By JOHN DELL; Philadelphia
Inquirer Staff Writer: September 1st, 1974
Ed Tepper now officially has “full control” of the stock of the Wings’ pro lacrosse team, The Inquirer learned Saturday.
Dave Natale, who was Tepper’s 50-50 partner in the team since its founding last winter, has been forced out.
Natale reluctantly signed away his share less than two weeks ago. The agreement took effect Friday, the day the Wings’ regular season ended.
“Dave has resigned as president to devote full time to his law practice and I have purchased full control,” Tepper confirmed.
A value of about $250,000 has been put on the half interest Tepper owned from the time tlie club was formed. Originally, Natale owned the other half. Later, part of Natale’s holdings were assumed by Judge Don Orlowsky of the Delaware County Common Pleas Court.
Tepper got the Wings franchise when Ed Snider, chairman of the board of the Flyers ice hockey team, recommended him to the founders of the National Lacrosse League, which is winding up its first season.
In search of the $50,000 needed to get the franchise, Tepper, a former Wynnewood builder and developer, turned to his old friend, Natale. Tepper and Natale were 1959 Villanova classmates. Natale has been Tepper’s legal representative and they have been associated in other ventures. When Natale got Orlowsky to come in he ceased being an equal partner. Between them, Orlowsky and Tepper were majority owners. Orlowsky sided with Tepper in the showdown.
Natale said he didn’t go into the Wings as a shortterm investment. He said he thinks the Wings and the league have a bright future. As Wings’ president he was very active in league affairs, being one of three members of the expansion committee.
Tepper will take over as president and will continue as chairman of the board. Orlowsky will be on the board, along with Norman Trienish, former Flyer player Barry Ashbee (who is listed as the team’s vice president), Gilbert Stein (a lawyer for the Flyers) and Tepper’s father, Dr. Maurice C. Tepper. “This is my full-time business,” Ed Tepper said. “I have no plans of bringing in any other partners.”
Both Tepper and Natale denied any personality conflict developed between them. When the battle for control became known Natale said he didn’t want to comment on its causes “for various reasons.” “Maybe some day the whole story will come out,” he said.
Tepper said law suits against Natale over a Marple Township housing development had no bearing on Natale’s bowing out of the Wings.
The Wings have not been a roaring financial success, even though they had about $300,000 in season ticket sales and have been averaging about 8,000 fans a game when they hoped for only around 5,000.
“We’ll be in the red but nothing drastic,” Tepper said. “It depends on how we do in the playoffs. If we’re in the hole $100,000 or $200,000 we should make it up next year.”
Tepper is working on a deal with a national TV network for one of the playoff games (with Philadelphia blacked out) that would bring in added revenue.
Ticket prices, which were $2-3-4-5 during the season, will be raised $1 across the board for the Nations Cup playoffs, which will start with the Wings playing the Maryland Arrows on Wednesday and Thursday nights at the Spectrum.
Tepper will take Natale’s place on the expansion committee, which includes Jim Bishop, coach and general manager of the Toronto Tomahawks, and Tad Potter, president of the Rochester Griffins and owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team.
Tepper said he doesn’t plan any changes in the Wings’ operating personnel.
“I have great confidence in Jack Bionda (general manager), Ken Wood (player personnel director), Bobby Allan (coach) and Don Barrie (assistant coach). I will do all I can to keep them for next year.”
Tepper said he also intends to have the entire Wings* squad live in Philadelphia next season, eliminating the uncertain air commuting from the players’ Canadian homes. When weather delayed their flight the Wings were late for a home game on June 27.
“We will have eight or 10 players living here during the coming off season,” Tepper said.
The entire team is scheduled to stay in town during the playoffs.