A New York businessman is in the process of purchasing the rights to the Columbus professional hockey team, though a deal has not been completed as of Tuesday afternoon.
Fidel Jenkins, chairman of Residential World Media, said he has a deal to buy the rights to the Southern Professional Hockey League franchise from the league, but it is contingent with securing a lease for use of the city-owned and operated Columbus Civic Center.
Jenkins said he has been in talks with city officials about a possible lease and has put a hold on several dates for non-hockey events in the Civic Center.
SPHL Commissioner Jim Combs could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The deal Jenkins has with the SPHL does not include the team name Cottonmouths or the Snakes’ logos, said Wanda Amos, who owned the Cottonmouths for 17 seasons before ceasing operations after the recently completed season.
On March 2, Amos confirmed she would suspend operations of the Cottonmouths if a new ownership group could not be found. On May 3, the league announced the Cottonmouths would suspend operations for the 2017-2018 season and continue to look for a new owner.
Prior to the suspension of operations, league, Cottonmouths and city of Columbus officials said there was a potential buyer for the team, but the deal could not be finished by the deadline.
On Tuesday, Amos said that potential buyer was Jenkins.
“He was in negotiations with me through the league and my attorney to buy the team,” she said.
Earlier this month, Amos sold her franchise to the Birmingham Bulls, a new SPHL club that will begin play next season. In that transaction, the league gained rights to the Columbus market.
“I can’t talk officially about the deal,” Jenkins said on Tuesday. “I can only say I am buying it directly from the league.”
Jenkins said he anticipates reaching a deal with the city and praised Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and City Manager Isaiah Hugley for working with him.
“I can tell you from what we have seen, Columbus is an incredibly good market,” Jenkins said. “I understand that there wasn’t much support last year. But if you look at the arena and the lease, they are fantastic. The mayor, city manager and venue manager are a big reason we are committed to Columbus.”
This will be Jenkins’ first venture in the ownership of a minor league sports franchise, he said. Jenkins said he plans to do hockey in a different way than it has been done in the past in Columbus.
“We have a special plan, but we are not ready to talk about it today,” Jenkins said.
During the 21-year history of Columbus Cottonmouths hockey, head coach and general manager Jerome Bechard has been involved with the franchise. He was the first player signed by founder owner Charlie Morrow. When Bechard retired, he moved into the coaching front office positions, always as the face of the franchise.
Bechard would not be the “head man of the organization,” Jenkins said of the potential new franchise.
“We have talked with Jerome about sticking with the team in another capacity,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins is chairman and president of Residential World Media Inc., a New York-based real-estate broker company that some might consider an industry disrupter. Founded in 2008, it markets and sells real estate without commissions.
The company’s primarily outlet is the online site, residentialworld.tv, a listing site that at its core produces and sells video commercials to fund its real-estate business. It doesn’t use the standard Multiple Listing Service that the traditional real-estate industry relies on. Instead, it created a separate MLS for handling its own video.
“Residential World's user-friendly video real estate network and search platform allows a potential buyer or renter to enter search criteria and instantly access property listings and videos that include information about all aspects of every neighborhood, community, subdivision, homeowner associations and their respective shopping centers, schools and demographics,” the company said in a 2015 news release in which it announced awarding Southfield, Mich.-based Park West Gallery a $3 million contract to supply fine art for its new corporate headquarters in New York. The art also was destined for the company’s real estate clients and “employee partners,” the release said.
Prior to opening its New York headquarters, the privately owned company was based in Dallas, Texas, according to various online business databases, including that of Bloomberg. One company database classifies Residential World Media in the sector of business services and, more specifically, in the industries of electronic media advertising, real-estate brokers and agents, and Internet publishing and broadcasting.
“Our business is fully advertiser supported,” Jenkins’ company says in a “frequently asked questions” section on its website. “We produce and sell video commercials similar to those on TV, which run between videos while users are searching for property.”
That means Residential World Media does not charge property sellers to use its service, which includes filming the property for the website. Its other business lines include apartmentworld.tv and officeworld.tv, as well as offering customers assistance with finding insurance.
“Our mass marketing campaign includes TV ads, print, online ads to drive traffic to our websites,” the company says of its ability to attract buyers to its selling customers’ properties.
The company said in the Park West Gallery release that its full-service brokerage gives buyers and renters using it up to $50,000 in products and services from advertisers as “incentives” to use its brokerage services.
“Advertisers get exclusivity in their product category while getting access to buyer and renter profiles that include in-depth, verified information on all products and services they currently use and will buy over the course of 12 months,” said the release, which noted Residential World Media has long-term plans for as much as 6 million square feet of shopping space “in which it would fly in its real estate clients to shop in person its advertiser's products after they close on a property purchase or sign a lease.”
Jenkins owns homes in New York City and Niagara Falls, N.Y.