SBD/February 28, 2011/Franchises

Two Groups Said to Be Interested In Hawks, Thrashers, Philips Arena

Two groups seeking ownership of Thrashers would keep team in Atlanta
There are “two investment groups that are progressing in an effort to buy the Hawks, Thrashers and Philips Arena and will keep the Thrashers in Atlanta,” according to sources cited by Chris Vivlamore of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. A deal is “not close in either case as proper paperwork has not been filed to begin serious negotiations.” However, at least “one group has met with the officials from the NBA and the NHL.” One group has “one main investor with others in the group, some of whom are from Atlanta.” The group is “not only interested in purchasing the three properties but there is a ‘development element’ to the deal, possibly involving the area around the arena.” Sources said that it would “take at least a month to complete their due diligence on the proposal and at least another month to complete negotiations.” Vivlamore noted neither group is involved with Lightning Pictures CEO and Atlanta native Stephen Rollins, who reportedly was interested in the Thrashers (AJC.com, 2/25). ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside reported although there have been a “number of parties examining the ownership situation in Atlanta, it's believed the NHL is also looking at a possible relocation scenario with the Thrashers if a viable ownership group cannot be found to either invest in the team or buy it outright from current owners the Atlanta Spirit Group and keep it in Atlanta.” One of the “major drawbacks to keeping the team in Atlanta is the lack of any kind of subsidies a la Glendale that would be attractive to potential buyers.” Possible investors are “being vetted but no offers have been made for the team” (ESPN.com, 2/25).

CLOCK IS TICKING: The GLOBE & MAIL’s Paul Waldie noted the City of Glendale is “ratcheting up pressure” for the sale of the Coyotes to be finalized, but the “tactics haven’t worked and have only raised questions about whether the deal will go ahead.” The sale has “dragged on for months with no end in sight.” The NHL is “trying to sell the club for $170-million to Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer but the deal can’t close until Glendale completes” a $116M bond offering (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/26). NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that the league “has established no deadline for the sale of the bonds.” Sources indicated that they “expect the deal will close, just not as soon as had been anticipated.” ESPN.com’s Burnside noted while the league “may not have imposed a deadline, the reality remains that the NHL does not have infinite patience with the City of Glendale.” The league “has a number of ownership balls in the air and a resolution in Arizona, one way or another, is believed to have a direct impact on how the NHL proceeds in other markets.” If the bond sale “does not begin in a timely fashion, the NHL at some point will move to exercise its right to relocate the team.” If that happens, sources said that the $25M Glendale committed to the NHL to cover operating losses this season “would be lost, as would the anchor tenant in an arena built with government funds” (ESPN.com, 2/25).
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