Jay Snider Leaving Flyers, At Least For A While Business Opportunities Are Beckoning In The Far East. But Although He Will Be Gone, His Titles Will Not.

Posted: September 23, 1993

Jay Snider, the precocious former rink rat who stepped into his family's hockey and entertainment empire at the tender age of 25, has decided to step out - about 7,000 miles out.

Snider, president of the Flyers and co-owner of Spectacor for most of the last decade, announced plans yesterday to give up his current responsibilities to pursue business ventures in the Orient.

He is dropping neither his titles nor his ties with Spectacor, the far- flung sports and entertainment conglomerate founded by his father, Ed

Snider.

But he sure is changing his job description. Instead of directing the hockey club and the plans for a new South Philadelphia arena, Jay Snider is leaving next month for a lengthy trip to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan.

Snider said he has had the entrepreneurial bug since 1980, when he started the successful SpectaGuard security company. Others close to the situation said he had grown weary of his duties and felt a need to stake his own claim.

In fact, Snider's announcement came just months after Ed Snider relocated back to Philadelphia from Southern California to oversee financing plans for the long-stalled arena project. In recent years, Ed Snider had spent more and more of his time out West, entrusting more and more of the family enterprise to Jay Snider.

Both men, however, insisted emphatically yesterday that the father's return did not prompt the son's departure.

"My father and I are as close as two people can be," Jay Snider said. ''Anyone who doesn't see that isn't familiar with us."

Said Ed Snider: "There will always be naysayers around who like to make something out of nothing. Jay is going because (business development) is his thing. It's what we always hoped he'd be doing more of."

Since last year, the younger Snider has been shedding many of his duties at Spectacor. Jack Williams, a former general manager at WIP-AM, was promoted last September to Jay Snider's former title of Spectacor president, a job that focuses on daily operation of the company.

The biggest surprise from yesterday's announcement was Jay Snider's reduced role in the rebuilding of the Flyers. As club president, he has traditionally been active in everything from trades to contract talks to hiring new coaches. As recently as two weeks ago, he was involved in negotiating a six-year, $15 million deal for forward Mark Recchi.

Now, Snider said, he will entrust those decisions to two men: general manager Russ Farwell and chief operating officer Ron Ryan.

"I'll still go to the Flyers games and the league meetings," he said yesterday, "but Ron and Russ will direct" the day-to-day operations.

In addition, Jay Snider said, his father will - by necessity - take a larger role with the hockey club.

"He'll have to do that to the extent that I'm not here," Jay Snider said. ''While I'm in Asia, he'll be more active," because "I'll be running around."

Jay Snider has been around the Flyers since his father started the club in 1967. He learned to skate on the Spectrum ice after team practices, worked as a Spectrum usher in his teens, and in 1983 - at 25 - was promoted to team president.

Initially, he had rousing success. The Flyers advanced to the Stanley Cup finals in 1985 and 1987, and the Wales Conference finals in 1989. Within the company, Jay Snider was given credit, but to the general public, the club was still perceived as being directed by Ed Snider.

In recent seasons, the Flyers have been a bittersweet project for the younger Snider. They have not made the playoffs the last four seasons - a current streak of futility unmatched by any team in the league.

Jay Snider, more than anyone, drew the ire of fans for the team's decline. During poor performances at the Spectrum in recent years, Flyers partisans have been known to chant, "Jay must go."

Snider also took considerable heat for his decisions to fire Mike Keenan, the team's Doberman-style coach, in 1988, and to dismiss general manager Bob Clarke in 1990. Clarke's firing was particularly ironic because Ed Snider had referred to the Flyers great as "another son to me." Clarke later returned to the organization briefly.

But it was also Jay Snider who engineered the blockbuster 1992 trade that brought the Flyers Eric Lindros, whom many experts project to be the game's next reigning superstar. The deal cost the franchise a bevy of players and

draft picks. It also cost $40 million - in salary to Lindros and compensation to the Quebec Nordiques, who had owned the player's rights.

Before and after the Lindros deal, Snider had been consumed with the Spectrum II proposal, which calls for construction of a $190 million arena adjacent to the current Spectrum. The deal has been held up for more than three years - first while Spectacor negotiated with officials in Philadelphia and New Jersey toward the eventual site, and since that time while the company sought financing.

Indeed, Ed Snider's return to the area was largely prompted by a last-ditch effort to get the arena built. He met with prospective lenders yesterday and said afterward, "It's coming down to the wire. We'll know shortly whether we'll do the deal or not."

A business associate of the Sniders' said Ed Snider views the state-of-the- art arena as the crowning point of his career. Jay Snider, meanwhile, is itching to do more. Focusing on another part of the world is one way to accomplish that and also escape from Ed Snider's giant shadow.

"Jay recognizes that his dad is not looking to reach for more," said Sam Katz, the financial adviser to Spectacor. "Jay is ambitious, but, around town, he will always be seen as his father's son. Now he has the opportunity, with his father's blessings, to start something grand, to go for it."

Jay Snider proved his business acumen at the age of 22. In 1980, fresh out of the Wharton School, he and a partner, Steve Flynn, started SpectaGuard. Since then, SpectaGuard has grown from five full-time employees to 2,200, and

from $376,000 in annual revenues to $38.5 million.

Flynn will join Jay Snider in his Far East venture. Snider would not say yesterday what he has in mind, except to say he has "two or three ideas which are related to what we've done before."

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