No word whether Spirit, True North are in negotiations

It is unclear this morning if the Thrashers have been granted  permission by the NHL to begin negotiations with True North Sports and Entertainment, the entity that would purchase the franchise and move it to Winnipeg, or if those talks have already begun.

However, it does appear the situation is headed in that direction. All attempts to find a buyer with the intention – and wherewithal – to keep the franchise in Atlanta have not moved past the preliminary stage. After signing a non-disclosure agreement for an initial look at team financial records, a prospective buyer must provide proof of the financial assets to complete a sale. No interested party has done so to this point. Time is running out.

As I was told and reported this week, things could move quickly in regard to a sale and relocation. Although, contrary to reports, it won’t get done by this weekend.

There is also no timetable on the possible completion of a deal with True North. It is also not known if such an agreement could be reached in time for next season. The structure for a deal could be in place as True North had first hoped to acquire the Phoenix Coyotes, owned by the NHL, until a resolution was reached to kept the team in Arizona for another season earlier this week. The Glendale City Council voted to pay $25 million to the NHL for operating expenses to keep the team at least for next season.

NHL bylaws require that an owner seeking to relocate a team submit a written application to the commissioner by Jan. 1 of the year preceding the proposed move — “unless a majority of the [clubs] consents to a later filing date.” That clause and caveat leave open the question of whether a move, if a deal is reached, would be for the 2011-12 or 2012-13 season.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, speaking on NHL Live radio Thursday, said the situation in Phoenix differs from Atlanta.

“With respect to any other franchise, it comes down to ownership,” Bettman said. “It’s the reason we ended up leaving Quebec City and Winnipeg. Those teams moved when nobody wanted to own the club there anymore. If you get to that position, where somebody is not prepared to own the club anymore and you can’t find a new perspective purchaser, then you are really between a rock and a hard place.

“We know that the current ownership of the Thrashers has been trying for a long period of time to try and sell the franchise and they haven’t been able to do it. … If they can’t find local ownership, then we might all have to deal with that. But I know they have tried very hard and I assume that they continue to try very hard.”

Bettman echoed deputy commissioner Bill Daly’s statements to the AJC’s Jeff Schultz earlier in the day and would not guarantee that the Thrashers would be in Atlanta next season. Bettman said questions about the team’s future were not his to answer and referred them to team ownership.

393 comments Add your comment

canofpeas

May 13th, 2011
9:45 am

can we get a high schooler here to tweet that they are staying?

Canes fan

May 13th, 2011
9:52 am

Let Winnipeg move the team then get the Coyotes from Glendale when next $25 mill comes due

radeksmom

May 13th, 2011
9:53 am

Chris

May 13th, 2011
9:55 am

What happened to all three parts of ASG being for sale?

Do Gearon and Levenson think that by refusing any bid for all three entities and thus, expelling NHL hockey from Atlanta that they won’t be total PARIAH’s in the community? Yes, some out-of-town carpetbagger could do it. But I don’t think they can remain as visible Hawks’ owners after shafting Atlantans so bad. But I could be wrong.

philbot2020

May 13th, 2011
10:05 am

I’m a die-hard Thrashers fan, season ticket holder, and ASG hater, but is it just as simple as the Thrashers are worth $170M to a billionaire in Winnipeg and only $70M (or less) to Atlanta billionaires? I trust John Kincade’s information, but I believe the ASG were praying that Phoenix wouldn’t move so they could get a chance at True North’s money.

If ASG can get an extra $40M+ for the Thrashers (after paying the relo fee), they will take it. If True North asks for Levenson and Gearon’s moms in the deal, they’re gone too.

And the NHL has their TV deal done, and the deal doesn’t specify that a team must be in ATL so we are screwed. The other owners will gladly waive all the rules in the NHL constitution to pocket a $60M relo fee. Bettman won’t stand in the way for fear of losing his cushy job.

Blue

May 13th, 2011
10:13 am

The worst part of all this for me is that sometime in the near future I get tell my 7-year-old son, who lives and dies over Thrashers hockey, that because a group of grown men (I’m using that term loosely) cannot behave with the maturity I expect from him, the team he loves is gone.

Thanks ASG – nice work.

chc4

May 13th, 2011
10:13 am

This is a done deal.

oldref

May 13th, 2011
10:14 am

Atlanta hockey fans did not fail this franchise, the NHL, inept ownership and piss poor management failed this franchise in Atlanta.

Sad for the true hockey fans in this city, but the reality is the ASG will take True Norths money and run. But I would look out for the litigation that could follow with this group.

Erf

May 13th, 2011
10:15 am

Yankees, Carpetbaggers… jeez, what century is this?

By the way, I’m a native Georgian.

Blue

May 13th, 2011
10:17 am

“But I would look out for the litigation that could follow with this group.”

Here’s hoping they all go bankrupt

Thomas Magnum

May 13th, 2011
10:17 am

The Atlanta Spirit couldn’t have handled this whole thing any worse. It will be a sad day if the Thrashers leave Atlanta and I hate to say that it looks like now it actually could happen. I will NEVER give the Atlanta Spirit a single dollar if this team moves from Atlanta.

shootoutloss

May 13th, 2011
10:18 am

Sad sad sad situation for us Thrash fans.

DowntownATL

May 13th, 2011
10:19 am

Call it relocation, retreat, or whatever the hell you like, but if this team moves from Atlanta to Winnipeg it is contraction.

SportsFan

May 13th, 2011
10:22 am

Not true Downtown.

[...] Journal Constitution:  Unclear if Atlanta Spirit, True North in negotiations.  If the Levenson interview wasn’t clear that there is nobody with which the ASG is locally [...]

DowntownATL

May 13th, 2011
10:28 am

SportsFan. If my market shrinks my business shrinks.

Hockey Fan

May 13th, 2011
10:33 am

If the team does move I will never be a fan of the NHL again. Everyone needs to look on the bright side, at least the Gwinnett Gladiators will be around for another 3 years. Gary Bettman is a tool as well as every other person who runs the NHL. Here’s to hoping that the NHL has a lockout after next season.

SportsFan

May 13th, 2011
10:34 am

What is your market? If this team moves it is theoretically going to a stronger hockey market, no?

Bill

May 13th, 2011
10:34 am

It is NOT a different situation, if there was a buyer for PHX then the NHL would not have had to step in.

Just admit it, you are hanging us out to dry. If this team leaves under these conditions say goodbye to my money, loyalty and fandom NHL.

Long live minor league hockey.

Guffman

May 13th, 2011
10:38 am

From what I understand, the Thrashers are a big money loser and ASG doesn’t want to own them. I guess you can bag on ASG for not putting out a quality, which hurts attendance. But let me ask you guys this… if an Atlanta franchise would thrive if they were given the proper attention by owners, then why has no other local buyer stepped up to realize on that potential?

Big G

May 13th, 2011
10:39 am

Can someone FIRE BETTMAN AND DALY already!!!!! these guys are a joke to the NHL.
People of Glendale, are you guys nuts o subsidize a franchise money losing team. Im glad im not living in Glendale.

rdrunner

May 13th, 2011
10:40 am

Downtown, you are assuming that the entire ATL population and TV market share is at play. It’s not. Same with most other southern markets. The hockey market in WPG is much larger than the hockey market in ATL. Yes, the potential is there for future growth in ATL, just like in Phoenix and most other southern markets, but the pure fact is that nobody in ATL, not even the civic or state gvts seem willing to subsidize this team to stay. If the Spirit can pocket an extra $40M by selling to a group that will move the team, and the NHL blocks that, they could force the NHL to subsidize them. I guess alternately they could put the team in bankruptcy. Bottom line, Spirit sees a $110M value in their franchise and the free market system allows them to pursue that (franchise is not bound to non-relocation agreement like Phx was, don’t forget). It will be interesting to see what the NHL does now. Did they get assurances of $25M from Glendale so that they can now subsidize ATL? Will that appease the BOG? We’ll see…

WisconsinNHL fan.

May 13th, 2011
10:43 am

I feel for you Thrashers fans. Maybe something will happen within the next short period of time, but to me it certainly looks like Bettman and the League are going to step aside when all is said and done and let you move. It bothers me that they are fighting tooth and nail over the Yotes in Phoenix, but seem rather unconcerned in Atlanta. I believe that the league is looking for a way to move a few teams further west and that they’d love to get Detroit, (one of their current crown jewels) into the eastern conference, where they’ll be on primetime television more often. I like seeing a healthy league, and I do believe that teams in Winnipeg or Quebec would be good for the league, (small cities, but loaded with fans). I just don’t think that Atlanta should be moved more if Phoenix is so worth keeping in Arizona.

DowntownATL

May 13th, 2011
10:44 am

The atlanta market is an untapped 5.5M the Winnipeg market is a saturated .6

KLS1

May 13th, 2011
10:45 am

Its the owners…there is nothing we or the NHL can do with these guys pulling the levers.

They have so disenfranchised the fan base here that the team is worth more somewhere else. They will chase the $ from canada and we will pay the price.

Maybe they can open Philips next year to arena football again since the NBA will be on strike and the Thrashers will be moved.

You ASG jokes are going broke, I’m gonna laugh and enjoy it as you continue to squirm trying to get out of the mess you brought on yourselves. Cheers!

rdrunner

May 13th, 2011
10:47 am

But the untapped 5.5 M has spoken… twice. (yes, there are a lot of excuses like poor ownership etc) The Wpg .6M market is saturated and will not grow in any significant way, but the value of a franchise in Wpg is almost double than one in ATL, and the profitability is much stronger. Ironically, it’s a stronger league with Wpg than ATL… especially with other southern teams failing.

Guffman

May 13th, 2011
10:48 am

If Glendale didn’t step in to subsidize the losses, the team would have already been relocated. Glendale almost feels obligated to do that since they spent all that money on an arena, instead of having it sit like a white elephant.

In Atlanta, the government is not interested in subsidizing the team. ASG wants to sell, no one locally wants to buy… so, what do you want the NHL to do?

DowntownATL

May 13th, 2011
10:51 am

rdrunner makes my point for me. “potential is there for future growth in ATL” if you leave that potential you are shrinking potential fan base. You are sacrificing future growth. The Winnipeg ThrahJetFalconMoose are unlikely to grow a fanbase beyond that small Winnipeg population. As for the comment about civic subsidies. This season ticket holder is against 1 dime of taxpayer $ being spent on a private business. The $25M Glendale is sending the NHL is stolen money.

PMC

May 13th, 2011
10:52 am

Well, at the end of the day maybe they will just find a way to bring a few good games here with some actually quality NHL franchises.

I’ll pay to go see great hockey. This team never provided that.

BS

May 13th, 2011
10:52 am

I am going to call BS on the reported $20 million a year losses that the ASG are claiming for the Thrashers. Let’s just think out loud on this. Total expenses is probably no higher than $70 mil. Since the ASG owns Philips Arena they can set the rent at whatever they want. If they sell 12,000 tickets a game at $50 that is 24,600,00 in gate revenue. I think they get $10 mil for tv, radio, etc. Add in concessions and all the peripheral stuff and they are close to the payroll amounts. Then they get their money from the NHL. There is again no possible way that the ASG loses $20 mil a year on the Thrashers. I am sure the Hawks are in the plus and the arena is way in the positive. Any accountant can make a loss appear out of thin air. They are up to no good.

Batcork

May 13th, 2011
10:52 am

Bettman fought tooth and nail for non-league-owned franchises in Pittsburgh and Nashville, making it clear the league wouldn’t allow a move until it was proven without a doubt over time (years) that no local buyer was forthcoming. Saying that the search for a Thrashers local buyer has been underway for years is BS. There was no clear title to the franchise until the ASG suit was settled late last year. Efforts before that time may have been going on, but don’t count for anything. Bettman is in “let’s pretend” mode in his public statements, pretending he has lived up to his “covenant to fans”, when he has not. Yet. If in another 12 months he’s kept the kabosh on a move and there’s still no viable local buyer, then maybe.

Granted, one difference here compared to the Pit and Nash cases: Their move destination was to Ontario where there was no ready NHL-grade arena, and a slew of territorial issues: Sabres, Leafs. Winnipeg has the arena and no territorial issues.

rdrunner

May 13th, 2011
10:53 am

If you are ATL Spirit and you believe in free enterprise and the notion that the highest bidder gets the prize, you sell to TNSE. If you believe in socialism, you turn to the NHL and see what they offer in terms of assistance. NHL needs $40M and to cover losses. Not going to happen, even though the NHL is more socialist than free market.

DowntownATL

May 13th, 2011
10:54 am

again rdrunner makes my point. sacrificing longterm growth for shorterm security is contraction

PMC

May 13th, 2011
10:55 am

I’d just love to see the arena rust like the freaking Omni at this point. .

Guffman

May 13th, 2011
10:55 am

I’m not sure why you guys are even arguing about the “potential market” of Atlanta versus Winnipeg. True North apparently are happy with the Winnipeg market and that’s why they are looking to buy a team. ASG is not happy with the current Atlanta market, and no local interests are willing to spend the $$$ to try and grow this “potential market”. That’s the bottom line… if you have no owners willing to step up to buy the team and keep it in Atlanta, then the team has to move.

This isn’t an Atlanta versus Winnipeg thing. It’s about no one stepping up in Atlanta to keep the team there. Winnipeg is not even on the radar is someone in Atlanta was willing to buy the team.

DowntownATL

May 13th, 2011
10:56 am

The NHL is not the government.

rdrunner

May 13th, 2011
10:58 am

Downtown, I understand your point loud and clear. I’ve debated it with the Phoenix people for 2 years now. At the crux of it all is “when will that potential be realized and what’s it worth to the NHL?” The NHL has spoken about the Phx market and to put a price on it, I would say it’s worth about $15M per year (the $40M in losses and litigation costs MINUS the guaranteed $25M from the civic gvt). The NHL thinks it can recoup $15M from that market in the long run so they keep the team there. In ATL, it’s completely different. The NHL has no gvt to partner with to subsidize the team. The numbers are much higher than $15M. It’s $40M, plus yearly losses. Is that worth the future potential of the ATL market? That’s the decision the NHL has to make. Or is it worthwhile to subsidize one market (Phx) that is in bankruptcy litigation, and lose the ATL market?

Guffman

May 13th, 2011
10:59 am

“sacrificing longterm growth for shorterm security is contraction”

Well… kinda, but who in Atlanta wants to sustain the short-term losses in order to realize on that long-term growth? No one, apparently. And that’s the problem.

Tom Lysiak

May 13th, 2011
11:01 am

These inept idiots can’t run a franchise successfully, yet they have figured out a way to make money off this. By sacrificing the team in Atlanta. The sacrifice is the from the fans, not the greedy owners. They could care less about the city losing the team. And, they are still hoping for an even bigger payday from their lawsuit. I hope everyone recognizes the ASG for what they are.

rdrunner

May 13th, 2011
11:02 am

If everyone acts in their own selfish business interests they have the following decisions to make:
TNSE: Can we make the NHL work in a small Wpg market? That has been answered by their repeated attempts to secure a franchise.
ATL Spirit: How can we stop losing money with the Thrashers? Apparently, running a better business is not an option so selling is the only option left. Where can we get the most money? That’s it; plain and simple. There’s no interest serve to the Spirit in selling to a local group for less than they can sell to an outside interest.
NHL: What is the future worth of a properly run franchise in the largely untapped ATL market? If that number is more than the future value of $40M today, plus about $20M / year in losses until the business turns profitable, then you subsidize the sale to a local buyer. If not, you lick your wounds and lose the ATL market.

2mins

May 13th, 2011
11:06 am

Nobody knows if TNSE is talking to ASG, because it is being done under the covers, but trust me…. they are talking.

When Winnipeg lost the Jets the fact is nobody wanted to own a team at that time. Bettman is correct in saying this because its true. Sure everyone in Winnpeg hates Bettman, but if there are no buyers, then there are no buyers.

