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Deal would give hedge fund manager Vinik sole control of Tampa Bay Lightning

If Boston hedge fund manager Jeff Vinik gets control of the Lightning, he will be a sole proprietor, meaning current co-owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie will not have a role with the team, nor will any of the six limited partners.

Negotiations to complete the deal have been in high gear at the NHL offices in New York, and were kicked off with a marathon session Monday that lasted well into Tuesday morning. Koules, and representatives for Vinik, Barrie and former owner Palace Sports & Entertainment were present.

The price for the team, the St. Pete Times Forum lease and 5 1/2 acres around the arena is unclear but likely will be less than reports in the $170 million range and substantially less than the $200 million OK Hockey paid in June 2008.

Time is critical. The SportsBusiness Daily Web site reported that to help meet January's payroll, the financially strapped team took an advance on the league revenue sharing money it will receive after the season. Vinik, recruited to ownership by the league, could begin covering the payroll as soon as a purchase agreement is signed.

The deal is not a one-to-one transaction. Palace Sports financed about $67 million of the purchase price and loaned another $30 million in operating capital. Galatioto Sports Partners, a New York sports banking firm, financed at least $30 million.

But Palace Sports also could be for sale and may be willing to take less than the full value of the loan to clear the team off its books.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com

Deal would give hedge fund manager Vinik sole control of Tampa Bay Lightning 02/03/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 5, 2010 10:14am]
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