Filmmaker Rollins Part Of Investment Group Looking At Buying Thrashers
L.A.-based Lightning Pictures CEO Stephen Rollins, an Atlanta native, Thursday said that he has "well-funded support in his ongoing interest to purchase the Thrashers," according to Charles Odum of the AP. Rollins said that he is "working with a large investment firm which has interest in 'various teams,' including the Thrashers." Rollins: "We're hoping to move forward in the near future. With the state of the economy, nobody wants to rush into anything." Rollins noted that his group is "cautiously seeking 'adequate data' on the team's finances." Rollins: "The only issue now is getting correct numbers because we've gotten like five different sets of figures." He added the investment group's CEO "wants the numbers certified." Rollins said that he has "met with a group representing the Thrashers' owners" and with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Rollins said that Bettman "stressed he wants the team to remain in Atlanta." Bettman said that there are "no plans to do anything with the Thrashers right now." He conceded it is a "struggle right now" for Thrashers and Hawks Owner Atlanta Spirit "with respect to both of the franchises." Bettman: "The basketball team isn't in much different shape than the hockey team. With all the problems that they've had and the ownership issues that they've had, maybe it's not a surprise. Hopefully they can find a way to right it, but it has been a struggle for them" (AP, 2/17).
NAMING RIGHTS WON'T PREVENT MOVE: In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz noted Atlanta Spirit in the past has suggested that the $10M annual deal for naming rights to Philips Arena was "tied to having two tenants," but Thrashers President Don Waddell now "claims that's not the case." Waddell said that if the Thrashers leave, the ownership group "merely receives a reduced pro-rated amount." Schultz wrote the Thrashers' situation is "tearing up the insides" of Bettman. He "doesn't want to be the guy who allowed Atlanta to lose an NHL franchise for the second time," but he "knows it's a horrible situation created by horrible ownership." There is "no incentive for an outsider to purchase only the hockey team and keep it in Atlanta." And there is "no market right now for the Spirit to sell both teams and the arena rights, even though both have been on the market for at least two years" (AJC.com, 2/17).