Hockey-loving family teams up, means business
By BLAKE SEBRING Of The New-Sentinel
It’s unlikely that any one member of the Franke family could have bought and directed the new Fort Wayne Komets International Hockey League franchise. It is the family’s unity that will make the operation work.
The most important thing about the new family business, the Frankes say, is that it is a business. But they are also fans of the game.
“I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn't had my two brothers with me," said Stephen Franke, the new chairman, majority stockholder and chief executive officer of the Komets. “I don’t think they could have done it without my financial clout to pull it together. It's a real good team because mutually we support each other and collectively we’re stronger than we are individually”
The Frankes almost bought the team three years ago, investigating the information and going to the bankruptcy court before David Welker and Redi-Med began a bidding war that Welker won.
The Frankes had another chance this year, approaching Welker about buying the team before the owner announced he was moving the franchise to Albany, N.Y.
“When they moved to Albany, that just about put us out of busi- ness," Stephen Franke said. “We talked to the league and they put us in contact with Flint”
While Stephen Franke provided the money to buy the team, club President Michael Franke brings a public relations and advertising
background. Executive Vice President and General Manager David Franke gives the team media and administrative experience. He’s also acquainted with running the team, after serving as marketing manager for the Komets during the 1988-89 season before leaving to work under Mike at WOWO, 1190- AM. Tammy Franke, a niece of the brothers, will run the office as administrative assistant and corporate secretary.
“It was a situation where we had
to have all four of us because Steve’s time here will be very limited,” David Franke said. “Well all have to wear a lot of different hats.”
The boys played hockey growing up, and lived half a block from former Komet great Len Thomson. The family is nuts about hockey.
“I‘ve sat in those seats for the past 30 years,” David Franke said. “We know what the fans like and what they’ve been going through the past few seasons because we've been going through it, too.”
Stephen Franke said David was the only one of the brothers who was any good at playing the game, but they all loved it Buying the Komets was not done because the brothers loved the team or were chasing lost youth, but because they think it can make money. The team hasn’t operated in the black for eight years, but the Frankes expect it to right away.
“That's one wall that stares you right in the face, but we feel with our experience we can turn this situtation around,” Mike Franke said.
“For me, it’s not really an emotional decision,” Stephen Franke said. MIt’s a business decision. We looked at it as an opportunity to come in and make a good deal out of a bad deal and that's why we did It.