Lightning sale Q & A
Who says you can't keep a secret anymore? The sale of the Lightning, the St. Pete Times Forum lease and some surrounding property was a clandestine undertaking that was so far off the radar, the word is some Lightning officials in Tampa did not know until Monday. Here is what we know (and don't know) heading into an 11 a.m. news conference.
Who bought the team?
A group headed by former Panthers coach and former Blue Jackets general manager Doug MacLean, right. Also involved is Coral Springs, Fla., developer Jeff Sherrin and Hollywood movie producer Oren Koules, who is behind the immensely popular and immensely gory Saw series, below right.
What are the particulars?
The group bought the team, the St. Pete Times Forum lease and some surrounding land held by former owner Palace Sports & Entertainment
Is it official?
The sale must be ratified by the NHL's Board of Governors, though that is considered a formality.
How much did they pay?
Hard to say, though former owner Bill Davidson, who in the summer of 1999 bought the franchise, the arena lease and the surrounding land for around $98-million, always has said he would never take less than $200-million. More realistic is that he wanted to recoup the $76-million his company says it has lost on its Tampa operation since its purchase.
Will the team stay in Tampa?
That seems to be the case. Also, the group likely would not have taken the building and surrounding land if it was planning a move. But that question will be asked.
What about front office personnel?
With the season so close to beginning, it seems the transition period would be too short to make a change. Tortorella also has two years left on his contract. Feaster has four, so unless the group was interested in large buyouts, stability is probably the way to go, for now at least.
What about player payroll?
A good question. The Lightning set a self-imposed salary cap of $44-million this season. Was that because ownership new about the sale and wanted to give the new owners some wiggle room to reach the $50.3-million league salary cap? (A new goaltender, anyone?) Or was it to keep costs down so the new owners could get a running start? And considering the big losses incurred by Palace Sports, is it possible the payroll could be cut? All questions to be asked.
How could this transaction have been kept so secret?
Another good question. The scuttlebutt is that CEO Tom Wilson handled all the details in Auburn Hills, Mich., where Palace Sports is located. Apparently there was little said outside those offices, and only a limited number of Lightning officials in Tampa got word about it, in some cases not until Monday.
Why should we believe this group can make this a profitable endeavor?
Yet another good question. Palace Sports was very successful running the Pistons at the Palace at Auburn Hills, but that is quite a different setup than it has in Tampa. Palace Sports owns the Auburn Hills building, controls all the parking revenue. The Times Forum has little parking outside city-owned lots. Also, Palace Sports said it never could charge for tickets what it really wanted. Part of that is because the team was so bad at first, it had to literally give tickets away to get people in the building. And when it had a chance to pump up prices after a Stanley Cup season, there was a lockout that destroyed any momentum and forced Palace Sports to keep prices down to make sure it could recapture fans that had not seen hockey in two years. What is the plan for the new owners? We'll have to wait and see.