Sources in the NHL and the banking community were quick to throw cold water on a report that Calgary oil billionaire Bill Gallacher reached an agreement in principle to buy the Dallas Stars.
A banking source said no deal is in sight and that, in fact, a third bidder for the team is now competing with Gallacher and Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi. It is not known who the third bidder is other than it is not a group led by former Stars president Jim Lites, who dropped out of the running several months ago.
That was echoed by two NHL sources, who both said a winning bidder is not close to being announced.
There is some action in Nashville, though, where the Predators owners are putting what they hope are the finishing touches on a move to buy the 27-per-cent chunk of the team from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Those shares wound up in court with the flameout and subsequent imprisonment for fraud of William (Boots) Del Biaggio.
A source said the owners, led by Predators chairman Tom Cigarran, are working against an Aug. 12 deadline to get releases from the NHL and the City of Nashville from any guarantees Del Biaggio made when he bought the shares, which were once valued at $25-million (all currency U.S.). Cigarran told the Nashville Business Journal in March that the owners hoped to buy the shares at a discount from the $25-million.
The two major concerns are that Del Biaggio guaranteed $40-million of a loan believed to be about $75-million from the merchant bank CIT Group and a buyout provision Del Biaggio received when he bought the 27-per-cent share of the team. That provision allows the holder of the shares to ask the other owners to buy him out for $25-million in October, 2011. If they refuse, the owner of the shares can buy out the other owners for sole control of the team.
It is believed the releases are just a matter of paperwork since the owners reached a new agreement with the city after they stepped in to bail out fellow owner David Freeman, who was no longer financially able to maintain a guarantee with the city related to the Predators.
The CIT Group loan is up for renewal in early December, which could create problems for the Predators. The bank was rocked by the recession and recently parted company with Gordon Saint-Denis, a Montreal native who was in charge of its loans to sports franchises. Finding a new lender is likely to be difficult, since the recession is still lingering.
There is a lot of speculation in Nashville circles about where the owners will get the money to buy the Del Biaggio shares plus the five-per-cent share still held by Del Biaggio's former associate Warren Woo. Cigarran hinted recently that a move to "strengthen the team financially" will be announced shortly.
One name that was mentioned as a potential buyer in the past has come up again - Todd Wagner. He is a friend and former partner of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and recently made headlines in Nashville when he bought more than 200 acres of land in Brentwood, a tony suburb, in order to build a large home.
Officials from the Predators could not be reached for comment.