SBD/30/Franchises

OKUBO SPEAKS, SORT OF: LIGHTNING OWNER ANSWERS MEDIA VIA FAX

          For the first time, Lightning Owner Takashi Okubo
     responded to questions from the Tampa Bay media about the
     team, its financial state and the sale process.  The ST.
     PETE TIMES and the TAMPA TRIBUNE submitted questions for
     Okubo to the Lightning in late March and early April,
     respectively, which were forwarded to him in Japan.  Okubo's
     responses were released by the Lighting yesterday.
          YOU WANT ANSWERS? Okubo, asked about the financial
     state of the Lightning: "The Lightning is losing money, but
     I'll continue to support the team until it is sold" (Tom
     Jones, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 4/30).  Okubo, who has never
     been to Tampa Bay or seen an NHL game in person, on his
     absentee ownership philosophy: "In Japan, owners commit
     their money, then appoint managers to supervise their
     financial holdings.  I have been told that American owners
     do not operate in such a manner.  I suppose it is simply a
     difference in our two cultures."  On recent articles that
     included allegations that Okubo is a "gangster": "From what
     I am told, no one has ever come forward to personally make
     such an accusation.  It's easy to say 'people' or 'they'
     have made accusations.  The people that my company and I
     conduct business with know there is no truth to those
     nameless and faceless accusations" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 4/30). 
          CT SUITOR: Team attorney Stephen Wayne said that a
     potential suitor from CT recently inquired about purchasing
     the Lightning "but was told in strong terms that the team
     could not be relocated from the Ice Palace."  The suitor's
     interest "quickly ended" (Ira Kaufman, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 4/30).
     
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