Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Bolt out of the Blue

Yet another NHL franchise is about to change hands. This time Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie was nowhere to be seen, but another high profile, if slightly less moneyed Canadian was.

Doug McLean, most recently of the Columbus Blue Jackets has found the secret to full employment, when you’ve been fired, go out and buy a business of your own.

In McLean’s case, he’s involved in a consortium to purchase the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The talks with MacLean's Absolute Hockey Enterprises had been taking place for six weeks or so, though the team was never formally placed on the market.

Whatever discussions took place, Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson who bought the Lightning three years ago, must have liked the way the numbers lined up.

Especially after reports came out that the club has lost more than US$70 million under current ownership, and that the only season the club made money was during its championship run of 2004.

MacLean introduced two of his co-owners today, Jeff Sherrin, a Coral Springs real estate developer, and Oren Koules, a Los Angeles TV and movie producer who once played minor league hockey. They will be the apparent face for the additional eight or nine principal owners who will now take ownerships of the Lightning.

MacLean said that there were no plans to change any of the management structure of the Lightning nor to move the team.

It’s interesting that no purchase price has been mentioned as of yet and even more telling perhaps is the fact that Davidson apparently never made mention of his interest in selling to Jim Balsillie, who most recently was spurned by the NHL over the sale of the Nashville Predators.

A quote from Davidson is relayed in the Globe and Mail that may not warm Balsillie’s heart, "But one thing he always said, even to (NHL commissioner) Gary Bettman years ago, is 'I'll know when the time is right. But the one thing I want to promise you is if and when the time comes, we're going to sell it to the right people.”

It would seem that in this case Balsillie “wasn’t the right people”, not even apparently meriting a courtesy call for interest.

For Balsillie’s scorecard, that’s now three teams down and 27 to go in his bid to gain a team for Hamilton.

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