Koules likely faces the NHL Thursday
We apparently have reached another milestone moment in the proposed sale of the Lightning to Oren Koules as the Hollywood producer on Thursday is expected to meet in New York with the NHL's executive committee. Why is this important? Because the committee has the information about the league's due diligence regarding Koules (left) and primary partner Len Barrie, a former NHLer and a developer in Victoria, British Columbia. The committee also will recommend to the league's board of governors whether to approve the transfer of ownership from Palace Sports & Entertainment. The board, which is scheduled to vote June 18, usually acts on the committee's recommendations.
Palace Sports CEO Tom Wilson also is expected to attend. Neither committee members nor Koules, Barrie or Wilson are expected to make any statements, though that Koules' group has gotten this far in the process would seem positive.
Koules' OK Hockey includes Barrie, Koules' business partner Mark Berg, California banker Russell Belinsky and several unnamed minority investors from the Tampa Bay area. The $200-million deal for the team, the St. Pete Times Forum lease and about 5.5 acres of nearby land, includes about $100-million in financing. It is believed slightly more than half is coming from Galatioto Sports Partners, a New York sports investment bank. The rest is coming from Palace Sports.
With the June 18 vote, Koules is hoping to have control of the team by the June 20-21 draft. But if the recent contract negotiations with Russian power forward Evgeny Artyukhin were an indication, Koules already is hip-deep in team business. Artyukhin's agent, Mark Gandler, said Wednesday that Koules' phone call, in which he explained to Gandler how Artyukhin could be used (on a crash line with center Chris Gratton and wing Nick Tarnasky), was crucial in the agreement on a two-year deal. Gandler said Koules also canvassed some players to ask about Artyukhin. It is believed one was Vinny Lecavalier.
Said Gandler: "It was good for Oren to get involved. He refreshed the negotiations. His intervention ... was beneficial and necessary."
By the way, Lecavalier, finally out of his sling after surgery on his right shoulder for a torn labrum, will be honored for his community service at tonight's Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final in Pittsburgh.
[Ken Helle, Times files]