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(David Goldman/Associated Press)
(David Goldman/Associated Press)

Potential St. Louis Blues owner a true man of mystery Add to ...

Max Chambers is getting a lot of attention for a fellow who was quickly dismissed as a prospective NHL owner by the St. Louis Blues.

If you read this story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he sure sounds like a major player in the business world. Makes you wonder why Blues chairman Dave Checketts and Game Plan LLC boss Robert Caporale, who is tending to the sale of the NHL team, would turn down Chambers’s offer of $167-million (all currency U.S.) cold, without even a hint he could get the team if he coughed up just a little more.

Then again, Chambers appears to be an international man of mystery. He told reporters he is from Calgary and the Post-Dispatch reports he is the chief executive officer of companies called Sonoma Equities and Great Northern Capital Partners. Chambers also said former NHL players Bryan Trottier and Bernie Nicholls are involved in his bid. But the only other mention of Trottier came in Andy Strickland’s True Hockey blog when the former player said all he did was call the NHL on Chambers’s behalf to ask what the procedure was for making an offer on a team.

The trouble is, next to no information on either of Chambers’s alleged companies can be found. There were no telephone numbers or addresses available nor was Chambers listed in the telephone directory.

Someone whose business involves checking out potential buyers of professional sports teams said he asked several people in Calgary, including some bankers, about Chambers. No one had ever heard of him.

However, there are lots of mentions of a Max Chambers from Calgary in media reports about failed attempts to buy sports teams going back to 2002. Here are the highlights:

The first mention of Chambers is in 2002 when he announced plans to put a CFL expansion team in London, Ont. He also talked about having the Hamilton Tiger-Cats play an exhibition game and some league games in London first. The Ticats said this was news to them and nothing further was heard.

Chambers’s next known press conference came in Orlando, Fla., in June, 2004 when he announced he was buying the Jacksonville Barracudas and the Orlando Seals, which played in a minor league called WHA2.

Even though the sale had yet to close, Chambers said NHL great Butch Goring would be the head coach and general manager of the Seals and both teams would play in a revived World Hockey Association, which was planned to fill the vacuum of the 2004-05 NHL lockout.

Whoops. A few days later David Waronker, who owned both the Seals and the Barracudas, said he was cancelling the sale. After Chambers agreed to pay $3.4-million for both teams and put up a $100,000 deposit, Waronker said, he failed to pony up the deposit.

Both Chambers and Waronka accused each other of trying to change the terms of the deal before any money changed hands. In the end, Waronka kept both teams and put them in a different minor league. By July, 2004, Chambers dropped out of sight and the idea of a new WHA sputtered along for some months and then died.

Chambers has surfaced from time-to-time – he was a tire-kicker on the Phoenix Coyotes – without getting close to buying anything.

At this point, according to sources close to the Blues sale, Game Plan has only one offer in hand for the team. It is from Blues minority owner Tom Stillman and is thought to be for around $100-million cash and perhaps some additional assumption of debt. That is less than the $120-million Checketts’s holding company, SCP Worldwide, owes Citibank on the Blues, which is why the sale is taking so long.

Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer has an interest in the team although he has not made a formal offer. But he has told Checketts and Game Plan how much he’s willing to pay, so the sale may have a few more laps to go.

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