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Volume 25 No. 28
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RAPTORS UP FOR GRABS AS SLAIGHT ENACTS BUYOUT CLAUSE

     A "battle" for control of the Raptors has "erupted" between
the team's two major owners, Allan Slaight and John Bitove, Jr.,
after Slaight exercised a "shotgun clause" in a shareholder's
agreement that requires Bitove buy Slaight's share of the Raptors
by November 14 or be bought out by Slaight himself, according to
Peter Cheney of the TORONTO STAR.  Both Slaight and Bitove own
39.5% of the Raptors and after the November 14 deadline, one will
own 80%.  Cheney cites "insiders" who say there is "little doubt"
that Slaight will buy out Bitove, "not visa-versa," for between
C$50-85M (TORONTO STAR, 10/19).  Frank Zicarelli of the TORONTO
SUN has the buyout for "about" C$100M.  He adds that the takeover
bid does not involve the Raptors' four minority owners: VP Isiah
Thomas (9%); Bank of Nova Scotia (10%); David Peterson and the
estate of Phil Granovsky (1% each) (TORONTO SUN, 10/19).  Slaight
would not comment on the matter.  Bitove: "I don't know what
we're going to do. ... Until we have a full understanding, I
don't think it would be appropriate to say a lot" (TORONTO STAR,
10/19).
     MOTIVE: "Insiders" speculate Slaight's motive for exercising
the clause is to "get rid of" Bitove, so he can engineer a
"lucrative partnership" with the Maple Leafs to build a shared
arena that would reduce costs for both franchises, according to
Peter Cheney of the TORONTO STAR. November 14 is a week before
ground is to be broken on the Raptors' proposed Air Canada
Centre.  The Maple Leafs hired KC-based architecture firm HOK to
design their facility. Cheney: "Insiders say Bitove was a
potential obstacle to a joint venture between the teams,.  There
is, reportedly, friction between Bitove and the owners of the
Leafs" (TORONTO STAR, 10/19).  John Kernaghan of the HAMILTON
SPECTATOR suggests Bitove may look to the U.S. for financial
assistance, "maybe with help" from VP Isiah Thomas (HAMILTON
SPECTATOR, 10/21).  The TORONTO STAR's Chris Young says Bitove
has "already had conversations" with U.S. catering company Ogden
Entertainment Services, Inc. about "coming to the rescue."  Young
notes NationsBank, which put up part of the financing package for
the proposed Air Canada Centre, could also help Bitove (TORONTO
STAR, 10/20).  Craig Daniels of the TORONTO SUN writes another
"player" to keep in mind is CIBC, "the Bitove family bank."  An
"insider" cited by Daniels: "CIBC would love to come in at a
larger percentage and blow [Raptors 10% Owner The Bank of Nova]
Scotia out as a player" (TORONTO SUN, 10/20).
     REACTION:  Craig Daniels of the TORONTO SUN writes that no
matter the outcome, Slaight will probably "be left sitting
pretty," because either he "ends up with a pot full of cash and
rids himself of a partner he came to dislike" or he gains control
of the Raptors.  Daniels notes if the latter scenario occurs,
Slaight potentially will "spin a big chunk of it --20%" off on
Maple Leafs minority Owner Larry Tannenbaum" (TORONTO SUN,
10/19).