Ownership restructuring announced for Windsor Spitfires
The Windsor Spitfires are not being sold to a dentist from the GTA, but there is a change in the local ownership of the Ontario Hockey League team.
The Cypher Systems Group (CSG) – John Savage, his brother Stephen Savage and Brian Schwab -- will now take a controlling interest of the club.
A statement released Thursday said “after much thoughtful discussion with several potential buyers, we have concluded that it is in the best interest of the Spitfires for ownership to remain within the existing group. We have determined that CSG will take both a controlling interest in the club, as well as a more participatory role in its operation.”
“What we're trying to say today is it is business as usual,” says Schwab in an interview with CTV Windsor’s Bob Bellacicco. “The ownership group is staying within the ownership group.”
The CSG owners are not commenting on how much of a stake they are taking in the club. There is also no information on the shares owned by Bob Boughner and Warren Rychel, who have owned the Spitfires since 2006.
“I'm on the road a lot and not home,” says Boughner. “These guys have obviously recently divested some of their businesses and they're here to spend more time. They're just as passionate as we are on the hockey side and business side. I think it's going to be a blessing in disguise.“
“We'll come into the business in a more focused way,” adds John Savage, whose group also owns the Junior B LaSalle Vipers and the Junior C Lakeshore Canadiens.
“We're in town. We have the means now and more business cycles to be able to apply ourselves here so we're just going to take a little more hands on approach to the organization,” says Schwab.
No financial terms have been announced, and the deal is still subject to approval by the OHL Board of Governors, which meets next week.
Boughner is a two-time OHL Coach of the Year with the Spitfires while Rychel has been the General Manager of the team since taking over as part owner.
The Spitfires have won Memorial Cups in 2009, 2010 and 2017.
“This team is at a point in the next couple of years where we think we can take another stab at it and win,” says Boughner. “That's also important. We want to make sure we keep striving and go in the right direction.”
The statement goes on to say “the Windsor Spitfires are enthusiastic about the 2019-20 season. Our team has an incredibly strong player lineup, which will see a few changes to round out the roster and deliver the hockey experience our fans deserve. Additionally, we will be adding and improving elements within the rink to elevate our overall fan experience.”
The current ownership group earlier released a statement in April confirming discussions were underway for the sale of the club.
CSG confirmed they did talk with Dr. Azim Parekh, the Founder and CEO of the Smiles First Corporation in Markham. The owners say Dr. Parekh approached them about a potential purchase in November.
Speculation grew after the Spitfires drafted his two sons in the spring.
Windsor used the fifth pick in the Under-18 Draft to select Aydin Parekh, a 5-foot-9, 190 pound defenceman. The Spits also selected his younger brother Isa Parekh, a 5-foot-9, 113 pound defenceman, in the annual Priority Selection.
“It’s just too big of a distraction both from the public, the fans and the players,” says John Savage. “It's just too disturbing so we kind of put a box around the thing and said ok we're not for sale.”
Calls to Dr. Parekh have not been returned.
Amid the cloud of uncertainty, Windsor's first round draft pick in 2019, Wyatt Johnston, was a no show at rookie camp.
“It puts our fans kind of wondering do we support the team, the players are wondering if this is the right place for them, the draft picks are wondering about that and even the staff is wondering about it,” admits Schwab.
Boughner, Rychel and Peter Dobrich purchased the Spitfires team from Steve Riolo on April 6, 2006.
John and Stephen Savage and Brian Schwab purchased a stake in the Spitfires in May 2013 as Dobrich sold his share of the franchise.
The statement goes on to say “CSG has demonstrated their proven commitment to the Windsor community over the past 35 years, not only through their various business ventures, but most recently through their investment in the revitalization of the downtown core and the rehabilitation of a number of buildings include the Old Fish Market, among others.”