Thursday, May 24, 2007

Billionaire Balsillie Buys Preds

After years of losing money and sub-par fan support for a winning team, the Nashville Predators have sold their team to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie.

''I have come to the conclusion that I cannot make it work here,'' said Leipold, who became emotional and had to pause at one point. ''We are one of the elite teams in this league and we are by far the lowest revenue team in the league.''

Craig Leipold announced Thursday that Balsillie signed a letter of agreement to buy the franchise for $220 million US. Leipold's Predators lost a total of $70 million during the team's 9 seasons.

Many will remember that Balsillie was very close to buying the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise. But at the last second, he backed out of the deal. Balsillie's $175 million deal to buy the Penguins unravelled when commissioner Gary Bettman attached a list of conditions to the sale, including, it is believed, one that he not move the club until every possible avenue was exhausted. But he never signed a deal at the time he backed out of the deal. How ever has already signed the agreement and is now in full control of the team.

There is talk that Balsillie will move the team to Southern Ontario, where Hamilton and other cities are looking for a team. But that decision is not entirely up to him. The NHL has to agree to move the team and it is more the NHL's choice where they are going to move the team than the owner.

'I think he's going to give it a chance,'' said Leipold. ''If (attendance) is over 14,000 paid, it's not going anywhere.''

That right now is the question. Will Balsillie keep the team in Nashville?

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