Ed Snider, the chairman of the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team, passed away this week at the age of 83 and many tributes have been paid calling him "the ultimate entrepreneur, a risk-taker with a knack for managing people and organizations." There is another side to that story, however.
It all began in 1963 when Jerry Wolman bought the Philadelphia Eagles football team for $5.5 million. According to an article by Philadelphia sports writer Stan Hochman posted on March 17, 2009, Wolman said Ed Snider's father was a friend of his and he asked Wolman to talk to his son, whose recording company had folded and he was depressed. "I told him I was buying the Eagles and that I would have a spot for him," Wolman said, and he named Ed Snider the vice president and treasurer of the Eagles.
Later, when Snider learned that the NHL was expanding in 1966, he encouraged Wolman to build the Spectrum to house a new team. "It was 16 months from when I first had the idea until it was completed," Snider says. "Wolman went to the banks for the money. He was in construction, so that made sense. At that time, it wouldn't have worked for me to try to borrow the money."
Joe King, the business manager of the Eagles at that time, said, "I don't know who built the Spectrum, but Jerry paid for it." Wolman became one of the founding owners of the Philadelphia Flyers, along with Snider and his brother-in-law, Earl Foreman, an attorney.
A grocer's son who grew up in Shenandoah, Pa., Wolman made a lot of money in the construction business and began to live his dream when he purchased the Philadelphia Eagles. At the age of 36, he was worth $36 million — and he was building the tallest building in the world, the John Hancock Center in Chicago.
According to Hochman, "A screw-up in the concrete pouring caused the early construction to sink, a fraction of an inch at a time. The mistake cost Wolman $20 million and impacted everything else he owned."
Hochman quotes Snider as saying, "Wolman came to us early on. He wanted to sell the [hockey] team for a quick profit. He said his friends were telling him that hockey wouldn't draw in Philadelphia. We told him the franchise had been awarded to Philadelphia and that we couldn't sell it to guys who might want to move it."
The moment that shattered their relationship? Wolman says he had a $43 million loan lined up with Arab oil men that would have stemmed the tide of red ink. He summoned Snider to the Eagles' training camp in Hershey and asked Snider to sell him the Flyers, saying he needed it as collateral for the loan.
Wolman says Snider agreed, drove home, then reneged on the promise. "The deal collapsed," Wolman said, "and I was ruined." Wolman sold his interests in the Flyers to Snider and Foreman in 1967, the same year he was forced to sell the Philadelphia Eagles to Leonard Tose.
According to my father-in-law, Arnold Stark, who was Jerry Wolman's personal PR man at the time, "When Jerry turned to Ed Snider for financial help to save his beloved Eagles, Snider turned him down. It broke Jerry's heart and he was never quite the same again."
Wolman and Snider never talked again. Wolman passed away in 2013 at the age of 86.
Beau Weisman, Editor