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TAKASHI OKUBO, WE HARDLY KNEW YOU! DEAL REACHED IN TAMPA
Published May 19, 1998
Arthur Williams, a retired insurance "magnate" living in Palm Beach, FL, signed a purchase agreement on Monday to acquire the Lightning, rights to the Ice Palace and adjacent waterfront land, according to Ira Kaufman of the TAMPA TRIBUNE. While the team "had been expected to sign off" on a $130M offer by Pistons Owner William Davidson, Williams "tendered a bid this weekend deemed more attractive" by the team's Majority Owner, Takashi Okubo. Kaufman writes that sources close to the negotiations indicate the purchase price "mirrored Davidson's figure, but there are virtually no contingencies listed" in Williams' bid, while Davidson's "was linked to the modification of Lightning contracts with lenders and vendors." The league will conduct due diligence on Williams and is expected to vote on his offer on June 25 in Toronto (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 5/19). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones reports that Williams, whose net worth is estimated at $400M, agreed to pay $120M for the franchise and arena. The deal "concludes a two-year search" to find a buyer for the team "that is more than" $102M in debt. Lightning President & CEO Chuck Hasegawa: "Art Williams offered the most financially sound proposal of any of the groups who pursued the team." Williams was traveling in Europe and was not present during the announcement (ST. PETE TIMES, 5/19). THE MOTOWN BLUES? Pistons President Tom Wilson said that Davidson expected to have a deal Monday: "It was a complete surprise to us. There was no indication this was coming. ... It seems that they took our offer and went out and shopped it around. We never played poker with them, we never played hardball, and we were very straight with them. ... I just hope now this is good for the community. I'm not sure, though" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 5/19). More Wilson: "We were very, very surprised" (DETROIT NEWS, 5/19). ART OF A DEAL: Williams founded A.L. Williams & Associates in '77 and built the company "into the largest seller of individual life insurance" in the U.S. (ST. PETE TIMES, 5/19). He sold to Primerica in '89 for "about" $99M and has been retired since. He was an unsuccessful suitor for the Bucs in '94 and owned the CFL Birmingham franchise for one year before it folded in '95 (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 5/19). In St. Pete, Robert Trigaux calls Williams "charismatic and controversial," and adds that his "apparent ability to motivate people who work for him could serve him well" as the Lightning's owner. Republicans in GA and FL have "even considered backing" Williams as a potential candidate for Governor. But "his longstanding contempt for politicians and his affection for blunt language make even his supporters wary of political ventures" (ST. PETE TIMES, 5/19). In Tampa, Tom McEwen calls the agreement a "good deal all around. Or, so it appears to be" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 5/19). Also in Tampa, Roy Cummings notes that Lightning GM Phil Esposito is "expected to stay on" through the June 27 entry draft, "if not permanently" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 5/19).