And now in Atlanta its the same. Where are the buyers? People are saying that the NHL should give Atlanta more time to find buyers to keep it local. Problem is, that’s not up to the NHL. The ASG guys no longer want to pay the bills, and I promise you that the NHL will not pay the bills either, so what does that leave? Find a buy now, or the team leaves.

MXK

May 13th, 2011
11:11 am

So, it looks like our only hope is for someone to come riding in from the darkness with a bunch money to buy the team and keep them here. In the next day or two. Not likely at this point.

Scott Burnside summed it up yesterday by saying that moving the team satisfies everyone – everyone except the small group of us here that care, and appreciate having an NHL team in OUR city.

During the Sharks game last night, Bettman said in a radio interview that he’ll talk when he has something to say. Not exactly sticking up for the ‘fans in the current NHL city’. Not the ‘covenant’ that we were hoping for. He then expressed his concern for the poor people of Winnipeg who have been ‘forced to go through all of this’. Sounds like he’s already getting them on his side so that he can arrive as the hero who brings the NHL back to them.

Man, does this suck.

Crass Bonanza

May 13th, 2011
11:11 am

@rdrunner,

“If you are ATL Spirit and you believe in free enterprise and the notion that the highest bidder gets the prize, you sell to TNSE. If you believe in socialism, you turn to the NHL and see what they offer in terms of assistance.”

Well, not exactly. Sports leagues don’t operate like pure free markets, they’re more like cartels with barriers to entry. True free markets allow anyone with capital to enter and compete in existing markets. If sports leagues were actually free market, every city would have a team (and some more than one) and competitive pressures would be a lot more intense. As it is the supply of pro hockey teams is artificially restricted by the league.

It’s probably more accurate to say the NHL is “crony capitalist,” not “socialist,” since the state doesn’t own the means of production – but the relationships between teams and city governments can get pretty cozy.

BOB FROM ACCOUNT TEMPS

May 13th, 2011
11:11 am

people – for the last time: THE ASG DOESN’T OWN PHILIPS ARENA, JUST THE OPERATING RIGHTS. a monthly rent is paid to the board that helped finanace the building.

rdrunner

May 13th, 2011
11:12 am

Further to 2mins comments, I really hate when people say that the NHL didn’t do much to save the Jets. They waited about 5 years for Wpg to build a suitable arena and at that time they had a motivated owner in Shenkarow. When Shenkarow was frustrated with the city and province for not building an arena (he didn’t have the wherewithal to build it himself), he announced that the team is for sale. The NHL waited 2 years for local ownership to surface and after a few failed attempts (Ironic that one of them is called Spirit of Manitoba, which by the way had Chipman senior on the board), nobody in Wpg wanted to own the team there. The NHL shopped them around and found a group of buyers willing to move the franchise to Minneapolis. They did NOT immediately agree to the sale to Burke (and the other guy, can’t remember his name), but instead gave Wpg a few months to get a local ownership group together, even though the NHL does not allow for difused ownership groups.
So, the NHL was patient with Wpg… people don’t remember that… we didn’t tweet that or even have the internet to chat about it. People forget.
I’m not a Bettman supporter, but I do understand his motivation for the actions he takes. I might do the same thing if I were in his shoes…

rdrunner

May 13th, 2011
11:15 am

@ Crass, you are absolutely correct! Thanks for refining my commentary.

rdrunner

May 13th, 2011
11:16 am

@ Bob, thanks for the clarifying that. So, do they have exclusive rights to the arena in terms of bookings? i.e. If they book a concert, who gets the profits?

Zombie Steve

May 13th, 2011
11:21 am

I’m wondering what this is going to do to the budding local hockey community…. my friends and I play on the ice where the Thrashers practice

rdrunner

May 13th, 2011
11:25 am

Question to ATL residents: Has ATL ever had a semi-pro team in the IHL or AHL? How did it do at the box office? What was the attendance? …curious.

MXK

May 13th, 2011
11:26 am

Right, Zombie. And what will we call my son’s team next season, because we damn well better not be the Junior Thrashers.