Koules says meeting a success; one step to go
The NHL declined to comment, but if the smiles on the faces of Oren Koules and Len Barrie were an indication Thursday, they could have control of the team by the June 20-21 draft.
Koules, the Hollywood producer, and Barrie, the former NHLer turned real estate developer, met for 60 minutes with the NHL's executive committee at its Sixth Avenue offices in New York. Koules called the meeting "a very good step" and Barrie said, "We're excited."
The last step in OK Hockey's proposed $200-million purchase of the Lightning is a June 18 vote by the league's board of governors, which must approve the transfer of ownership from Palace Sports & Entertainment. The board takes its cue from the committee.
That's why the meeting was so important and probably why Koules and Barrie seemed a bit nervous going into the meeting. I was in New York, anyway, visiting family, so I arranged to meet them on the street in front of the NHL offices.
Koules was wearing a blue suit, a white shirt and a metallic-blue print tie. Not remarkable in and of itself, but Koules made it seem as if he prefers more comfortable clothes. "It's the last time you'll see that,'' he said as he smoothed the garments.
Too bad, though, I was not allowed to actually go into the offices. I got as far as the 15th-floor lobby when Bernadette Mansur, the league's senior VP for communications, politely told me the NHL never comments on pending transactions and maybe I should visit the NHL store on street level.
Spent the next hour standing on the sidewalk in front of the building, waiting for the meeting to end. There was nowhere to sit in the building lobby, and it was such a fine day (75 degrees, no humidity, light wind), I figured I'd rather wait outside, where I was approached by numerous people trying to sell me prepaid phone cards and was able to watch a fleet of fire trucks answer what apparently was a false alarm on the next street over.
But enough of the scene setting. Koules, Barrie and Palace Sports CEO Tom Wilson came out and talked briefly before getting in their hired cars. All were positive about the process going forward. They said questions were pointed about the financing. OK Hockey apparently has come up with about $100-million. The other $100-million is being financed by Palace Sports and Galatioto Sports Partners, a New York sports investment bank.
There were broader questions about why Koules and Barrie want to and, more broadly, about why they want to buy an NHL team.
"It was a good meeting," Koules said. "There weren't any questions out of left field. We're excited, hopefully, to take the next step."
"It was very positive,'' Wilson said. "We're going forward."