NHL Reinstates Henry Samueli as Owner of Ducks Despite Legal Woes

By Helene Elliott, Los Angeles Times

The NHL reinstated Henry Samueli as owner and governor of the Ducks on Thursday, even though he’s awaiting sentencing for lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission about stock-option backdating at Broadcom Corp., the computer chip maker he co-founded.

Samueli was suspended indefinitely by the NHL after he pleaded guilty to a felony in June 2008. He agreed to a plea bargain that would have spared him jail time but the deal was rejected. Samueli has petitioned the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider reinstating his plea bargain.

Samueli will be sentenced after the trials of two former Broadcom executives, co-founder Henry T. Nicholas III and former chief financial officer William J. Ruehle. Nicholas’ trial is to begin in April. Ruehle’s trial began last month.

Samueli’s wife, Susan, who relinquished her roles with the Ducks in support of her husband, will resume her job as alternate governor. Michael Schulman, who is the Ducks’ chief executive and presided over day-to-day operations during the owners’ absence, will also be an alternate governor.

“We welcome Henry and Susan Samueli back as fully reinstated owners and members of the NHL community,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

NHL executives declined comment on the timing of the decision. Should Samueli be sentenced to prison, the NHL could suspend him again and leave itself open to ridicule.

The Samuelis, who live in Corona del Mar, bought the then-Mighty Ducks from the Walt Disney Co. in 2005. They changed the team’s name, colors, uniforms and management and emphasized involvement in the community. The team has flourished, winning the Stanley Cup in 2007, qualifying for the playoffs each of the last four seasons and filling the Honda Center to 95.2% of capacity.

That changed this season. The Ducks (6-8-2) have slipped near the bottom of the Western Conference, igniting rumors that Coach Randy Carlyle’s job is in jeopardy.

General Manager Bob Murray — who succeeded Brian Burke a year ago, during the Samuelis’ exile — quashed speculation about Carlyle.

“There’s going to be a lot of players going through the turnstiles going out the door before coaches go out the door here. And our players better get that through their thick skulls,” Murray said by phone Thursday.

“That stuff about buying into programs and this and that and stuff I’m reading — you know what, why don’t they try playing better first?”

He also downplayed recent remarks by goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Scott Niedermayer in which they hinted at being unhappy.

Niedermayer told the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger that “it’s a possibility” he would be traded to the Devils before the March 3 trade deadline and rejoin his brother, Rob, if the Ducks don’t reverse course. Murray quashed that too. “He’s going to retire a Duck when he chooses to retire,” Murray said.

Giguere told the Los Angeles Daily News last week he’d rather retire than be a backup, but later said he wants to stay with the Ducks and regain the starting job from Jonas Hiller.

Murray said he’s not angry Giguere wants to play, but said it’s time for the struggling goalie to get his act together. He also said Giguere will get a start during the team’s current trip.

“What Jiggy’s got to do, first and foremost, is help himself and help the hockey team. He’s got to get playing well, like he used to play. He’s in control of that,” Murray said.

“Whoever wins games is staying in the net. . . . We don’t care who.”