Hernreich purchases AFL’s Rattlers
PHOENIX, Ariz. – “I’m laying my chip on the table,” said Bob Hernreich, 60, from his home in Edwards Saturday.Considering Hernreich’s Midas touch with business ventures – including his success as a minority owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings – his recent decision to buy the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League doesn’t seem like too much of a gamble.”I’m not really a big football fan, but I just think the Arena Football League is ready to take off,” said Hernreich, who has lived part-time in Eagle County since 1984. “(The league) has had some fitful stops and starts, but I think the growing pains are over.”Hernreich said he’s never been to an AFL game and admits that his first sporting love is basketball. He bought his minority share in the Kings in 1999 and ever since has been a devoted hands-on owner. He attended more than 70 games last season, which – even as a basketball junkie – he said was a little bit too much.Despite being an AFL novice, Hernreich said the opportunity to buy the Rattlers was too good to pass up. He bought a majority stake of the team from Phoenix Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver – formerly the sole owner – on July 8. Sarver remains with the franchise as a minority owner.”The new owners of the Phoenix Suns are all good friends of mine, and when I found out they all wanted to sell the Rattlers, it just peaked my interest,” Hernreich said. “It’s pretty exciting stuff.”
The Rattlers are one of the senior teams of the AFL, having played in five Arena Bowls and winning two world championships in the league’s 18-year history. The team played in three straight Arena Bowls from 2002-04, but last season, after a woeful 1-7 start, failed to make the playoffs after finishing the regular season 7-9. Hernreich said he plans to bring the team back to prominence. He’s buoyed by the success of two other novice AFL owners – one of whom happens to be a Colorado sports legend, the other an ’80s and early ’90s rock legend whose band has sold more than 100 million albums.Colorado Crush owner John Elway won his first Arena Bowl this June, nurturing his expansion team from a loser to a champion in just three seasons. Bon Jovi frontman Jon Bon Jovi – a self-described football nut – bought a majority stake in the expansion Philadelphia Soul two years ago and has since turned the team into the league’s most profitable.Hernreich has yet to have any contact with either owner but said, judging by the success the two have had during their short tenure in the front office, he feels confident in his investment in the Rattlers.He plans to run the team the same way he runs the Kings with brothers Joe and Gavin Maloof.”I’m going to be very active, very visible,” he said. “I’m going to immerse myself with this. The biggest thing is building an organization. It was part of the Suns organization, and now there is no organization per se for them. I’m going to have to start from scratch. Building an organization is not what I do best, but I’ll suffer through it. It’s a great market for football and they have rabid fans, which is what I like. “Step 1 in the rebuilding process, Hernreich said, is to attend AFL University in August. He said the conference will be an orientation of sorts.
“I’m taking my entire staff to it,” he said. “They suggest practices and share ideas. I expect to learn considerably more through that.”He also plans to work closely with Rattlers GM Gene Nudo, a pioneer in the league who has a record of success.Hernreich made his fortune through a number of business ventures but said his ownership roles with the Kings and the Rattlers are what comprise most of his time now.”When I moved to Vail in ’84, I pretty much took 10 years off to raise my kids,” Hernreich said. “I was pretty much retired. Now I’m back to work.” Previously, he was the chairman and chief executive officer of Sigma Broadcasting Company, formerly Arkansas’ largest television and radio station group. He was also chairman of United States Repeating Arms, the maker of Winchester sporting firearms.Currently, Hernreich is co-owner of Remonov & Company Inc., a development and real estate company in Edwards. He is also a trustee of Washington University in St. Louis and is on the board of directors of K2 Inc.Hernreich said his four children – daughters Ashley, Jesse and Beth and son Ben – are excited about his ownership roles, but he also said they give him some ribbing from time to time.
“They’re kind of stunned by the whole thing,” he said. “They say, ‘Why are you doing this, Dad?’ I told them I’m trying to get in a business that’s never going to be obsoleted by technology. I’m trying to protect your future. Basketball has been a great investment. It’s probably one of the best investments I’ve ever made. Of course, there’s a vanity aspect to it, as there is in any pro sports, but it’s really been a terrific financial investment.”To summarize kids, the old man hasn’t lost his marbles. He knows when to play his chips.”I’m gonna give (the Rattlers) everything I’ve got,” Hernreich said. “I’m going to be very involved and I’m putting together a first-class staff. I have put some people on the ground that I’m so fortunate to have. I can’t wait to get this thing cranked up.”Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Vail, Colorado