receiving almost exclusively Canadian dollars as revenue, and a Canadian team is paying its largest expense In USD.

            Essentially the Canucks have taken a haircut on absolute revenue (declining ticket, and merchandise sales), and on relative revenue, with the decline of the Canadian dollar, and have faced a rising salary cap.

            Lower earnings and higher expenses, means lower valuation.

          • TrueBlue

            point form response for brevity

            re price of tickets, the team builds in its currency “coverage” into price of its tickets and sales. Included in this is the TV revenue which is in the form of a long term contract.

            Currency is covered on a short term and a long term basis (it is called “laddering”….I assume you have heard of term deposits?)

            I used an example of how currency fluctuates both pro and con over time (ie 4 yrs ago)… is both retained and invested for current and future years. Are you implying the Canucks run paycheck to paycheck with your comment that currency smoothing is only for the current year?

            Cdn teams receive mostly Cdn dollars but convert them to usd immediately except for obvious day-day float

            Valuation has little to do with cash flow. That is a separate analysis which makes up a small part of a valuation.

            The Canucks own a piece of prime real estate which has appreciated in value….that is a key in their valuation….they COULD see attendance and revenues drop but valuation go up if the building keeps appreciating, for example


          • Steampuck

            – Ticket prices: No they do use a “target coverage” to set ticket prices. They set prices trying to maximize their revenue. Gain or loss on currency exchange is separate, and they most certainly won’t set a price 5% higher or 10% lower because their trying to cover currency fluctuation.

            – Dollar cost averaging is the repeated regular purchase to mitigate large fluctuations in asset value, in this case currency, which certainly the Canucks due throughout the year. The CDN dollar has slumped for 3 years. They most definitely are feeling it’s effects on their bottom line.

            -Laddering is the staggering of income producing asset maturity dates, but does not have a place in this discussion.

            – Currency fluctuation benefited the Canucks ownership when the CDN dollar was stronger, yes, resulting in lower relative salary expenses. They also benefited from higher demand, increased ticket sales/merch over the past few years too. The reverse is true now.

            -“Valuation has little to do with cash flow. That is a separate analysis which makes up a small part of a valuation.” No. Cash flow is the most important part of any company analysis, especially private companies. I’m sure the team still has healthy margins, but nothing like 2012 when the product and economic conditions were at their zenith.

            – The Canucks team, arena, and the real estate development project are all owned by Aquillini investment group. Same ownership, separate entities. Separate values. Forbes will combine the team and building if it’s the same owner, as they are historically sold together. Obviously Forbes thought any changes in the buildings value don’t offset changes on the operating side.

            Forbes rankings are primarily click bait, not a serious attempt to value sports teams.

  • TrueBlue

    I enjoy articles about the business side of hockey.

    No wonder Aquilini wants to sell. Smart business man. I wonder if Beedies investment in the Dallas Stars is doing as well. John McCaw had a radio show about the business side of hockey.(I think it was John)

  • Dirty30

    Demographics play a big part — lots of money coming into Vancouver but it’s not hockey money.

    The ‘yuppie’ who should be going is getting squeezed in too many directions and discretionary spending suffers ( see ” one hat on the ice”).

    Weather is another factor — Vancouver is strolling in cherry blossoms while the rest of North America is still sleeping with their snow blowers.

    The Canucks may be the only show in town but they have a shrinking demographic with a shrinking income and if it costs $100 to watch the Canucks get screwed by the league every night then why not spend that money on other things?

    I can watch beach volleyball at Kits for free and really not care who wins.

    No wonder ownership wants to bail.

    • Mantastic

      how is weather a factor at all? how many people skipped out on sunny days in June to watch Stanley cup hockey in the lower mainland?

      you know how much a pain in the ass it is to get to a game when it’s snowing? and how much easier and cheaper it is in watch a game from the comfort of your own home but yet those cities in the thralls of winter still go watch their team live. and every fan thinks their team gets screwed by the league

      there are no excuses, the fans here just suck.

      • Mantastic

        Oh Mantastic, trying soooo hard to create a narrative to put Oiler fan in a better light.

        Here’s a made up narrative for you. Canucks fan refuses to celebrate crap and forces organizational change through their wallet. Gullible and unsophisticated Oiler fan blindly laps up a decade of garbage and then celebrates annually at the draft party.

        • Mantastic

          how am I bringing oiler fans into a better light? that how you’re seeing it. I live in Vancouver, I’ve never lived in Edmonton.

          the other poster, the person whom I’m responding to, said that the rest of the league is in the a winter, which is mostly the case. a lot of cities have to face the thralls of winter, not just edmonton.

    • Dirty30

      @dirty30… you point out there is a lot of choice in the Vancouver area…be it pro sport or just being outdoors in one of the world’s most beautiful places.

      FA surely has the CPA’s overview that the franchise value has topped out and will, likely, slide over the next 5 years.

      It is rumoured the only reason the club has not been sold already is that the historical business of the owners has been real property.

      Given the proposed upgrades and new development around the Viaduct and Arena areas over the next 10 years the family likely wishes to get in on some of those projects.

      Frankly, I would take a 300%+ return and run….but long term, holding the franchise to leverage additional property build-outs may make fiscal sense.

  • TrueBlue

    While I agree that the NHL is still a ‘gate driven league’ I think the emphasis is more on selling luxury suites and season tickets to businesses. Vancouver is very lucky to be the only big league show in town and has therefore been tremendously successful at selling their luxury suites and club seats to corporate crowd.

    I’ve been lucky enough to have a handful of corporate tickets trickle down to me through work every season and I’m almost always surrounded by business types who are there showing their client a good time or ‘talking shop’ through the entire game.

    • Steampuck

      All years are in USD, so by their valuation its value decreased, but ownership would receive more Canadian dollars for it, but those Canadian dollars would buy less stuff, so they are receiving less year over year.