SBD/19/Franchises

TAKASHI OKUBO, WE HARDLY KNEW YOU! DEAL REACHED IN TAMPA

          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).  

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