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Sale of Tampa Bay Lightning to Boston investor Jeff Vinik all but official

Barring anything unforeseen, Boston hedge fund manager Jeff Vinik will be the next owner of the Lightning.

There still is talk of co-owner Len Barrie mounting a competing bid, and co-owner Oren Koules, who has kept a similarly low profile, could have a scenario of his own.

But Barrie has financial problems at his Bear Mountain Resort in Victoria, British Columbia. And the pair lead a team in deep financial trouble.

Add that the NHL is working directly with Vinik to broker a deal and it is apparent the deck is stacked heavily in favor of the New Jersey native, Harvard grad and limited partner of the Red Sox.

Nothing was finalized (at least no announcements were made) during a Saturday in which lawyers and negotiators apparently took more steps forward.

So, what is the timing?

The league wants this wrapped up as soon as possible. The SportsBusiness Daily Web site reported the team needed to draw on future revenue-sharing money to help meet January's payroll. As soon as Vinik has a purchase agreement, he can start handling that expense.

Vinik has an advantage in the approval process because his representatives are working so closely with the league. Remember, though his involvement came to light last week, the dealmaking has gone on longer than that.

That Vinik doesn't seem to be bringing in outside investors means fewer headaches putting a package together, and if he is self-financing, going from purchase agreement to closing should be a straight line.

It is that straight line that is most exciting to the league. So though Barrie and Koules perhaps are technically still alive in this process, they would have to go a long way to change what seems a foregone conclusion.

Sale of Tampa Bay Lightning to Boston investor Jeff Vinik all but official 01/30/10 [Last modified: Sunday, January 31, 2010 12:31pm]

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