Leipold Asks NHL to Hold Off on Predators Sale

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nashville Predators owner Craig Leipold has asked the NHL to hold off its consideration of a deal to sell the team to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie.

Leipold wants to have a binding agreement on the proposed $220 million sale with Balsillie, the co-CEO of Blackberry makers Research in Motion Ltd., before the league further considers the transaction.

"We did send the NHL a letter today requesting that it not do any further due diligence on Jim Balsillie's offer for the Nashville Predators until we reach a binding agreement," Leipold said in a statement Friday evening. "If Jim is interested in reaching a binding agreement, we are prepared to move forward."

Efforts to reach Balsillie on Friday night by e-mail and through his attorney were unsuccessful. A spokesman for the NHL, which held the first round of its draft Friday night, also didn't return a message seeking comment.

Leipold announced May 24 he was selling the team to Balsillie after losing $70 million over 10 years with the franchise and called for the deal to be finalized by June 30, though that deadline could be extended. Leipold and Balsillie have agreed to a term sheet for the transfer of ownership of the club, but that is nonbinding.

A lack of binding agreement prevented the NHL's board of governors from voting on the Predators sale on Wednesday, and the board isn't scheduled to meet again until the fall. Any deal likely won't be approved before next season.

Balsillie has already started a process to move the Predators to Hamilton, Ontario, should a potential out in the team's lease with the arena in Nashville be exercised after the sale's completion.

Balsillie withdrew a $175 million offer to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins in December because the league did not want him to relocate the team. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman earlier this week called plans to relocate the Predators premature.

A local group has reportedly emerged to buy the Predators if Balsillie's bid falls through despite Leipold's inability to find a local minority investor.

Leipold has owned the team since paying most of the $80 million for the franchise awarded in June 1997, the first team of the NHL's last expansion phase. Leipold helped negotiate the NHL's new labor agreement, which features revenue sharing for small-market teams.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


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