Buffalo Sabres co-owner and President Kim Pegula told The Associated Press in a recent interview she believes she remains the best-suited for the job to streamline the operation while acknowledging the process has taken longer than expected.
Pegula and her husband Terry are both co-owners of the Sabres and the Buffalo Bills. While Pegula is criticized for her role overseeing the Sabres, she has earned little credit for holding the same title with the Bills. The Bills has been a model of efficiency and reached the playoffs in two of the three past seasons.
The Pegulas have been blamed for creating a top-heavy parent company, Pegula Sports and Entertainment, which oversees their numerous holdings, including the Bills.
On May 1, 2018, after the abrupt resignation of Russ Brandon as president of Pegula Sports and Entertainment as well as the Bills and Sabres, Pegula was installed as president over all of the Pegula Sports and Entertainment properties. Upon becoming president of both the Bills and Sabres franchises, she became the first female team president in the history of both the NFL and NHL. Along with Shahid Khan and Zygi Wilf, Pegula is one of only three NFL owners who were not born in the United States, as the 51-year-old was born in South Korea.
The Pegulas were most recently criticized for a series of cost-cutting measures in April, when they laid off 21 employees, including several high-profile executives. The cuts at PSE began in February 2019, when three executives were let go, including chief operating officer Bruce Popko. The company has since cut more staff, including members of its marketing-film unit Pic6ix and popular ticket-sales Vice President John Sinclair.
The Sabres, who once had to place a cap on season-ticket sales, have more recently had difficulty selling out games. According to Forbes, Buffalo ranked 24th among NHL teams with $1.9 million in operating revenue in 2018-19. The Sabres are already at a disadvantage of being one of the smaller market teams in the NHL, which limits its ability to garner corporate support for sponsorships and other necessary items needed to generate income.
In spite of all of this, Pegula believes she is the person to turn things around, especially during the financial strain that the coronavirus pandemic has placed on sports franchises around the world. She recently told the AP about how their plans were taking longer than expected: “Sometimes I kick myself in saying, `How come I didn’t see this sooner? That’s on me,” Pegula said, referring to a restructuring that began last year. “But that’s what I’m trying to do now, trying to really remould and reshape the organization into what Terry and I envision,” she added. “One thing I’ve been preaching is sustainability, about how to ensure that we are here in this Buffalo area for a long time.”
Pegula said her emphasis on long-term financial stability is to have an efficiently run franchise. “There are tough decisions that are going to have to be made, but anyone at the top has to make them,” she said. “I think we’re in a better place, just not done yet.”
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