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Minnesota businessman launches bid to keep team

OAKLAND, Calif. _ Harvey Mackay, a businessman who once rescued the Minnesota Twins and led a drive to get the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves, says his investor group will "fight our guts out" to buy the Minnesota North Stars.

Mackay, worried about losing the hockey team to Oakland or San Jose, Calif., said he spoke with one of the North Stars owners and NHL President John Ziegler and expects to open negotiations within a couple of days.

"The team is for sale to a viable buyer," Mackay said. "My group stands ready, willing and able, with the resources, to make the purchase and enter serious negotiations."

Mackay said he believes his group, North Star Hockey Partners, or others interested in keeping the team in Minnesota, would have the inside track over the owners' plan to move the North Stars to California.

"I have the utmost respect for (North Stars' co-owners) Gordon and George Gund, and I think they're team players," Mackay said. "I believe unequivocally that the league would like to see the team remain in Minnesota. If my observations is correct, I believe they would sell to us as a local group.

"If there were two equal offers, they'd probably keep the team in Minnesota so it's not a disruptive force to the league."

Mackay said he had no idea how much it might cost to buy the North Stars or how long it would take to come up with a firm offer. He also declined to reveal the size of his group or the names of other investors. Most of them, he said, were interested mainly in keeping the team in Minnesota, while some were more concerened with making money on the investment.

The Gunds said they want at least $50-million _ the same price tag the NHL has placed on its expansion franchises. But the last two teams to be sold, Hartford and Quebec, went for much less money. The Whalers were sold for $31-million in 1988, while the Nordiques went for about $15-million last year.

"I'm not looking for a long, drawn out negotiation," said Mackay, who is on a world tour promoting his best-selling book, Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt. His previous best-seller was Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.

Mackay, who once rescued the Twins from a move by engineering a $6-million ticket buyout in 10 days, said a move by the North Stars would be an "incalculable" loss for Minnesota.

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