Friday, January 04, 2008

Katz calls

I'll admit it, I haven't been covering the Oilers' ownership saga with any sort of regularity, but there's a good reason for that: Anytime you need to know what's happening in Oiltown, there are plenty of destinations.

The Edmonton wing of hockey's blogosphere has been busy:

The Battle of Alberta: The Mickey Mouse Club
Covered in Oil: The many shades of overtime
Sweatsox: The E(mpire)IG Strikes Back! "Why are we having this gathering today?"

The dispute's getting ugly, more so by the day, but a quick synopsis is that local billionaire Daryl Katz has made several, escalating offers to buy Edmonton's NHL club, the board appeared ready to sell for $188-million a few weeks ago, and Wednesday, it went sour.

Longtime ownership group chairman Cal Nichols, who endorsed the offer last month, has stepped down from the board. He wants to sell, and so do many others (including four of the other five 'big' investors) but with such a large group and so much cash potentially available, there are dissenters.

Now the group's new chair, Bill Butler, is at the forefront of what's becoming a PR war more than anything.

And the very private Katz is being pulled into a very public ownership fight.

Katz had his own press release on Wednesday, and it asks some of the questions that had already been floating around. If there's going to be an alternative bid, what exactly is it? And if there were concerns over the lack of a location agreement or otherwise, shouldn't Katz be given a chance to address the board? (And, honestly, are we supposed to believe that the Edmonton native is going to pour $100-million+ into a new arena project only to relocate the team and be run out of town?)

What's interesting is just how invested in all this mess the general public is becoming in the city. Edmonton sports radio host Bob Stauffer set aside the airwaves for an hour on Thursday night for an unadulterated 'open forum' on the ownership issue, and the majority of callers spoke passionately in favour of Katz's bid.

The Edmonton Investors Group has always prided itself on being from and for the community, but that same community is becoming more and more vocal by the day — and they're no longer speaking the same language.

I'll give Tyler Dellow the last word:
In any event, it seems clear to me though, that the EIG Faction doesn’t have Katz’ bucks. If this whole thing is being done, at least in part, to ensure that Edmonton continues to have a hockey team, doesn’t it make more sense to have the guy with more money running the show? The guy who isn’t talking about leveraged debt? Applying the test that at least some local media factions are applying: “the one most like Pocklington is bad,” you’d think that “They want to finance with lots of debt, JUST LIKE POCKLINGTON!” is a more troubling similarity than “There’s only one of him, JUST LIKE POCKLINGTON!”



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