The forgotten local interest in owning the Tampa Bay Lightning
With the recent news about the Lightning defaulting on their loan to Palace Sports and Entertainment and problems meeting payroll, comparisons to the Phoenix Coyotes have been been drawn... As well as the assumption Jim Balsillie is the only potential owner on the horizon.
Last summer, Damian Cristodero at the St. Petersburg Times had investigated local interest in the Lightning. For starters, there was franchise father figure Phil Esposito, who was eying things:
"Nothing I ever did was as good in my mind or as satisfying, and nothing was as important, as getting this franchise."
That is why the Lightning founder said if the dispute between owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie ends with the financially troubled team up for sale, "Yes, I would try to put a group together" to buy it.
That time is not imminentThat was then, of course. This is now, and the time has indeed become imminent if anything is going to happen.
Of course, the question can be asked whatever happened to Jeff Sherrin and Doug MacLean -- two of the three partners of the original "Absolute Hockey" ownership group? They, along with Oren Koules, attempted to buy the Lightning in August iof 2007. The deal fell apart when Koules went mustang from the group. Lawsuits flew and local lawyer Tom Scarritt represented Sherrin and MacLean's interest. The suit was settled out of course and little has been heard or seen of either since.
As for Scarritt, he stated in August 2009 that he still represented a local group interested in acquiring the Lightning, a group that had been waiting in the wings since December 2007 in case the OK Hockey / Palace Sports and Entertainment deal for the team fell through.
I contacted Mr. Scarritt for an update on things. It wasn't asked if direct contact had been made with the NHL or OK Hockey about an acquisition of the team by the group Scarritt represents. He did say that:
The clients I have represented continue to follow the status of the Lightning with great interest, and that interest extends to the possibility of acquiring the team if an appropriate deal could be negotiated. I confirmed this with them as recently as last week.
The key words here are appropriate deal. For anyone in the business world, an appropriate deal is subjective on the terms and money involved. When, where, why, and how much. In a word, conditions.
Any sale also will not play out like a casual fan would expect it -- with the absolutes of do-or-don't. The numbers have to work, the desire has to be there and the conditions fo the agreement have to be just right, or nothing will come to fruition.
In all, this is a waiting game to see who the players will be for the Lightning. The key thing to remember is that there are players, local ones at that.