The Lightning has been sold
In one of the best-kept secrets in a while, Lightning owner Bill Davidson has sold the team and the lease to the St. Pete Times Forum to a group that includes former Panthers coach and Blue Jackets general manager Doug MacLean. It is believed the group is committed to keeping the team in Tampa.
Here is the release sent out by the team:
The Lightning will host a press conference at 11:00 a.m. in the XO VIP Club on the arena level of the St. Pete Times Forum to announce the sale of the team, the leasehold rights to the St. Pete Times Forum and adjacent properties. Thomas S. Wilson, Chairman and Governor of the Lightning, will introduce a new ownership group, Absolute Hockey Enterprises, which includes Doug MacLean, Jeff Sherrin and Oren Koules. A purchase agreement has been signed by Absolute Hockey, but the ownership transfer is subject to approval by the National Hockey League’s Board of Governors.
Palace Sports and entertainment, which is owned by Davidson, has owned the team since the summer of 1999. It bought the team because, as Davidson said at the time, he wanted the building and the adjacent land that was to be developed. The Lightning has turned its on-ice fortunes around under Davidson, winning the 2004 Stanley Cup and reaching the playoffs four straight years. But things were tougher financially.
The team claims it has lost $76-million on its Tampa operation, and after the death of two partners whose expertise was real estate, the development plans never got on track. The team always claimed it was never formally for sale, but it always said if someone backed a truck of money up to the door, it would listen. It also last season hired a New York investment banking company, Galatioto Sports Partners, to do an analysis of the team's finances, though it claimed at the time the goal was to help figure out ways to help the bottom line.