Updated: Talks continue with TNSE; no announcement Tuesday

Negotiations between the Atlanta Spirit and True North Sports and Entertainment continued over the weekend as a deal to purchase and relocate the Thrashers to Winnipeg moved closer.

As of Monday, lawyers for Atlanta Spirit, True North and the NHL were still exchanging drafts and deal terms but a deal was not finalized. Monday was Queen Victoria Day in Canada, a bank holiday, which prevented the completion of some details.

The deal could be finalized later this week. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the AJC Monday, via e-mail, that “it’s safe to say there will be no announcement on Tuesday.”

Also, the last remaining hope of a buyer willing to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta appeared to have ended. The final prospective buyer, in negotiations with the Atlanta Spirit, with such an intention is no longer interested in pursuing a sale. According to a person familiar with the negotiations, the potential buyer is “probably, but not completely” out of the picture.

True North is led by Winnipeg businessman Mark Chipman and billionaire David Thomson and owns Winnipeg’s arena, the MTS Centre, and the American Hockey League team that currently plays there, the Manitoba Moose. The group turned its attention to the Thrashers after a deal, with public money, was reached to keep the Phoenix Coyotes in Arizona several weeks ago.

Key issues between the Atlanta Spirit and True North, such as price, are believed to be settled. The price is believed to be $170 million, with $110 million going to the seller and $60 million to the league as a relocation fee.

Many issues beyond price are part of such deals, such as financing and the commitments the buyer must make to the league going forward.

Even a signing of a definitive agreement would not be the final step in the process: The deal would have to be approved by the NHL Board of Governors before it could close.

Atlanta Spirit and True North opened negotiations in mid-May, shortly after the city of Glendale, Ariz., committed to cover up to $25 million in next season’s losses of the Coyotes, who otherwise would have likely moved to Winnipeg.

The Coyotes’ surprising one-year reprieve in Arizona made Winnipeg a relocation option for the Thrashers, whose owners had made it clear the franchise was in dire difficulty. The Thrashers’ owners had said they were unwilling to keep funding the team’s operating losses, pegged at around $20 million per year in court documents, and had been unable to find a qualified buyer to assume the losses in Atlanta.

The Atlanta Spirit has been looking for a buyer or investors for the Thrashers for several years, although the group has only had clear ownership since December after officially buying out partner Steve Belkin. Co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. told the AJC in February that there was a ‘sense of urgency’ to find a solution for the financially struggling franchise and that relocation was a possibility.

The NHL Board of Governors, which consists of one representative from each team, would have to vote to ratify a sale and relocation. A 75-percent vote is required to approve a new owner, and a majority vote is required to approve a relocation.

Atlanta would lose its NHL franchise for a second time. The city lost the Flames to Calgary in 1980.

303 comments Add your comment

Fart

May 23rd, 2011
10:09 am

Didn’t see that comin’..oh wait, I did.

Telfo

May 23rd, 2011
10:12 am

amazing that the NHL will let this happen when it is CLEAR that ASG is sabotaging any potential sale. nobody can even talk to ASG about buying all 3 properties because of the exclusivity deal with Moores and nobody is going to buy the team when they dont even know who will own the arena.

ranallo10 (in AT)

May 23rd, 2011
10:13 am

Are you able to elaborate on why the final prospective buyer is now out of the picture?

It seems a little strange that a deal is being fast-tracked with TNSE while there is a group showing any level of interest to keep the team where they are … I thought that was the top priority for the NHL (exhausting all possibilities to refrain from relocation BEFORE allowing the team to negotiate with new owners looking to relocate).

Smoothie

May 23rd, 2011
10:15 am

Thanks Chris but “probably, but not completely” may be the vaguest statement yet in all this. I know you’re only reporting what you’re allowed to, but that statement in and of itself seems very odd. Perhaps it is more BS from AS, LLC just to provide more cover for this fraudulent process to game the whole damn thing in their favor.

GaVaHokie

May 23rd, 2011
10:16 am

amazing that the NHL will let this happen when it is CLEAR that ASG is sabotaging any potential sale. nobody can even talk to ASG about buying all 3 properties because of the exclusivity deal with Moores and nobody is going to buy the team when they dont even know who will own the arena.

…This.

Thrash Fan

May 23rd, 2011
10:16 am

Chris,

Is the local buyer likely out of the picture because of the exclusive negotiations with Hawks/Phillips and Moores, or because he is not qualified?

Thanks.

The Balkan

May 23rd, 2011
10:16 am

Chris-

Please change your story to the following so the sheep around here feel better about our chances:

It appears the talks between ASG and TNSE have ended. Arthur Blank has stepped up to buy the Thrashers after the massive turnout of 50,000 at the rally on Saturday. Crosby, Ovechkin, and the Sedin twins have committed to playing here next year for free.” But the BEST news is John Kincade has agreed not to get involved.

Spud Webb

May 23rd, 2011
10:17 am

Gary Bettman is a FRAUD and a JOKE as is the ASG group. Total idiots…no class….LOSERS.

Over it all

May 23rd, 2011
10:18 am

Please, there was never a real buyer to keep team local. ASG doesn’t want a team here, period. So over the NHL and this story that I am done with the sport for a good long while.

sisu

May 23rd, 2011
10:19 am

As I mentioned in the last blog has anyone looked at the actual finances of the team or is it all hear say from ASG? Not that it matters much…

This Guy Right Here

May 23rd, 2011
10:19 am

Telfo is 100% correct. The ASG never had any intention of keeping the Thrashers in Atlanta, and it is very obvious what they’re trying to do right now. There is no incentive for anyone to buy the Thrashers at the moment.

Chris Vivlamore, thanks for never hyping up this BS “Balkan” story. What a complete joke that turned out to be.

Brett

May 23rd, 2011
10:23 am

Telfo I agree 100% with you comments! I believe this is a personal FU from the ASG to the fans who questioned their commitment to the team. I question the legitimacy of the search for a local buyer. This is an inside job by Bettman & co to protect his ego and he found a more than willing partner with ASG!

To the Thrashers players — enjoy the frozen tundra! You can thank ASG and the NHL for this failure!

G52PIM228

May 23rd, 2011
10:23 am

You Thrasher fans are the WORST in hockey. You don’t deserve an NHL team, At least we are keeping OUR team in Phoenix you LOSERS.

Coyotes Rule !

Thrash Fan

May 23rd, 2011
10:26 am

I doubt the Hawks or the Arena will actually be sold. We all know that ASG always wanted the basketball team and the arena, but never wanted the Thrashers.

ASG is sabotaging this sale! And the NHL is just standing by watching, because they get $60 million if the Thrashers are relocated.

Thrash Fan

May 23rd, 2011
10:27 am

Coyotes Rule? No, Coyotes are bankrupt.

If Arizona didn’t subscribe to socialism, our team wouldn’t be in this situation.

Canuck

May 23rd, 2011
10:32 am

We in Vancouver feel your pain, Atlanta. Michael Heisley and his gang of crooks lied to us months when the plan was always to move the NBA Grizzlies out of here (eventually to Memphis). The guy even sang the freakin’ Canadian anthem to convince us of his good intentions. Phony. It hurts.

William Satterwhite

May 23rd, 2011
10:35 am

Has there been any indication as to why all of the local buyers have fizzled out almost as quickly as they come on the scene? I know there are NDAs in play but do those still apply after a potential buyer has been ruled out?

michael k

May 23rd, 2011
10:37 am

Reminds me of that charlie sheen movie. Major league. The owner Tried to sabatoge the team so the owner could relocate them. I’m surprised asg didn’t make the thrashers ride buses to the games.

shootoutloss

May 23rd, 2011
10:40 am

@ G52PIM228
You have a playoff caliber team and you still can’t fill half the arena. Great fans, right?

winnipeg

May 23rd, 2011
10:41 am

Enter your comments here

winnipeg

May 23rd, 2011
10:43 am

NHL IS returning to the peg via Thrashers… it will NOT be called the MOOSE. I have inside info on that. It is also MAY not be the jets… TNSE leaning towards Manitoba Polar Bears…. i hope it is either the MB Jets or MB Falcons.

The Balkan

May 23rd, 2011
10:45 am

Jay Clemons……….paging Jay Clemons…….John Kincade on line 1

Bluestreak

May 23rd, 2011
10:45 am

Winnipeg,

If this does go through, please promise us long-suffering Thrahers fans one thing…you’ll make Don Waddell move to the Peg before you fire him during the first intermission of the home opener.

He has the hockey accumen of a brick. And don’t let him get with the former Jets that live in the area. Just listen to Dan Brouchard’s comments on his commitment of working with players of the former local team here.

Kelly

May 23rd, 2011
10:45 am

William Satterwhite: I think it’s pretty obvious that the local ‘buyers’ petered out because they didn’t have the financial wherewithal to own the team. Tom Glavine even admitted as such. They were either pretenders like the fools at Ice Edge who thought they could own the Coyotes or they were like that Detroit guy facing so many lawsuits attacking his integrity. Any business is only ever worth a multiple of what the new owner believes he can make (that’s why they talk about price-to-earnings ratios). A business that has no track record of profitability isn’t going to be worth much, now is it? Certainly not $170 million. Winnipeg’s owners will pay that because it becomes a logical investment in a venue that is annually in the Top 10 entertainment venues in North America. And because one of Winnipeg’s owners makes that much money just getting out of bed…

CJJScout

May 23rd, 2011
10:46 am

Telfo correct? Will wonders never cease.

Matt the Brave

May 23rd, 2011
10:46 am

Saw a thing on the tube this last weekend…will Atlanta get another team from the NHL? The question to me is the way that the NHL has treated Atlanta, do we really want them here? Also love that they bailed out ‘The Great One’s’ team but is letting the Thrashers flap in the wind.

bananahead

May 23rd, 2011
10:47 am

It is apparent that the fans, families, kids, and hockey in general means nothing to ASG and the NHL. There is no reason whatsoever to let a bunch of fraudulent owners slowly, but intentionally and surely, destroy hockey in this city and the NHL is approving of it. It is a disgrace, and in no way reflects the fans of this town. To become a fan of hockey and/or a team, you have to have the sport and team presented in a way that is attractive. Actually, you just have to present it period, something the owners have never attempted to do in a positive way.

Don’t blame the fans. If you want to blame the lack of fans, blame the owners that prevented people from becoming fans.

And for any trollers out there, if you want this team, take the owners with you and then you will see the real situation.

BTW, compare attendance of the Thrashers to the attendance of the Winnepeg Jets, and then lets talk about fan support.

Matt

May 23rd, 2011
10:47 am

Who freakin’ care WHAT they call the team in Pegger-ville? I hope they keep Don Waddell as president so you folks can suffer for the same 11 years we did with this franchise. Let’s see how well your attendance does after not making the playoffs year after year after year. God, I hate the ASG.

Tim

May 23rd, 2011
10:50 am

Nobody wants to own this team in Atlanta. End OF STORY.

T

May 23rd, 2011
10:50 am

I think they should be called the Winnipeg Legs

Kelly

May 23rd, 2011
10:50 am

Oh, and make no mistake: the deal is done.

The reporter who broke the story confirmed with two independent sources. Plus he works for the new owner. David Thomson did not order The Globe and Mail, which he owns, to print a retraction. All this talk about the deal not being done is just spin to avoid Saturday’s ‘rally’ from being a total bust and to let TNSE announce the purchase on its schedule. Which will be tomorrow.

[...] Chris Vivlamore has a new blog posted this morning, stating that the last potential bidder to purchase the Thrashers and keep them [...]

Tim

May 23rd, 2011
10:55 am

@Thrash Fan, that’s not 100% true. If the Coyotes went back to Winnipeg the Thrashers still have crap ownership that doesn’t care about the team. It might have just delayed the Thrashers leaving. No owner found a year from now and they are moving to Quebec, Portland or Kansas City.

Sorry Thrasher fans this appears to be all but done.

jhf

May 23rd, 2011
10:58 am

telflo – nobody will own the arena, just some part of the operating rights

Chainz

May 23rd, 2011
11:01 am

Get rid of the Thrashers and the Hawks……… hell of a way to clean out the loserville……… Turn Phillips back into what it should be….. A Concert Hall……

party it up

May 23rd, 2011
11:01 am

to generate more “support” for the thrashers, how about another one of those blowout parties by the gulch with 200 people and the atlanta hawks mascot? that should convince buyers of the town’s “interest” in hockey!

William Satterwhite

May 23rd, 2011
11:02 am

Kelly: Pretty obvious to who? There hasn’t even been any information released about who the local buyers included outside of Glavine and the only public comments that have gotten out regarding the efforts to keep the team in Atlanta were Dan Bouchard mentioning that he’s worked with the Glavine group and saying that ASG has made things too difficult to negotiate a fair deal locally. Bill Gates or Warren Buffett couldn’t negotiate to purchase an item if the seller doesn’t deal with them fairly.

Curious George

May 23rd, 2011
11:02 am

Why isn’t Tom Glavine calling David McDavid yet for a lunch date?

jw

May 23rd, 2011
11:07 am

I’m thinking the NHL is behind the scenes pushing this deal for Winnipeg. They built the new facility and the community has invested a lot of dollars into having a team return, so I suspect it is a matter of time before it goes through. I think the NHL really wanted the Phoenix deal to go down the drain – since it didn’t, they will hasten the sale to keep Winnipeg happy and to not back down on the promise of hockey in Winnipeg. They do want the team, have the money, the fan base and seemingly the one thing ATL lacks – ownership that knows what they are doing – it’s very sad that the whole atlanta spirit group is nothing more than a tax shelter for a bunch of washed up business executives that drove two franchises to the outhouse so they could have penthouses when it all went sour. Our town deserves better – the fans are here, the commitment of the ownership isn’t! Too bad – letting Nashville, Carolina and Tampa Bay beat us at something is horrible!!!!!!!

Duke

May 23rd, 2011
11:09 am

Gladiators and Nashville in 11-12 I quess….3-4 hrs away better than nothing for us purists!

loosehead

May 23rd, 2011
11:09 am

I live 2 hrs north of Toronto and have been a Leafs’ fan and hockey fan all my life.I remember the trauma,the tears, the wailing,the gnashing of teeth in 95-96 when the Jets and Nordiques were relocated. I’m hearing the same now from y ou Thrasher fans and although I feel sorry for your impending loss,it makes sense what is going on.It appears,quite obviously to me,that Atlanta cannot support an NHL team.Not even local business people want to get involved.
Winter-peg will support their new team in great fashion and they will not have to give away tickets to add to the attendance numbers.Alas,the greatest hockey town in the world,Toronto,will probably have to suffer through another tough season again,albeit without a single unsold seat in the house.

Chris Vivlamore

May 23rd, 2011
11:11 am

Smoothie: Couple of quick things. Don’t assume my information comes from ASG. I’m just trying to let you know the news, that the last of the potential buyers to keep the team in Atlanta is just about out of the picture.

Thrash Fan: The final potential owner to keep the team here is just no longer interested. Sorry for that confusion.

Sisu: Any potential buyer/investor can (some have) look at preliminary financial figures. To go beyond that, they must provide proof of their financial wherewithall to look deeper.

This Guy Right Here: Thanks. It didn’t take very much reporting to figure out the guy was not able to deliver – despite what others told you and/or would have you believe. OH, and ripped me for. I continue to stand on my accurate reporting. It would have been good if someone was able to buy all three entities. It just wasn’t likely.

Toni

May 23rd, 2011
11:11 am

The exclusivity agreement on the Hawks and arena is proof that they never intended to sell the team to anyone local. You can’t negotiate for anything dealing with it until that expires. No one is gong to buy a team they don’t have an arena for, and Philips is the only NHL-caliber arena in town. So after only six months of being on the market our team will be gone.

This is just sabotage and unethical. It’s not fair that they were allowed to do this without anyone, including you Mr. Vivlamore, calling them out on it and trying to get something to change. This is disgusting.

So much for “good faith effort” in finding local buyers.

jarvis

May 23rd, 2011
11:11 am

loosehead, why would our local businesses try to save this franchise? The entire League is nothing but a money pit.
Versus….f’ing Versus. I don’t even know what channel that is.

schmeckdawg

May 23rd, 2011
11:12 am

Out of curiosity, what does John “The Mouth” Kincade have to do with anything. I mean yes, it is nauseating to listen to his know it all mouth but, does he have any say on what happens with the Thrashers?

Chris Vivlamore

May 23rd, 2011
11:13 am

Toni: I can tell you that there was plenty of time before an exclusivity agreement was signed on the Hawks and arena for someone to buy – or express credible interest – in all three. Such agreements typically only last 30 days and may well be up soon.

jw

May 23rd, 2011
11:13 am

To add to my rant – they’ll probably make the playoffs next year, more salt in the wounds of the fans that expected an ownership group that could get their act together for the good of the community. You could pick any 7 sports fans off the street and have better ownership responsibility – that’s sad!!!!!!!! Do the sporting public a favor ASG and just go away -

Fart

May 23rd, 2011
11:14 am

Coyotes will be moving to Atlanta at the end of next season.

jw

May 23rd, 2011
11:17 am

The NHL and Mr. Bettman may be dumb, not stupid, though! Our province is out of luck! Turn off the icemaker and sell the Zamboni – it’s over! LOL!

schmeckdawg

May 23rd, 2011
11:18 am

Did all of the members of the ASG go to either Lovett, Westminster or Marist? It sure feels like they did!