Oren Koules is putting the finishing touches on a plan to buy out Len Barrie as co-owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning and hopes to present it to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in less than a week, according to a league source.
Koules, 48, is close to making a deal with the former owner of the Lightning, Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson, to increase his financing in order to buy out Barrie's 35-per-cent share of the franchise. When Koules, Barrie and several smaller partners bought the Lightning in June of 2008 from Davidson, he essentially took back a mortgage that covered about half of the $206-million (all currency U.S.) purchase price.
After Koules and Barrie could no longer co-exist as owners, Bettman gave each the opportunity to buy out the other in order to bring peace to a franchise that has had more than its share of ownership turmoil since joining the NHL in 1991. Barrie was given the first opportunity to put together a buyout, but his serious financial troubles with his Bear Mountain real estate development in Victoria hampered his efforts.
An NHL source said Barrie told Bettman he could not manage a buyout and would have to withdraw. However, Barrie denied this, saying he is still talking to Anthony Sansone Jr., a St. Louis real-estate developer, about joining him in the buyout. But NHL sources say there is no sign of a deal.
"Well, I haven't pulled out yet,"' Barrie said. He added that he is "still dealing with the guy from St. Louis," as well as "a couple other groups."
Koules, citing a gag order imposed by Bettman on the situation, declined to comment. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly also declined to comment.