Wonder if they could save hockey from itself?

Firms reportedly make pitch to buy NHL for $3.5 billion
March 3, 2005 wire reports

TORONTO -- An investment firm and a sports advisory company reportedly made a joint proposal to buy all 30 NHL teams for as much as $3.5 billion.

The two Boston companies were invited by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to present the highly unusual offer, the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail reported Thursday. Bain Capital Partners LLC and Game Plan LLC made their pitch Tuesday in New York to NHL owners, whose season has been shut down by a lockout.

Bain Capital spokesman Sam Hollander and Collin Vataha of Game Plan declined to immediately comment Thursday to the Associated Press.

The NHL, which because of its ongoing player lockout recently became the first major North American pro sports league to cancel an entire season, has said its teams have lost a collective $500 million over the past two seasons.

Before the work stoppage, the total value of the 30 NHL franchises was an estimated $4.9 billion, according to Forbes Magazine. The Detroit Red Wings topped the list at $266 million, with the Edmonton Oilers last at $86 million. The value of the arenas are part of the assessment.

"The substance of the presentation and the reaction of the board" are "internal league matters, and ones on which we are not prepared to comment further," Bill Daly, the NHL's chief legal officer, said in a statement Thursday.

Bain managing partner Steven Pagliuca, co-owner of the NBA's Boston Celtics, and Game Plan, which recently acted as an adviser on the sale of the Ottawa Senators, are betting that many NHL owners would welcome the chance to get out of the hockey business.

But it's unclear how team owners, especially those in large markets such Toronto, Boston and New York, would react to the proposal. Maple Leafs officials declined comment, the newspaper said, as did a Game Plan spokesman.

"I would imagine different clubs had different feelings," Daly told the Globe and Mail.

He said the league was compelled to listen based on the significance of the offer.

"When someone's offering over $3 billion, we felt we had an obligation to the board to have them, at least, hear it from the proposed purchaser," Daly added.

The purchase would not depend on the NHL reaching agreement with the players on a collective bargaining deal, the newspaper said, and a sale would not affect the status of the NHL Players Association as the bargaining agent for players under U.S. and Canadian labor laws.

According to the newspaper, Bain and Game Plan said the sale would bolster the league's revenue because all the teams would work together to generate more local television, sponsorship and revenue instead of competing against one another.

The consortium reportedly told the NHL owners it had arranged for a large Canadian-based financier to join its efforts.