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Lightning buyers add investor



Absolute Hockey Enterprises, the group attempting to purchase the Lightning, the St. Pete Times Forum lease and 5.5 adjacent acres from Palace Sports & Entertainment for about $200-million, announce, as expected, that Tampa attorney Steve Burton has joined the group as a partner.

Burton, 46, a commercial litigator with expertise in computer and technology law, is the managing partner of the law firm of Broad and Cassel. He joins former Blue Jackets president Doug MacLean, Coral Springs real estate developer Jeff Sherrin and Hollywood producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg.

"It's exciting,'' Burton said. "I've been a big fan of the Lightning, and with the Lightning being the treasure it is for our city, it's a thrill.''

MacLean said Burton and Sherrin are friends and it was Burton who asked the group about buying in. Considering Burton's local ties, MacLean said it was a good fit.

"It's all about local connections,'' MacLean said. "I just think that's important on the whole business side of things. When you're trying to sell tickets and suites, it's a good thing and gives you good connections.''

MacLean said there still are several other investors who will be named when the official applications are complete and sent to the National Hockey League, and they also could be local.

The process has been a long one. That Absolute Hockey signed a purchase agreement was announced Aug. 7. Since then, the groups attorneys and accountants have been doing their due diligence and completing the seven-part application that includes hundreds of pages of financial data and background information.

The transfer of ownership still must be approved by the NHL. The next Board of Governors meeting, at which the transfer can be considered, is in late November in Pebble Beach, Calif., though commissioner Gary Bettman can call a vote before that if the applications are accepted and interviews are conducted with the prospective owners.

The purchase agreement has a Dec. 30 deadline. If the deal has not closed by then, Palace Sports and Absolute Hockey could extend the deadline or squash the deal. If the latter, Absolute Hockey could lose its $5-million deposit.

MacLean said that is not on his radar.

"The deal is moving better than ever, and that's the truth,'' he said.

We'll have more on this in tomorrow's paper.

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:38pm]


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