SBD/Issue 60/Franchises

NHL Franchise Notes: Thrashers Confident Team Is Staying Put

Thrashers Still Seeking New Investors Or New
Owner; Future In Atlanta Still Up In The Air

ESPN.com's Scott Burnside noted the "search continues for new investors or a buyer for the Atlanta Thrashers, but team president Don Waddell believes the NHL will not allow the team to be moved to Canada." Waddell said, "I don't believe Gary Bettman's going to allow someone to come in and buy it and move it." But Burnside noted that is "not to say the team's future in Atlanta is assured." The team's attendance "continues to sit near the bottom of the league, and current ownership has been embroiled in a lengthy internal legal battle between different factions within the original group that bought the team." It is "believed the Thrashers could be purchased for a bargain basement price -- say somewhere in the $125 million neighborhood -- if a prospective owner was willing to keep the team in Atlanta" (ESPN.com, 12/6).

PASSING THE TORCH: The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts reported the NHL BOG yesterday "approved the sale" of Flames investor Harley Hotchkiss' 22% stake in the team. Hotchkiss' shares, "which are being sold as an estate-planning move, will be purchased by the other partners in the club." Hotchkiss, 83, said that he "approached his partners about a year ago and told them at that time that he was facing a medical challenge." Hotchkiss: "I believe I'll fight my way through it, but it got me to thinking about what to do with my Flames interests and what to do about my long-range estate planning. This is a result of that" (GLOBESPORTS.com, 12/6).

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote there is "probably nobody in the United States hoping George Bush's tax cuts for the rich are extended beyond Jan. 1 more" than Sabres Owner Tom Golisano. Sources said that East Resources President & CEO Terry Pegula has "signed a letter of intent to buy the Sabres," and part of the tax plan for the sale "has to do with capital gains." Under the Bush tax cuts, Golisano would have to pay only about 15% federal taxes "on the money he makes from the sale of the Sabres," but if the tax cuts ended, he "would owe somewhere in the neighborhood" of 35% in capital gains tax. Campbell wrote it "probably behooves Golisano to get this done as early as possible," which is why there could be an announcement on the sale "before Dec. 31" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 12/6).

IN OR OUT? In Dallas, Mike Heika wrote if the group of lenders running the Stars "believe they can maintain ownership into the summer, then they need to step up and become the owners of the team." They "need to give a face to their group and tell the fans there is a plan in place." The lenders interviewed former Ducks and Nationals President Tony Tavares "and are considering making him an interim president or CEO." Potential Stars buyers and the lenders also are "still talking and hoping they can ... find the right price at some point, but that's not something that seems to be close to happening." Heika wrote, "It just seems the team needs to go one direction or the other" (DALLASNEWS.com, 12/6).

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