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MEC SAYS JETS DEAL IS DEAD; BETTMAN UNDER FIRE AGAIN
Published April 28, 1995
The Manitoba Entertainment Complex, the group attempting to buy a majority share of the Jets before May 1 in order to keep the team in Winnipeg, said yesterday that the deal was dead after the NHL "suddenly imposed" unacceptable conditions. MEC Chair John Loewen told a crowd gathered to hear about the new arena the group wants to build that "the NHL has sabotaged" the MEC's proposal (Nick Martin & John Douglas, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 4/28). THE DEMANDS: Toronto GLOBE & MAIL's David Roberts explains the NHL's three conditions: 1) The MEC cannot sell the team until they had lost at least C$25M; 2) The MEC would have to pay a C$50M transfer fee if the team leaves before '99; 3) The MEC cannot secure debts exceeding the value of the team -- currently placed at C$50M. Roberts writes that the MEC had planned to buy majority owner Barry Shenkarow's shares for C$32M and build a new arena for C$122M. They were also asking for city, provincial and federal governmental funding of up to C$130M in land, loans and guarantees. If the team could not turn a profit in a new arena, they "planned to flip the franchise and repay the taxpayers for their arena investment." Roberts reports that the NHL "wants to prevent teams from transferring to lucrative U.S. expansion markets" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/28). BLAME BETTMAN: Canadian reports place the blame for the failed deal heavily on NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. This morning, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Columnist Brian Cole urges fans to fax a coupon to Bettman demanding he reconsider the conditions. Text: "Dear Gary: Hockey is CANADA'S game. I want the NHL to drop the conditions imposed on the MEC and let Manitobans decide whether the Jets will stay in Winnipeg." Bettman's fax number is included (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 4/28). Winnipeg Mayor Susan Thompson: "Mr. Bettman has said here's the reality of the NHL, here's what it takes to play in the big league -- if you're not in the big league -- then out" (David Roberts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 4/28). THERE'S STILL TIME: MEC officials said they will not concede the team until Monday's deadline, leaving WINNIPEG FREE PRESS writer Scott Taylor to believe there is still hope for a deal. Taylor writes, "This soap opera isn't over." Taylor suggests that the MEC's refusal to agree to keep the team in town until 2005 and not to move the team until it loses C$25M is motivated by their desires for a "risk-free deal." Taylor: "Since when were losses during the next two years, a long-term commitment to Winnipeg and rising player salaries big news" (WIN. FREE PRESS, 4/28). HEADED FOR 'SOTA? In Minneapolis, Jay Weiner examines a possible Jets move to the Target Center. Among the questions: Can the team survive as second to the T-Wolves at the Target Center? (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/28).