Boots turns to Balsillie
It wasn't all that long ago that Boots Del Biaggio and Jim Balsillie were seen as in competition for the same entity, two well-moneyed (or so we heard) investors looking to purchase the Nashville Predators.
Now, with Boots in trouble — and is there ever a heap of it — we learn that he turned to Balsillie to get him out of a jam.
After all, if you're facing financial difficulties, what better way to pull out of a hole than to sell to the highest bidder. And, as we've seen previously, Balsille sets the standard in that department:
Mr. Del Biaggio, a California-based financier who is facing fraud allegations and is reportedly under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, tried to sell his 27% preferred equity stake in the Tennesse-based NHL franchise and that of his business partner to Mr. Balsillie during a meeting on May 22.We've seen this story before. And it has a similar ending this time around:
According to sources familiar with the events, a tentative deal was arranged that would have seen Mr. Del Biaggio's combined one-third minority interest, with an estimated book value of US$30-million, transferred to Mr. Balsillie for a "significant premium."
However when an advisor to Mr. Del Biaggio ... informed NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman of the discussions, sources say the 40-year-old investor was discouraged from proceeding with a deal.This is a story that's been developing over the past few days, one that Toronto radio personality Bob McCown has been following closely but that I didn't hop on due to the ongoing finals. McCown had Balsillie's advisor, Richard Rodier, in studio Wednesday to talk about what Mr. BlackBerry's next step would be, and Rodier dropped some plum hints that this was headed back into the limelight.
Then, last night, McCown revealed that Del Biaggio will file for bankruptcy as soon as today, and broke down some of the backroom shenanigans that have gone on thus far.
When Boots bought 27 per cent of the Nashville franchise with his funny money, several key sections of the agreement would have allowed him to later move that team to Kansas City:
- he could buyout other partners if the team lost significant cash
- he could sell his stake if the team was stable
- he assumed no risk but would claim profits if there were any
...Mr. Del Biaggio delivered a message to Mr. Balsillie's camp on May 23 that the league would not give it blessing to confer the same rights, which had been approved for the troubled U.S. financier, to the Canadian billionaire...Here's what Rodier told McCown on Wednesday:
"I think it will become apparent in the next week or so that the commissioner's view is that there are no circumstances under which he wants Jim Balsillie in the league if there is a scintilla of chance that he might be able to apply for a relocation of the team to Southern Ontario within seven years."Nevermind next week — it took less than two days.
And now there's absolutely no question what Balsillie's facing from the league offices.
One more pertinent point here: Rodier also indicated Wednesday that he believed Balsillie could put together a deal for an NHL team by September.
Rodier also seemed to suggest that the difficulty at that point wouldn't be getting the board of governors' approval; it'd be getting to the board vote at all.