Koules gets his financing
Hollywood producer Oren Koules, who has been trying to close a deal to buy the Lightning for four months, has some light at the end of the tunnel thanks to two helping hands that will provide $100-million in financing for the $200-million deal.
Lightning president Ron Campbell said Monday that owner Palace Sports & Entertainment and Galatioto Sports Partners will share the financing Koules needs to make the deal work. Campbell would not go into specifics, but it is believed that Palace Sports and GSP, a sports investment bank in New York, will contribute half the sale price for the deal that includes the team, the St. Pete Times Forum lease and 5.5 nearby acres.
Final paperwork still must be signed but that is expected to happen relatively quickly.
That Koules apparently has raised 50 percent of the purchase price among his investors should smooth the NHL's approval process.
Campbell said the financing deal came about because of the worldwide credit crunch. Koules, who heads OK Hockey, had previously lost financing through Societe Generale, France's second-largest bank, which shut down its U.S. Sports lending business. It also recently saw a proposed deal with CIT Group fall through.
"To move the process along and make it as efficient as it can be and gain control of the process, (GSP) and Palace Sports stepped in and said, 'We'll finance it now until the credit markets get corrected,'' Campbell told the Times. "At such a time, and we'll be patient, (OK Hockey) will pay us back when they get traditional financing.''
It was unclear how the $100-million in financing would be split. Neither Koules nor Sal Galatioto, president of GSP, which has brokered the sale of the team since the days of Absolute Hockey Enterprises' lost deal, would comment.
The financial deal will not close until the NHL's Board of Governors gives its approval. Given the league's usual timetable of four-to-six weeks after financing is secured, the deal could be done by early June. That could be important as Koules certainly will want to take control of the team before the NHL draft, June 20-21 in Ottawa.
If things progress, it would be the end of a long saga to sell the team. Absolute Hockey's bid began in August and ended in November amidst investor wrangling. Koules, who was part of that group and is a former Western Hockey League star, put together OK Hockey with business partner Mark Burg, former NHLer and developer Len Barrie and California banker Russell Belinsky. He has had exclusive negotiating rights since late April.
We'll have more in Tuesday's paper.