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Lightning to reveal new investor

The Tampa Bay Lightning hockey franchise plans to unveil its new uniforms and a new investor at a news conference today at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Tampa. Lightning president and general manager Phil Esposito said Monday at a closed-door session of the team's advisory board of area business and political leaders that the Lightning has another investor, Angus Charles Drogo Montagu, the Duke of Manchester.

Montagu, 52, is the 12th Duke of Manchester in England. He inherited the title in 1985 when his brother, Sidney Montagu, died of a heart attack while visiting his farm in Ashland City, Tenn.

Esposito, reached at home Monday evening, declined to elaborate about the investor at that time. "Come to the press conference," he said.

The Lightning announced earlier that the purpose of the news conference was to reveal its game uniforms _ both home and away _ and other "significant news regarding the NHL franchise."

Fifty percent of the team's financing is from four Japanese companies: Tokyo Tower Development Ltd., Kokusai Green Ltd. (a golf and recreation developer), Nippon Meat Packers Inc. (owner of Japanese baseball's Nippon-Ham Fighters) and Amseco International (a trading company).

On Dec. 6, the day the NHL awarded the franchise to Esposito's Tampa Bay Hockey Group, Esposito said the other 50 percent of the Ligtning's backing would come from "silent investors."

The Tampa Bay Lightning made the first payment of its $50-million franchise fee on Jan. 14. The second payment of $22.5-million, originally due Monday, was switched to June 15. The final payment, also $22.5-million, is due Dec. 15.

Monday's deadline was switched at the request of the teams "to get their financing in place," said Gary Meagher, director of communications for the league.

The teams haven't been given an extension, said Meagher, since the NHL's expansion plan adopted in May 1990, originally set a June 15 deadline for the second payment.

Recently, the league and the conditional franchise owners had mutually agreed to bring that date forward to June 3.

"I am not aware of any problems that the teams are having," Meagher said, "and we look forward to payment on June 15."

Report: Leafs in rift over possible hiring of Fletcher

TORONTO _ The Toronto Maple Leafs are set to hire Cliff Fletcher but he could be fired before the end of the summer, according to a published report.

Fletcher, who's leaving as president and general manager of the Calgary Flames, has agreed to accept a senior position with Toronto that would place him in complete charge of the Maple Leaf Gardens and the Leafs' hockey operation, unidentified NHL sources told the Toronto Star.

Fletcher is scheduled to meet Tuesday with the Gardens' board of directors amid speculation he will agree to a long-term contract worth at least $600,000 a season, the newspaper said.

But Gardens director Steve Stavro issued a statement Monday night that confirmed longstanding rumors he is opposed to hiring Fletcher. Stavro wants entertainment executive Lyman MacInnis installed as chief operating officer of the Gardens instead, the statement said.

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.