(personal note -- I get admitted to the hospital tomorrow)
Checking email this morning from a mobile device, I had received an anonymous heads up that the Lightning were to be sold and everything announced this morning. Naturally I was skeptical because this was a totally anonymous email of course...
Of course, Palace Sports and Entertainment has talked previously about bringing in another owner to soften the financial hurt but to outright sell the team along with the lease to the St. Pete Times Forum (which has been one of the top arenas in the world under Palace Sports management)? There hasn't even been whispers of this...
Yet it's all over the place now -- The Tampa Bay Lightning have been sold:
The Tampa Bay Lightning will host a press conference today at 11:00 a.m. in the XO VIP Club on the arena level of the St. Pete Times Forum to announce the sale of the team, the leasehold rights to the St. Pete Times Forum and adjacent properties. Thomas S. Wilson, Chairman and Governor of the Lightning, will introduce a new ownership group, Absolute Hockey Enterprises, which includes Doug MacLean, Jeff Sherrin and Oren Koules. A purchase agreement has been signed by Absolute Hockey, but the ownership transfer is subject to approval by the National Hockey League’s Board of Governors.
Oren Koules is a film and TV producer who is behind the Saw franchise as well as having his name associated with TV's Two and a Half Men while Jeff Sherrin is a Real Estate executive from Coral Springs. One has to wonder if property rights in the Channel district associated with the Lightning/St. Pete Times Forum lease aren't one of the factors in this ownership group.
One also has to wonder why Palace Sports is getting out entirely -- not holding onto a slither of the ownership of the team in an effort to keep control of the arena? Could it be a pre-emptive move to get out of a faltering financial market? Of course it could simply be the fact the majority of the Palace Sports empire is in Michigan while the Lightning are far away from the Palace Sports epicenter.
More to come as this unfolds...
EDIT 9:17 AM: You can find nothing on Sherrin through Google search. How bad is it? This post comes up near the top of "Jeff Sherrin, Coral Springs" searches. Yikes. His company, Venture Outlet Centers, doesn't have a web site that turns up in search results either.
EDIT 9:30 AM: Per TSN:
Sources tell TSN MacLean will be the Chairman and CEO of the Lightning while Jay Feaster will stay on as GM and John Tortorella will remain as head coach.
EDIT 10:06 AM: About an hour to go before the press conference begins, a staff meeting has just concluded at the St. Pete Times Forum with Tom Wilson explaining things to staff. It's believed he discussed the timeline of events about being approached to sell the Lightning, and while Palace Sports has ignored and written off offers in the past, they listened this time. The team is not relocating and Palace Sports would have received a larger amount of money if they were open to the idea of selling to a relocation-minded group.
I've had a poll up since this morning regarding the sale and fan reaction, I've replaced it on the main page but you can still cast your vote on your initial reaction here: