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The House That Jim Built: Jim Lites

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The “Jim Trinity” of the Dallas Stars impacts three facets of the Stars franchise. The first part we’ll look at is the business side, the house of Jim Lites.

2016 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The “Jim Trinity” now reigns in Dallas.

CEO Jim Lites oversees much of the off-ice decision making, and is responsible for ensuring the Dallas Stars are performing and fiscally responsible off the ice. General Manager Jim Nill is the architect of the on-ice product, responsible for drafting, trading, and developing hockey players throughout the Stars system. Head Coach Jim Montgomery will be tasked with getting the best out of the roster given to him and helping to establish a winning culture in Dallas.

This summer, we’ll look at each of these Jims and their past impacts on the franchise, as well as their future impacts as the Stars start a new era. This is part one of The House That Jim Built, in which we look at Jim Lites.

The Business Jim

When the Dallas Stars finally emerged from the darkness of Tom Hicks’ business dealings that set the franchise on the path of bankruptcy, and ultimately league ownership, they didn’t just get a stable owner with a commitment to investing in the team: they also got the return of Jim Lites to the front office on the business side of the club.

Lites was a big part of setting up the Stars franchise in its early years in Dallas. When he returned to the team, the Stars were losing in the area of $30 million a season, had one of the lowest attendance rates, and a season ticket base that had shrunk considerably since the heyday of the team.

What has he done to improve the business side of the Stars since his return in 2011?

First, the season ticket base has come back. Of course, winning at home definitely helps. But what the team did to help grow the season ticket base was to instill value in season tickets again. That process wasn’t without its painful moments for many fans that were used to paying next to nothing to sit in the best locations in the arena. But they stopped giving tickets away for basically nothing, and made it a value proposition to invest in the team by season tickets, getting an actual value on the discounted ticket prices that are offered by buying ticket packages. It’s also helped close the gap between the resale market and the face value of tickets, which, for a team, usually indicates that they’ve found a sweet spot on pricing (taking out the influence of the actual on-ice product, of course, which always will dictate what people are willing to pay for tickets.)

Secondly, the team no longer bleeds money. Last season, Forbes reported that the Stars generated $140 million in total revenue (good for 15th in the league), and no longer operates in the red, with an operating income of $21 million (11th in the league).

In addition to their financial health, the value of the franchise as a whole has also increased. In 2017, Forbes valued the Stars at $515 million, ranking 13th in the league. In 2011, Forbes valued the Stars at just $230 million. That means that in the seven years since new ownership came on board, Lites and company have helped improve the value of the franchise as a whole by nearly 125%.

They’ve not just done it on the backs of fans, either (though many will disagree with that statement.)

The league as a whole has enjoyed healthy increases in league-wide revenues. It’s actually increased the value of all franchises over that same time span, with most seeing a 100%+ increase in value (except for the Calgary Flames at 95%, Colorado Avalanche at 94%, and Florida Panthers at 88%). Comparatively, the Stars have seen its franchise increase at the same rate as the Tampa Bay Lightning — without all of the post-season appearances Tampa has enjoyed. Not bad company at all.

The Stars are one of the better teams in the leagues in selling corporate sponsorships and partnerships. The new partnerships and advertising revenue, combined with renegotiated leases of the Stars rinks around the metroplex, and a new Fox Sports Southwest broadcast deal, has all contributed to the financial well-being of the team. Yes, season ticket prices have increased, but those increases are not the brunt of the additional revenues the team now recognizes since Gaglardi took over the team.

Jim Lites is a big part of those off-ice improvements.