SBD/Issue 181/Franchises

Multiple Groups Reportedly Looking At Buying, Moving Thrashers

Current Ownership Unlikely To Agree To
Move Thrashers Out Of Atlanta
Multiple investor groups, including one from Winnipeg, have "explored the potential of buying the Thrashers and moving them out of Atlanta," according to sources cited by Scott Burnside of ESPN.com. However, there are a "number of factors that likely mean the team will remain in Atlanta for the foreseeable future." The Atlanta Spirit ownership group is "actively looking for new investors to essentially cover the cost of buying" estranged partner Steve Belkin's 30% stake in the team. In recent weeks, there has been "some discussion about an investor simply buying the team and taking it out of Atlanta, but current ownership is unlikely to agree to that." Philips still owes about $100M in arena naming rights to Atlanta Spirit, but that agreement "stipulates that there be two anchor tenants" at Philips Arena, and that the Thrashers are "one of them." Burnside noted the "implication is that anyone looking to move the team out of Atlanta would have to factor that into the purchase price" (ESPN.com, 6/8).

WELCOME TO MIAMI? TSN's Bob McKenzie said the NHL Panthers' sale to Sports Properties Acquisition Corp. is a "definite maybe." McKenzie noted the sale agreement "still does exist, but there's a major step between the agreement to purchase and actually getting the sale completed, and they're in that gray area right now." McKenzie said the Panthers reportedly are "having some second thoughts about closing the sale with this group." McKenzie: "It could go either way. There are no guarantees it will be sold, but there's certainly a fish on the hook. But whether it gets into the boat or not remains to be seen" ("NHL Live," NHL Network, 6/8).

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