Mark Chipman: who exactly is this man?   4 comments

Who is this man who pulled off the impossible and brought back an NHL team to Winnipeg?  Below is a brief profile of this mover and shaker that has Winnipeg and Manitoba in very high spirits.  He had dreams that have come to fruition and brought Winnipeg back into the major leagues in the North American sports scene once again.

Mark Chipman was born and raised in Winnipeg and
received an Honors BA in Economics as well as a Juris Doctorate in Law from the
University of North Dakota. Upon graduation, Mr. Chipman received his call to
the Florida Bar where he began his practice as an Assistant District Attorney
and later entered a private practice. Mark returned to Winnipeg in 1988 to work for
the Birchwood Automotive Group and assumed the position of President in 1992.
In September of 2001, Mark was named President of Birchwood’s parent the Megill
Stephenson Company.

Mr. Chipman is the Governor of the Manitoba Moose Hockey Club and is a former
Chairman of the Executive Committee of AHL Board of Governors. He is also the
founder and Chairman of True North Holdings Ltd. who recently completed
construction of the MTS Centre in downtown Winnipeg.

Mark has been a member of the board of several community non-profit and
charitable concerns and is currently a member of the United Way of Winnipeg Campaign

He is particularly aware of the importance of minor hockey development having
participated throughout much of his life in the Winnipeg Minor Hockey
Association as both a player and a coach.

The major player has been a company called True North Sports and
Entertainment. The company was created in 2001 by Winnipeg
businessman Mark Chipman and other partners with the aim of building a new
sports and entertainment venue in downtown Winnipeg that could revive the depressed commercial district and possibly attract an NHL team to the city.

The new 15,000-seat complex, named the MTS Centre, opened in 2004 and
became the home of the Manitoba Moose, the AHL team Chipman had brought to Winnipeg after the Jets left in 1996. With that team, which had some of the strongest attendance numbers in the league, True North showed hockey could once again be a successful business venture inWinnipeg.

Billionaire and heir to the Thomson media fortune David Thomson got
involved in True North through his family’s real estate arm, Osmington Inc.,
which owned the land the MTS Centre was built on. Eventually, Thomson and
Chipman bought out the other partners and became the sole owners of True North.

Mark Chipman: founder of True North Sports and Entertainment, the company
that will own the new team and already owns its future home arena, the MTS
Centre, which was built in 2004 to replace the Winnipeg Arena, where the Jets
used to play and which was demolished in 2006. Chipman is president and chief executive of Megill-Stephenson Co. Ltd., a holding company started by his
father, Robert Chipman, that owns several car dealerships.

The company also has stakes in the MTS Centre and the Manitoba Moose, the
farm team for the Vancouver Canucks. The Moose were formerly part of the
International Hockey League before Chipman brought the team to Manitoba
from Minnesota following the Jets’ departure in 1996. He successfully negotiated for the Moose and five other IHL teams to be accepted into the American Hockey League. The Moose have proven to be a big draw for the MTS Centre and have ranked near the top of the league for season and playoff attendance.

Chipman is director of the Hockey Canada Foundation and sits on the boards
of various community organizations. He is married with three daughters and has two brothers, Stephen and Jeoffrey, who are also active in Winnipeg’s
business community and the family holdings. He earned a BA in economics and a law degree from the University of North Dakota. Prior to his return to Winnipeg, he worked as a lawyer in theU.S.

In the picture below is from left to right: Mark Chipman, NHL Chairman Gary Bettman, True North executive Jim Ludlow middle second row, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and True North partner and multi-billionaire David Thomson.

Thomson Reuters chairman and True North co-owner
David Thomson. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)David Thomson: Chairman of
Thomson Reuters, the media conglomerate founded by his grandfather, Roy, in
1934 and later run by his father, Kenneth. With an estimated net worth of $23
billion, Thomson was ranked first on Forbes magazine’s 2011 list of Canadian
billionaires and 17th in the world. Co-chairs the family’s investment concern, Woodbridge, with brother Peter.
Together with Chipman, owns True North Sports and Entertainment. Divorced with
three children. Based in Toronto, Thomson has been more of a silent financial partner rather than being
directly involved in negotiations over the NHL deal.

One day as Chipman, Thomson and former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray sat in a coffee shop they decided to start developing plans. The Moose weren’t enough and they wanted to do much more. They started talking about big plans, like building a fancy arena in the city’s downtown and maybe, just maybe, winning back the NHL one day. “We just thought, ‘What could we do?’” recalled Mr. Murray, who served six years as Winnipeg’s mayor and is now a provincial cabinet minister in Ontario.
“So we started drawing up plans on some of the napkins.”

It took 14 years, but on Tuesday Mr. Chipman finally saw those sketched-out
plans bear fruit with the official announcement that the NHL’s Atlanta
Thrashers will be sold to True North Sports and Entertainment, a company he
founded, and moved toWinnipeg.

“I expected our city would one day again take membership in the NHL,”
Mr. Chipman told a news conference in his usual understated manner.

I guess you could say that True North, our city and our province has received the call we’ve long since been waiting for.”

Mr. Murray said no one else but Mr. Chipman had the patience, the
perseverance and the tenacity to pull it off. “He’s just unflappable. A
steady-as-you-go, honest and unassuming person,” Mr. Murray said.

