Lightning sale heading into home stretch
The seemingly never-ending process that would finally finish the proposed sale of the Lightning might actually be coming to a conclusion in the next few weeks as the league's board of governors likely will vote on the transfer of ownership at its June 18 meeting in New York. Approval of the sale by Palace Sports & Entertainment would give Hollywood producer Oren Koules and his OK Hockey Group control of the team by the June 20-21 draft.
The key, though, will be Wednesday's meeting of the board's executive committee, which will interview the prospective buyers. Why is that meeting so important? Because it does the leg work for the entire board, which likely will vote whatever recommendation the executive committee makes. If approval is given by a three-fourths vote and the financial deal wraps up, the team finally will have new owners.
It's been quite a process since Absolute Hockey Enterprises, of which Koules was a member, originally agreed to buy the team in August. That deal fell apart amidst money issues and infighting among the investors. Koules then put together OK Hockey, which also includes former NHLer Len Barrie, Koules' business partner Mark Berg, California banker Russell Belinsky and several unnamed minority investors from the Tampa Bay area. All in all, the sale of the team, if it is finally wrapped up, will have taken more than 10 months.
The good news for the organization and fans is the team may finally have a direction. We already have seen signs of that with the negotiations to bring back big Russian Evgeny Artyukhin to be on a proposed crash line with center Chris Gratton and Nick Tarnasky. But we finally will know if coach John Tortorella will be back for the last year of his contract, if GM Jay Feaster will be back, and exactly what kind of team Koules and Barrie want. We already know Koules wants Steve Stamkos with the No. 1 pick in the draft, and he wants to sign Vinny Lecavalier to a long-term deal. After that, well, it's anyone's guess as Koules, at the request of commissioner Gary Bettman, has not spoken to reporters.
So, hang on a little while longer. With Palace Sports and Galatioto Sports Partners, a New York sports investment bank, financing about half the $200-million deal, the process seems to be coming to a close.