Fri, Mar 04, 2005 - Page 22 News List

Firms offer to buy NHL for US$30bn

HOCKEY The two Boston-based companies said their buyout would bolster the league's revenue because the teams would be working together instead of competing


A Wall Street buyout firm and a sports advisory company reportedly made a joint proposal to buy all 30 NHL teams for as much as US$3.5 billion.

Bain Capital Partners and Game Plan International, both based in Boston, made the offer in a 30-minute presentation to NHL owners on Tuesday in New York, sources told the Toronto Star. The companies were invited to make their pitch by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bain managing partner Steven Pagliuca, co-owner of the NBA's Boston Celtics, and Game Plan, which recently acted as an adviser on the sale of the Ottawa Senators, are betting that many NHL owners would welcome the chance to get out of the hockey business.

The NHL, which because of its ongoing player lockout recently became the first major North American pro sports league to cancel an entire season, has said its teams have lost a collective US$500 million over the past two seasons.

It's unclear if team owners, especially those in large markets such Toronto, Boston and New York, would accept the offer. Maple Leafs officials declined comment, as did a Game Plan spokesman.

NHL executive vice president Bill Daly was cautious in describing the level of interest the proposal received from the governors.

"I'm not going to characterize it," Daly told the Globe and Mail. "I would imagine different clubs had different feelings. The board listened to a presentation and that's about it."

"When someone's offering over US$3 billion, we felt we had an obligation to the board to have them, at least, hear it from the proposed purchaser," Daly added.

According to Bain and Game Plan, the sale would bolster the league's revenue because all of the teams would work together to generate more local television, sponsorship and revenue instead of competing against one another. The consortium told the NHL owners it had arranged for a large Canadian-based financier to join its efforts.

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