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MLG CEO Steve Stavro was handed "another setback" in his bid to hold onto the Maple Leafs and its arena, according to William Houston of the GLOBE & MAIL. On Friday, an Ontario judge certified a lawsuit against Stavro and his acquisition company, MLG Ventures, as a class-action proceeding. The decision means that MLG shareholder Gwen Maxwell, who brought suit against Stavro and MLG Ventures, will represent all Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. stockholders who sold their shares to MLG Ventures, based on the company's public offering of April, 1994. Among the complaints is that Stavro may have misrepresented the stock value of Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. Maxwell is seeking C$13.6M in damages on behalf of all former MLG Ltd. shareholders who sold their stock to MLG Ventures. The Ontario Public Trustee also is suing Stavro to have his purchase of the MLG Ltd. shares belonging to the Harold Ballard estate, about 60% of the company's total stock, cancelled. That case is scheduled to go to trial in September (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 4/29).
Prospective IHL owner Greg Toole "hasn't given up his dream" of putting a franchise in San Antonio for next season, according to Tim Griffin in yesterday's SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS NEWS. Toole has reportedly met with every City Council member and has had "extensive" negotiations with Alamodome manager Mike Abington. Toole: "The point where we would stop for this coming season is fast approaching. But it's not here yet. There could be a lot of shifting in the next 30 days." Some City Council members, however, say that the city is taking a "cautious attitude" towards a new team -- due to the fact that the CHL Iguanas already play in the city (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS NEWS, 4/30). SHARKS KEEP BLADES -- FOR NOW: The Sharks announced last week that they will maintain their arrangement with the IHL K.C. Blades for at least one more season. According to Sharks' Dir of Hockey Ops Dean Lombardi, they have agreed to another one-year deal, but he also said the Sharks "will take a look" at the AHL as a "possible alternative" when the deal expires (Mike Weaver, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 4/30).
Talks to keep the Jets in Winnipeg "continued during the weekend but no one appeared especially optimistic a deal could be salvaged by midnight tonight -- the deadline given by Jets owners to complete an ownership transfer and arena deal," according to this morning's Toronto GLOBE & MAIL. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman arrived in Winnipeg over the weekend with a police escort after fans "responded angrily" to reports that a deal between Jets Owner Barry Shenkarow and the Manitoba Entertainment Complex, a local ownership group seeking majority interest in the team and a new arena, was "scuttled" due to league-imposed conditions. That leaves it up to Shenkarow "to cut a last-minute deal with government and other private interests in an effort to gain financing for a new hockey arena." Bettman met with Shenkarow, Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon, federal Human Resources Minister Lloyd Axworthy, Winnipeg Mayor Susan Thompson and local business leaders, after which officials "were pinning their hopes" on Axworthy's ability to convince the federal government to consider a C$30M contribution toward the arena and a C$16M operating loan for the team (David Roberts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/1). CAN IT BE DONE? MEC Chair John Loewen: "Everyone is feeling much better about the short- and medium-term future of the team -- it's the longer-term prospects that we are trying to deal with now" (CANADIAN PRESS, 5/1). BARRY, BARRY, HE'S OUR MAN: If there is a deal, according to Scott Taylor and John Douglas of the WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, "it will be with Shenkarow's cooperation. The ownership will not be changing; it will be expanding, with Shenkarow likely staying on as the club's governor to the NHL." Government loans of C$44M -- C$14M each from the province and the city and C$16M from Ottawa -- will reduce MEC's annual interest payments on the building from C$6M to about C$2.5M (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/1). MEC's Bob Silver: "The NHL wants to see leadership, someone who wants to play hockey. ... We need a player and Barry Shenkarow knows the hockey game at the corporate level better than anyone in Winnipeg" (John Douglas, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 4/29). FAX FIGHT: The NHL released a copy of the April 26 letter from NHL Senior VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash to the MEC, in response to "erroneous reports" that the NHL's conditions were new to the group. The release notes that the conditions were first laid out in an April 13 meeting between Pash and the MEC (NHL). In Winnipeg, Scott Taylor writes that Bettman was "ravaged" by Loewen and Thompson for trying to make sure that MEC has enough money to buy the team, build the arena and operate both for 10 years. "There is still some question today as to whether the MEC's ownership group is capable of doing that and it's not Bettman's fault" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 4/29). POINTS SOUTH, AND WEST? Should the Jets move, the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE reports United Healthcare Corp. Founder and former CEO Richard Burke emerged as the "first serious bidder" to bring the team to the Twin Cities. Any new hockey owner in MN will have to negotiate a lease with T-Wolves Owner Glen Taylor and Ogden Corp., which manages the Target Center. Taylor, who said he has not aligned with any possible MN groups, was open to the idea of joining an NHL ownership group. Other possible bidders: A group led by former Nuggest President Tim Lieweke; the Naegele family, owners of a billboard advertising "empire"; and stockbroker Ed Villaume (Jay Weiner, Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/29). IHL Knights President Jay Adler denied reports that the Jets were headed to Atlanta, citing his exclusive lease with The Omni for '95-96. According to Louis Mayeaux of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, Turner Broadcasting "would like an NHL team for Atlanta, but not before a new arena is built to replace the Omni" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 4/28). ESPN's Linda Cohn reported that if the Jets move, "word is the league would like it to stay West. Portland and Phoenix among the sites mentioned." Cohn reported that Minnesota "may not have deep enough pockets to satisfy the NHL" ("SportsCenter," 4/28).
The Pirates' economic woes and troubled sale are examined by Stephen Baker in the current issue of BUSINESS WEEK. Sources close to the city government say the problem that the city and the team's current owners have had on agreeing on a buyer "grows from a flap" between Mayor Tom Murphy and PPG Industries Chair Vincent Sarni. While Murphy has backed Adelphia Communications Chair John Rigas' $85M bid, Sarni and other Pirate owners have solicited bid from others, including Orlando's Norton Herrick. While PNC Bank, Carnegie Mellon Univ. and Mellon Bank are among those in the Pirates group backing local ownership, PPX and USX are open to outside bids. One observer "thinks the best thing for the Pirates would be for Sarni to get the top job at W.R. Grace & Co., a post he's being considered for, and leave the baseball negotiations" (BUSINESS WEEK, 5/8 issue). A'S TO STAY AT COLISEUM: The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Board of Directors "unanimously authorized" Coliseum President George Vukasin to sign an agreement to keep the A's in Oakland through 2004. The deal is expected to be finalized early this week. In the agreement, Stephen Schott and Kenneth Hofmann, who are negotiating to buy the team, agree to play at the Coliseum for nine years plus a three-year renewal option (Oakland Alameda-County Coliseum). UEBERROTH BID STILL ON: Former MLB Commissioner Peter Ueberroth is "moving ahead" with efforts to buy the Angels, according to Tracy Ringolsby in Denver. Ueberroth: "We're working hard and diligently, but I don't want to establish a timetable that I might not be able to meet and would be counter- productive" (ROCKY MOUNTIAN NEWS, 4/30). NORTHERN VA GROUP STILL HOPEFUL: William Colllins and his Virginia Baseball Club, Inc., said that he's "prepared to play the waiting game" in order to attract a team to Northern VA. Collins feels if a current team is going to move, it won't be until June or July. Among the teams Collins cites as "potentially moveable": Pirates, Expos and Mariners (Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON POST, 4/29). VIVA BEISBOL: ESPN's Peter Gammons said the Padres' use of Fernando Valenzuela to attract Hispanic-American and Mexican fans is "an attempt to really find out once and for all if San Diego can make it" ("Baseball Tonight," 4/30).