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Prospective Tampa Bay Lightning buyer Jeff Greene bows out; Anthony Sansone Jr. is still interested

On a day one potential Lightning buyer bowed out, another reiterated, but did not define, his interest.

Jeff Greene, a Miami Beach real estate investor, said Wednesday in a statement that his due diligence into the organization's finances "determined that this investment does not meet our criteria."

"The numbers," he said, "do not work for us."

Whether they ultimately work for Anthony Sansone Jr., who also has been kicking the Lightning's tires, remains to be seen. But the St. Louis real estate developer, reached in Europe on a business trip, said, "Obviously, we remain interested."

It was unclear what effect Greene's decision will have on Sansone, or if the process has been clarified or set back. But it is another twist in the league's mandate to consolidate and stabilize the ownership, a course that began in June and included opportunities for co-owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie to buy each other out.

Greene, 55, who Forbes estimates is worth $1.25 billion, was recruited by Koules. Under Greene's plan, it is believed, Barrie would have been bought out. Koules would have been a secondary owner, though with a voice in personnel and organizational decisions.

Any plan also would have to address debt owed former owner Palace Sports & Entertainment, which financed about $70 million of OK Hockey's $200 million purchase and loaned another $30 million in operating capital.

"At Florida Sunshine Investments, we are presented diverse investment opportunities here in Florida, throughout the United States and around the world," Greene said. "We looked at investment in the Lightning like we look at any other potential investments, and after doing our final analysis, the numbers did not work for us."

Said Koules in a statement, "Nobody knows better than I that owning a team in professional sports today must be accompanied by a true passion for the endeavor and a desire to dedicate yourself to that endeavor.

"I understand Jeff's position in life and his decision not to invest in the franchise, but appreciate his friendship and ongoing support of the Lightning as we move forward."

Sansone declined to comment on where his due diligence stands or when he will decide whether to pursue ownership. The NHL also declined to comment.

Sansone, 51, once part of a group that tried to buy the Blues, originally was part of Barrie's attempt to buy out Koules. But when Barrie in August vacated an exclusive window to purchase the team — all but conceding he will not be able to put together a deal — Sansone took the lead.

It is believed that under Sansone's plan — which Koules allowed to move forward even though he technically is in an exclusive window to buy the team — Koules would be bought out. Barrie, whose financial problems at his Bear Mountain Resort & Spa in Victoria, British Columbia, are ongoing, would have only a small stake.

"I still think the franchise — and the Tampa Bay market — are an intriguing opportunity for the right owner," Greene said.

"I wish the current ownership the best of luck."

Prospective Tampa Bay Lightning buyer Jeff Greene bows out; Anthony Sansone Jr. is still interested 10/28/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 28, 2011 10:53am]
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