Mr. Chipman was a passionate hockey fan but at the urging of his father,
Robert, ended up pursuing football instead. “I grew up playing hockey,” Mr.
Chipman said. “I wish I had been a better player than I was. I played until I
was 15 and then my father wisely made a decision for me. I was trying to play
football and hockey and he gently steered me in the right direction.”

The switch to football paid off and Mr. Chipman ended up winning an
athletic scholarship to the University of North Dakota, where he was a
receiver and backup quarterback. He was good enough to merit a tryout with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1983 and even managed to get into one exhibition game before being cut by legendary coach Cal Murphy. “Please don’t think I was any kind of athlete,” Mr. Chipman insisted, playing down his accomplishments.

He knew his athletic limitations well enough to stick to his studies and he
graduated from North Dakota with degrees in economics and law. As a newly minted lawyer, Mr. Chipman headed to Florida where he worked as a criminal prosecutor in Bradenton and Sarasota before returning to Winnipeg in 1988 to join his father’s growing business. His brothers, Jeff and Stephen, had also found their way into business, while his sister, Susan Millican, went into broadcasting.

By the late 1980s the family’s company had interests in real estate,
property development and a collection of around 16 car dealerships. Mr. Chipman joined the auto side, Birchwood Automotive Group, and became president in 1992. He took over the entire family business in 2001.

He also fell in love with the Jets, becoming a long-time season’s ticket
holder and rabid fan. When the club ran into financial trouble and moved to Phoenix in 1996, Mr. Chipman felt crushed. He’d joined a group of businessmen that tried to keep the team in the city, but they simply couldn’t overcome the club’s lousy economics and the city’s lack of a proper arena.

“The huge sticking point was who was going to be the ownership group and
the fact that we didn’t have a new arena,” recalled Susan Thompson, Winnipeg’s mayor at the time.

“When we lost the team, there was just a feeling of frustration and
emptiness,” Mr. Chipman told The Globe and Mail in 1998.

But Mr. Chipman refused to give up. He found an ally in Mr. Murray, who
pushed for a new downtown arena for the Moose after becoming mayor in 1998.
Then he won over David Thomson, whose billionaire family owned several pieces of land around the Eaton’s store on Portage Avenue which closed in 1999 and became Mr. Chipman’s preferred location for the arena.
Mr. Thomson kicked in $5-million, according to Mr. Murray, and became a
critical partner in True North.

By 2004, True North had a new 15,000-seat downtown arena, the MTS Centre,
and had moved the Moose into the American Hockey League where it was affiliated with the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. But the dream of an NHL team in Winnipeg still seemed a long way off.

Then Mr. Chipman got lucky.

That year the NHL locked out its players in a prolonged battle over a new
collective agreement. When the dispute ended in July, 2005, with a new salary
cap that favoured the owners, the economics of having a team in Winnipeg
suddenly looked promising. “We started doing the math and we said we think this is very realistic,” Mr. Chipman said Tuesday.

Mr. Chipman started quietly pressing the league to reconsider Winnipeg. While Jim Balsillie, co-chief executive of Research In Motion, battled the NHL openly to buy a team and move it to Hamilton, Mr. Chipman kept a low profile, constantly making his pitch behind the scenes. His tenacity paid off when the Atlanta Thrashers became available this spring for an estimated $170-million. The sale to True North and the relocation of the club still have to be approved by the league. But even NHL commissioner Gary Bettman suggested Tuesday that it was a done deal.

“Mark has played a stellar role,” Mr. Thomson said Tuesday. “You talk
determination, perseverance, but it’s his humanity. He’s a humble man with
extraordinary belief and he inspires people.”

Ms. Thompson, the former mayor, agreed and said Mr. Chipman is just a nice,
quiet, plodding family guy who never quits. “He’s a good soul,” she said.

With his wife and three daughters standing nearby, Mr. Chipman was
initially at a loss for words when asked how he feels now that the NHL has
returned to Winnipeg. “Well, I’ve been trying to find the correct words,” he said finally. “The ones that best come to mind are I feel very humbled. … There were lots of times I was sure it wasn’t going to happen. But there were more times I thought it was.”

Posted June 11, 2011 by markosun in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

4 responses to “Mark Chipman: who exactly is this man?

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Hi Mark,

    Congradulations and good luck with your success bringing our team back to Winnipeg.

    If you are still looking for a appropriate name for Winnipeg Jet NHL team,
    My suggestions for your kind consideration – “Jet Triumph”


  2. Mark, I was just reading your Bio. and wondering if your grandparents lived on Kingston Row in St. Vital; I ask this because my late husband, Larry Mason, who in 1978 returned to Winnipeg as Senior V.P of Scotiabank’s Manitoba region, always talked of his childhood growing up in St. Vital and mentioning his parents’ (Hal and Grace Mason) good friends, The Chipmans. Larry would be so happy to learn of your accomplishments and would be ecstatic about the return of the Jets to Winnipeg. Good Luck and Congratulations.
    Diana Mason in Toronto

  3. Hey Mark,
    Its been a long way from living above Dakota TV in Grand Forks…Just now saw the article on you in the Alumni Review.
    Often wondered where you have been and what you have been doing. Sounds like you have been and still are the successful person you were at UND. When you get a chance send me you e-mail address so that I can better communicate with you.
    Mike Yacullo, Athletic Trainer
    UND 1984


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: