While only the members of the potential local ownership group know how much they bid for the Nashville Predators, rest assured it had to be a substantial offer.
While group spokesman Chase Cole, a local attorney with Waller, Landsen, Dortch & Davis said earlier that the bid would not be equal to the $220 billion to $238 billion supposedly offered by Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie, it has to be competitive with the $190 million that has apparently been offered by San Jose, Calif., entrepreneur William “Boots” Del Biaggio III.
Predators owner Craig Leipold allowed Ed Lang, executive vice president of finance and administration and chief financial officer, to open the books on the franchise for the local ownership group to study. Not surprisingly, they discovered that attendance will have to average more than 14,000 and that ticket price increases will probably have to be made if the franchise is going to have a chance to be both competitive and financially viable.
“If the local group had not made a substantial offer, Craig Leipold would have never opened the books for them,” said one local source.
Cole is no longer commenting on the ownership group and its plans. He refused to verify and identify the number of investors or the amount of the bid the group has submitted. David Freeman, CEO of 36 Venture Capital LLC and Herb Fritch, CEO of Healthspring, Inc., are the two main members of the group.
Leipold must pick a bidder to enter into a binding agreement with before the NHL can consider the purchase of the franchise. It will be September or October before the league’s Board of Governors will meet again. Gerry Helper, the Predators’ spokesman, said that there is no deadline for Leipold to make a decision on a bidder.
While there is strong speculation that Balsillie is out of the running for the team, he has apparently committed to spend $160 million to upgrade the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, in preparation for an NHL team, according to reports in the Hamilton Spectator.
Del Biaggio has also indicated he would like to place a team in the new arena in Kansas City, Mo., but sources close to the situation indicate he is not that strong on moving the Predators if they can remain financially viable here.
“He would have a great lease agreement here,” said one source. “He has a proven market here. Why would he want to move to a new arena where there is not a proven market?”
Kansas City has already lost one NHL franchise. The Kansas City Scouts moved to Denver after two seasons in the late 1970s to become the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies then moved to New Jersey.
A strong rumor that refuses to go away locally is that billionaire Todd Wagner, a minority owner of the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA, may be part of a possible bid. Sources, however, have denied he is part of the local ownership group.
Wagner, and partner Mark Cuban, the majority owner of the Mavericks, sold Broadcast.com to Yahoo for $5.7 billion. Wagner is heavily involved in the entertainment business as CEO of 2929 Entertainment and has apparently bought land in Williamson County.
An e-mail to Wagner was not answered. A telephone call to his press secretary also was not returned.