Tom Dundon, owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, has invested $250 million in the Alliance of American Football and taken control of the league, a commitment that reportedly came at a critical point for the upstart circuit.
The AAF began play earlier this month and managed to debut to strong ratings, but was reportedly not on solid footing financially. The Athletic reported Tuesday that Dundon’s investment came at a critical point for the AAF, which had been concerned about missing payroll on Friday amidst a cash shortage.
Although the arrival of a nine-figure investment from the owner of a major sports franchise certainly helps the circuit, AAF co-founder Charlie Ebersol has sought to dispel the idea that Dundon’s investment serves in effect as a bailout. Dundon, who has been named the AAF’s chairman, says that the investment came together quickly after the league’s debut weekend. More from ESPN:
The Athletic reported that the league was in danger of not making payroll on Friday, before Dundon’s investment….
“I had seen the deal when they were conceptualizing the league,” [Dundon] said on the ESPN On Ice podcast. “It wasn’t something that I would do, because there were so many questions about the quality of football and all the things that come up when you try to start something new. Once it went on TV, looked great, got good ratings, I talked to people that were supportive of it.
“At the same time, through mutual acquaintances, I understood they had a need for someone like me to step in. It all came together on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. I wish it was more thought out than that, but it was that simple.”
The AAF is seeking to be more sustainable than many of the leagues that tried and failed to have long-term success as a spring football circuit. Landing a deep-pocketed investor in Dundon should help, but the AAF will have to hope that the quality of play, television ratings, and many of its technology initiatives can serve as sources for success.
As for Dundon, he is adding the AAF to a portfolio that includes his ownership of the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes have traditionally been one of the lower-drawing teams in the NHL, but Dundon has worked to boost the franchise since purchasing majority ownership early last year and the Hurricanes are engaged in discussions about a potential PNC Arena lease extension that could include renovations.
Image courtesy The Alliance.