Glenn Hart, the man who founded the Laredo Bucks 12 years ago, announced Tuesday he has sold his majority share in the franchise to Laredo businessman, minority owner and longtime fan Gustavo “Goose” Hernandez.
Hart said the demands of his growing company Laredo Energy, coupled with the needs of his aging and ailing parents, led to his decision to sell his majority share.
For Hernandez, the task of turning around a once mighty but now struggling organization begins today.
Stay the course
Anticipating questions about the franchise’s future in light of a hectic offseason and lagging attendance numbers, Hernandez wasted little time Tuesday in committing to the future of the Bucks organization.
“While it’s true that recently our franchise, like many others in the league, has experienced problems in attendance, partly due to the economy and partly due to decline in interest, I think the best days of this franchise lie ahead of us,” he said. “I’ve been here awhile, and my personal commitment to this team isn’t just for this season.
“It’s for many seasons to come.”
In the spring, it was widely speculated the Bucks would leave the Central Hockey League and abandon professional hockey altogether to become a junior hockey team in the North American hockey League; some in the organization had even called it a done deal.
At the 11th hour, however, the team recommitted itself to professional hockey in the CHL, a position Hernandez promised “absolutely” to adhere to.
“The changes you probably will see or you do see are ones that have already been made,” Hernandez said.
Bucks president Donald Thomson said the impact of Hernandez’s acquisition will be felt more in the sales room than on the ice.
“Just from the mental side of how Laredo works, a lot of us are from out of the area – I’m from Houston and some of our best sales staff is from Florida, Connecticut and Michigan – so we don’t really bring that local knowledge here,” Thomson said. “We’ve grown it, but Goose has it.
“He’s trying to teach us things that work on a local level.”
In addition to the intangibles Hernandez offers, he also brings substantial assets to the table in the form of business contacts.
“He’s already brought a few contacts in from trucking companies,” Thomson said. “That’s a different industry that’s hard to get into, and it’s a major industry, and he’s making inroads into that that we’ve never been able to.”
Close at Hart
The decision for Hart to sell his majority share of the Bucks was the result of a confluence of factors, beginning with a hectic offseason in which the future of the team hung on the brink.
“This offseason, of all offseasons, I spent more time on (the Bucks than I have) since the start of the franchise,” he said. “The work the staff did and the work I did … we positioned for the long haul to make sure it was all right and acceptable to continue.”
One facet of the solution for the Bucks’ offseason woes was a call for increased local ownership during a town hall meeting on May 18. Hernandez answered the call and became a minority owner shortly thereafter, but that didn’t alleviate all of Hart’s pressures.
Just as the demands on Hart’s time from the franchise were increasing, his responsibilities elsewhere were on the rise as well.
“My personal situation in Laredo Energy is just getting bigger and bigger and bigger and harder to manage, which is a good thing, and both my parents have serious health issues and they live in Dallas, so that’s another whole set of worries and concerns for me,” Hart said “I began to realize two to three weeks ago that my dad was not capable of managing his business in his current situation. That put me in responsibility overload – ‘Oh my gosh, too many things to do!’ – so my first thought was ‘Gustavo is ready for this,’ and it became an easy choice.
“It’s (been) a wonderful time being highly involved in it, yet I’m truly relieved.”
Just because Hart relinquished his majority hold on the Bucks, however, doesn’t mean he’ll disappear from the franchise.
“I just want to make one thing very clear: Glenn Hart remains committed to this community, committed to the Bucks,” Hernandez said. “He still has a very important personal and financial stake in this franchise. He’s as close as by phone.”
Who is Hernandez?
While Hernandez’s role as a minority owner is six months young, his role as a fan has been strong since the franchise’s birth.
“I’ve been coming to the games since the beginning,” he said. “I believe the success or failure of this franchise lies not so much on me, Gustavo the partner, as it does on Gustavo the season ticket holder.”
Hart had never met Hernandez prior to the May town hall meeting, but he’d heard of the crazy fan from section 116 before.
“At first, I didn’t quite recognize the name and then people would say, ‘You know Gustavo. He’s the guy that so and so,’” Hart said. “(Section) 116 is known as the crazies of all the crazies, the passionate of the passionate.
“I think it’s absolutely awesome that someone from 116 has become the majority owner.”
This marks the first foray into the world of professional sports ownership for Hernandez, a graduate of Martin High and TAMIU who runs a private tax and accounting practice. He is also involved in cattle ranching and real estate and has an oil and gas start-up company to his name.
“Shortly after the season started, Glenn and I shared another discussion over coffee and we found and confirmed we share the same passion for this team, the same commitment to this community and the same love for Laredo,” he said. “(It) just helped make this decision a little easier.”
Thomson said Hernandez’s stint as a minority owner will prove invaluable as he takes the controls.
“What he did that was smart is that a lot of owners come in wanting to make things happen, but don’t really know what’s going on,” Thomson said. “(Hernandez) sat back since May and soaked everything in. He’s asked a lot of questions and learned, not only locally but on the league level, and now he has enough knowledge to start helping out a lot more.
“The guy’s extremely passionate and I think you can see that and we see that and it kind of revitalizes us.”
Thomson isn’t the only one who shared glowing remarks about Hernandez, whom Hart said he’d quickly identified as an ideal heir when the two became acquainted during the trying summer months.
“Over the years, I might not have fully lost my passion for it, but I lost just enough,” Hart said. “Gustavo reminds me of me 17 years ago when I founded the Houston Aeros franchise. I was charged up about it every minute of every day.
“Gustavo has that passion for it, and it’s important that the person leading the charge has that passion.”
Hart said the transition of ownership is effective now as far as everyone in the office is concerned, though legally it won’t be official until Dec. 31 for tax and business purposes.