The Quad-City Mallards have been sold to Tape2Tape Sports and Entertainment LLC, a group headed by millionaire Canadian clothier and avid hockey fan Eric Karls.
Terms of the sale by QCHT LLC, which reintroduced the Mallards as a member of the International Hockey League just more than a year ago, were not announced.
The Mallards will play this season in the Central Hockey League as part of an affiliation agreement reached a month ago with the former IHL.
Tape2Tape becomes the fifth ownership group for minor league hockey in the Quad-Cities since the Mallards debuted in 1995. It is the fourth franchise ownership group since 2006.
Described as a private person, Karls, who resides in Vancouver, B.C., will bring a hockey fan’s passion to the Mallards top position, said outgoing owner Chris Lencheski, who negotiated the sale with Karls while the Stanley Cup playoffs were in progress.
“Eric has a passion as a hockey owner; you could tell that right from the get-go,’’ Lencheski said of Karls, who is believed to be making his first foray into sports ownership. “He has a good management group, in my opinion. So he is coming at this in the proper way.’’
The Mallards will be led by Bill Davidson, CEO of the Topeka, Kan.-based National Sports Services, a group Karls contracted to evaluate minor league hockey teams in the United States and Canada for a potential purchase.
Davidson, 50, also is CEO of two ECHL teams — the Stockton (Calif.) Thunder and Gwinnett (Ga.) Gladiators — as well as the Harrisburg (Pa.) Senators of the Double-A Eastern League.
He consulted for original Mallards owner Eric Margenau more than a decade ago and is well-versed with the Quad-City hockey team’s early success. The club averaged more than 7,600 fans per game for five straight seasons, from 1996-2001, winning three United Hockey League titles in the process.
“From a business standpoint, we just have to figure out a way to move the Mallards that direction, toward the success they had in the past,’’ he said.
Davidson said his primary focus in the short-term will be on the Mallards. He plans to be in the Quad-Cities next week to begin hiring additional staff.
Davidson said last year’s Mallards head coach Frank Anzalone will be retained, along with the existing six-person front office headed by general manager Shawn Hackman.
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He said the sales and marketing team will be expanded in the coming weeks.
In 2006, Karls and his wife sold the Mac and Jac clothing design line, named after their daughters, to the U.S.-based Liz Claiborne brand for $28 million, plus future earnings.
“In my search to acquire a hockey team, I reviewed a number of leagues all across the United States and Canada,’’ he said in a statement released by the Mallards. “I felt the Mallards had some significant potential to grow their attendance, particularly as they move into the Central Hockey League.’’
Under QCHT LLC, the Mallards finished the 2009-10 season with an announced average attendance of 4,067, second-best in the IHL and 42nd among 78 minor-league hockey teams in the United States and Canada.
The Mallards finished sixth in the seven-team IHL in 2009-10 with a 29-35-4-8 record.
Davidson said Anzalone has been working to recruit players for the coming season. The coach could not be reached for comment Tuesday.