Caution and excitement
Those were the two emotions of Palace Sports CEO Tom Wilson Wednesday after he announced Hollywood producer Oren Koules signed a purchase agreement to buy the team, the St. Pete Times Forum lease and 5.5 acres near the arena for $200-million.
Cautious because he has been here before, on Aug. 7, when Absolute Hockey Enterprises, of which Koules was part, signed a similar purchase agreement. Three months later, that sale imploded as Palace Sports nullified the sale because of a missed $5-million payment and Koules was sued by partners Jeff Sherrin and Doug MacLean.
Still, Wilson said, "It is a step.''
Sale bullet points:
*OK Hockey is headed by Koules but also includes his business partner at Evolution Entertainment, Mark Burg and, it is believed but never confirmed by Koules, a California banker named Russell Belinsky. There also, apparently, are some unnamed others.
* The purchase agreement has a 105-day window for Koules to secure his financing and get the NHL Board of Governors to approve the transfer of ownership. If it doesn't happen, Palace Sports can revisit the agreement.
* Wilson said Koules was talking to three banks about sharing the financial commitment. Wilson also said Koules and his investors put in more money than originally planned to help reduce the new loan. If you want to do some math, Koules lost what Street & Smith SportsBusiness Journal said was $110-million in financing when France's Societe Generale bank closed its U.S. sports lending business. Wilson said he likely needed less this time.
* Palace Sports will continue to be a minority owner in a sense because, Wilson said, it is lending Koules some money to "give him some flexibility.'' Wilson said it is not as much as the $30-million Palace Sports was to lend Absolute Hockey. Wilson said Palace's stake in the team will go away quickly.
* Wilson said Koules will have a say in personnel matters but as the Feb. 26 trade deadline approaches, Palace Sports still will have the final say.
*Koules, as he has been throughout the process, was unavailable for comment other than the statement on the release. He did not return several e-mail messages. Perhaps he doesn't want to make the same mistake Palace Sports and Absolute Hockey made by being too high profile before all the ducks were in order.
One quote I liked on Koules from Lightning president Ron Campbell that didn't make it into the paper but might at some point:
"He is going to be some much fun. He could be a Mark Cuban type of guy from the standpoint that he's going to have a lot of crazy ideas, out of the box ideas. He's going to be very passionate and visible. If you're a fan, I think you've got to love that. There are a lot of people who may have some challenges or issues with Mark Cuban, but it's not the fans of Dallas. He's sitting there, 'This guy is behind our team 110 percent.' That's the type of energy he'll bring.''