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Monday, November 15, 2010

When You're Wang, You're Wang

The New York Islanders used to be the model franchise of the National Hockey League. Just three years after playing its first game as an expansion club in 1972, the team came within one game of the Stanley Cup finals in 1975, and later won four Cups between 1980-83. The team sold out almost every game.

Fast forward a quarter-century. Most Islanders club owners have had legal troubles, the fan base has steadily eroded (a far-reaching consequence of shifting all games to cable back when cable TV was accessible only in high-density or affluent areas) and the team has been at the bottom of league standings for most of the last 20 years.

The Reign of Error continues. This morning, the club fired coach Scott Gordon. The move suggests Gordon was responsible for a 10-game losing streak. In fact, the move is just another sign of impatience and impulsiveness, in this case of an owner -- former Computer Associates founder Charles Wang (pronounced, "Wong") -- who wants to be hands-on yet admits he needed to read "Hockey for Dummies" when he bought the franchise in 2000.

Wang clearly cares about his business -- that is, the Islanders and/or the untapped real estate development potential Wang sees for a new arena/convention center (such as his proposed Long Island Lighthouse).  Reportedly, Wang has lost between $150 million to $250 million during his decade of owning the Islanders; in addition, it is likely the Islanders ae worth considerably less than its original purchase price.  An uncaring owner would have shut the doors, filed for bankruptcy and sold the franchise to an out of town group.  Wang's financial patience, however, has not extended to his "customer service"-- meaning, the product. 

While Wang has apparently been very patient in trying to rebuiild the franchise's value, the constant upheavals every two years just continue to delay any renewal of the on-ice product, in turn delaying the restoration of the overall franchise's value.  Those qualities of impatience and impulsiveness are bad, for investors, farmers or litigants. Patience is a virtue, especially in those fields.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who advises on litigation stress management and helps litigants cope and prepare to survive grueling litigation. He is available for comment or consultation at 917-696-2442 and by email at

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