The second anniversary of the Lightning franchise's sale-limbo just passed the other day as we noted here on Raw Charge. Absolute Hockey ended up breaking up in November of 2007 and Oren Koules formed OK Hockey (in which he partnered with Len Barrie as well as other investors) in December of 2007.
Just as well, now Koules and Barrie formally have the chance to call it quits and buy each other out.
Revealed in Sunday's St. Petersburg Times, the NHL has granted a window of opportunity to each owner to buy the other out. Len Barrie has the first opportunity -- to produce enough money to buy out Oren Koules from the team he pursued with two different ownership ventures.
From the article:
Barrie has the first shot in an exclusive 60-day window that apparently runs out in mid to late September. If Barrie fails, Koules gets his chance.
That's got me wondering why?
Len Barrie had two deadlines in the last three weeks: the first being to produce a $10 Million line of credit by July 17th, the second being a cash repayment to Koules to the tune of $3 Million by August 1st. Done and done, reportedly.
But why has the partner, with a burden-of-proof and a missed-payment history, been given the first chance to buy out his partner (and current majority owner)? That question may have answered itself: The burden of proof. Does Barrie have what it takes financially to even play this game? A skeptical Gary Bettman may have offered him this opportunity because of confidence he couldn't do it. Or perhaps Koules took a pass on first-chance out of skepticism for Barrie meeting financial goals?
But what if it's something on Koules? A grievance voiced by Barrie that has merit and registered with Gary Bettman? Such a serious issue that he offered the plaintiff the first shot, instead of the defendant?
It's all speculation and hearsay - there's a gag order in place with all parties and finding out facts is nto an easy task as it stands.
While Barrie has a window of opportunity, there is no knowing what the price is to buy Koules' share.... Or vice versa if Barrie does not produce the money and Koules gets his shot to take on a bigger piece of ownership. Then there's the issue of debt with the team - money owned to financer Palace Sports and Entertainment... Tom Wilson, CEO of PS&E, is not talking regarding this situation (likely due to business association with the feuding owners, not because of the possiblity of taking the reigns back of the Lightnign franchise).
The potential is also in place for all three of the aforementioned parties either not able to buy out the other or not interested in NHL ownership. In such a scenario the league will be looking for other potential ownership answers. How likely this is remains to be seen... But it's a black eye for the league much like the mess in Phoenix, or the unresolved arena situation in New York -- it just lingers and festers in it's current unsettled state.