Mr. Snider was an intensely loyal and passionate leader in both his business endeavors and philanthropic causes. He was a man who lived the American dream, building from scratch many successful businesses, founding a professional hockey team and creating a legacy that will positively impact others for many years to come.
Mr. Snider was a hard-working entrepreneur who had a vision to bring hockey to Philadelphia. The story began in 1966 when he persuaded the National Hockey League (NHL) to grant one of six planned expansion franchises to Philadelphia, even though the league had already decided on the new cities and Philadelphia was not among them. Mr. Snider never met a challenge he didn’t think he could tackle and so he mortgaged his house, convinced the NHL that Philadelphia would support the Flyers and promised to build a new arena for both hockey and the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers. Mr. Snider was persuasive, and a new era in Philadelphia sports history was launched.
Mr. Snider was born in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 1933 to Sol and Lillian Snider. He spent most of his teenage years working in his father’s three grocery stores, where his father preached: “If you don’t do anything, you can’t do anything wrong.” He took great pride in performing even the most menial of tasks to perfection, and it was there that he learned the value of earning money for a job well done.
He graduated from Calvin Coolidge High School in 1951, and from the University of Maryland in 1955 with a degree in accounting. He earned his CPA and went to work for a public accounting firm where his first assignment was to prepare the business tax return for the owner of a gas station. After seeing what the owner earned compared to his own salary, Mr. Snider immediately resigned his position.
Mr. Snider then began his career as an entrepreneur. He and a friend started Edge, Ltd, a pioneer in a new way of selling surplus “45” recordings near the check-out counters in grocery and similar stores – a practice that came to be known as “rack jobbing.” Within three years, Mr. Snider became a founding member of the National Association of Record Merchandisers (NARM) – known today as The Music Business Association
In 1964, Mr. Snider moved his family from Washington, D.C. to Wynnewood, PA, and became the Vice President of Business Affairs for the Philadelphia Eagles Football Club. Soon after, Mr. Snider was introduced to the sport of ice hockey and when he saw a long line of people waiting to purchase standing room only tickets for a Bruins game at the Boston Garden, he recognized an opportunity and fell in love with the game and organized an investor group to bid for an NHL extension club.
FLYERS AND SPECTRUM
Mr. Snider and his partners obtained a lease from the City of Philadelphia for a parcel in South Philadelphia, and “The Spectrum” arena opened in time for the Flyers’ 1967-68 inaugural season. Just prior to its opening, Mr. Snider and his partners agreed to a split in which Mr. Snider obtained complete control of the Flyers and relinquished all of his interest in the Spectrum. Not long into the Flyers’ inaugural season, The Spectrum fell into bankruptcy. In 1972, Mr. Snider presented a reorganization plan to the court whereby he would assume control of the arena and pay all of the arena’s creditors in full, dollar for dollar. Two years after the plan was approved, in 1974, the Flyers became the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup. The Spectrum became known as “America’s Showplace” hosting sports, concerts and family events. The “Broad Street Bullies,” as the Flyers came to be known, repeated as champions the following year. So began the long-term love affair between Mr. Snider, his adopted city of Philadelphia and the Flyers.
One of Mr. Snider’s mantras was “take what you do well and grow it.” That’s exactly what he did when he took the Flyers/Spectrum model and scaled it to become the new industry of public assembly facility management.
Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the National Hockey League said of Mr. Snider, “One of the things that made him such a compelling, important and successful owner is he has been able to evolve the way the game and the business has evolved. He has been very progressive while adhering to basic principles that have been important to him and the game.”
The Flyers and The Spectrum became the foundation of Spectacor, the sports and entertainment company he created in 1974. Mr. Snider created PRISM, one of the nation’s first regional sports television networks, that would show the home games of the Flyers, 76ers, and Phillies, as well as first-run Hollywood movies. PRISM was sold in 1983. In 1979, Mr. Snider created Spectacor Management, Inc. (SMI), in order to scale the arena management expertise Spectacor developed at the Spectrum. SMI was later merged with another early entrant in the facility management business and Spectacor Management Group (SMG) was founded.
In 1987, Mr. Snider and partners purchased WIP-AM, a talk radio station in Philadelphia. He quickly changed its format to all sports, and the station became the “go-to” place for everything related to Philly sports talk, as well as the radio home of the Flyers and the 76ers. WIP radio was sold to CBS Radio in 1993.
In 1994, Spectacor broke ground on a new, privately financed, state-of-the-art arena in South Philadelphia which is today known as the Wells Fargo Center. Shortly before the arena opened in 1996, Mr. Snider created a joint venture between Spectacor and the Comcast Corporation. In that deal, Comcast acquired the Philadelphia 76ers Basketball Club and, when combined with the Flyers and the arena, the new Comcast Spectacor business was formed. Comcast Spectacor then partnered with the Philadelphia Phillies to form Comcast SportsNet, the first of a nationwide group of regional sports networks now owned by NBC Sports.
When Mr. Snider sold his interest in SMG in 1997, the firm was the world’s largest public assembly facility management company. In 2000, Comcast Spectacor re-entered the facility management business with the formation of Global Spectrum. That same year, Comcast Spectacor partnered with Leisure and Recreation Services, Inc. to form a new concession and fine dining services company named Ovations Food Services. In 2003, Mr. Snider added ticketing capabilities to the Comcast Spectacor line up with the acquisition of Paciolan, a ticketing and fan engagement software-company owned by Ticketmaster. The company used this new platform to also launch New Era Tickets. Today all of these entities are part of one integrated business, Spectra. Spectra, together with the Flyers and the Wells Fargo Center, comprise Comcast Spectacor’s three primary businesses The Flyers are one of the top all-time winningest teams in NHL history. The Wells Fargo Center is a perennial top five arena in North America and Spectra has over 300 clients in 400 global properties. The company also operates Xfinity Live! and the Flyers Skate Zone public ice skating facilities.
Mr. Snider had a long history of supporting educational and civic causes which fostered his values of integrity, honesty and hard work. He used his entrepreneurial talent to create new models in philanthropy that were quickly recognized and replicated by his peers in the industry. Over 40 years ago, he created the Flyers’ Wives Charity. Since its inception, this public charity has contributed over $28 million dollars to support numerous Philadelphia’s youth organizations and the medical community. The Flyers Wives’ Carnival, involving all of the Philadelphia Flyers’ players and their wives or girlfriends, is a team tradition since 1977 and is the most successful team-related charitable event in the National Hockey League.
Mr. Snider, through his private family foundation, The Snider Foundation, has made significant contributions to many non-profit organizations. In addition to enriching local communities, The Snider Foundation supports organizations that preserve and protect the American values of limited government, individual and economic liberty and free markets, which he credited with affording him the opportunity to achieve success in his business career. In 2014, Mr. Snider and the Snider Foundation established the Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets at the University of Maryland, his alma mater. After reading the novel Atlas Shrugged in the early 1980’s, Mr. Snider founded the Ayn Rand Institute in 1985. That same year, he also endowed the Sol C. Snider Entrepreneurial Research Center at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in honor of his father. Mr. Snider was passionate about ensuring the survival of Jewish people and the importance of fighting anti-Semitism. The Snider Foundation has provided significant support to the Simon Wiesenthal Center over many years including a new Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem.
Undoubtedly, Mr. Snider’s most enduring legacy is the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, which he founded in 2005 with the mission to build lives and unite communities. The Foundation provides underserved youth from the inner city with a fully-funded opportunity to play a sport that would otherwise be very difficult to afford. Continuing participation in the hockey program requires the commitment to staying in school, maintaining a specified grade-point average and participating in an almost daily array of activities.
These activities include homework help and other academic and social support in order to learn and embrace other essential life skills. Mr. Snider matched every dollar donated by the community with two dollars of his own. The Foundation funds and administers programming for more than 3,000 boys and girls at nine inner-city sites. The Foundation also recently partnered with the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to complete a $14 million construction project in which four public rinks, slated for closure, were completely refurbished for year-round use.
Virlen Reyes, a 2011 Snider Hockey graduate and now an employee in Comcast Spectacor’s Spectra said: “I really didn’t have any hope in life, but everything changed the day I found the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation. I’m just one of the many, many children Mr. Snider has changed positively and proudly.”
Mr. Snider received numerous awards and honors recognizing his business success, philanthropic endeavors and community involvement. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988 and to the US Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011. In 1999 Philadelphia Daily News named Mr. Snider Philadelphia’s Greatest Mover and Shaker of the Millennium.
Mr. Snider is survived by his wife Lin, by Craig, Jay (Terry), Lindy (Dr. Larry Kaiser) and Tina, the four children from his marriage to the late Myrna (Gordon), and by Sarena and Sam, his children from his marriage to Martha McGeary, and by 15 grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister, Phyllis Foreman and a former wife, Christine Decroix.
Contributions in Mr. Snider’s memory may be made to the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation or Flyers Charities.