Florida panthers sold for US$240M

 

A publicly held company formed last year to acquire sports properties has agreed to purchase the Florida Panthers hockey team for US$240-million, a source familiar with the talks said yesterday.

 
 
 

A publicly held company formed last year to acquire sports properties has agreed to purchase the Florida Panthers hockey team for US$240-million, a source familiar with the talks said yesterday.

Sports Properties Acquisition Corp., has agreed to buy the National Hockey League team; its home, BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla.; an arena management company and some land surrounding the arena, said the source, who asked not to be identified because the deal has not been announced.

Officials with Sports Properties were not immediately available, and the Panthers and the NHL declined to comment.

The deal, which requires approval from 75% of the NHL's 30 owners, may also involve a merger in which current Panthers owner Alan Cohen receives stock in Sports Properties, the source said.

While the NHL, in the midst of its championship series between the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins, is enjoying a strong season for revenue and attendance, individual teams have struggled.

Last month, the Phoenix Coyotes filed for bankruptcy and Jim Balsillie, the co-chief executive of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd, has offered US$212.5-million for the money-losing team.

Meanwhile, Texas billionaire Tom Hicks is looking for a minority investor in the Dallas Stars team after defaulting on US$525-million in loans. Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett is also believed to be seeking a buyer for his team.

A special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, is a shell organization that uses money raised in an initial public offering to buy another business. That business then becomes publicly traded through the SPAC once shareholders approve the deal.

Sports Properties raised US$215-million in January, 2008 in its IPO to invest in the sports, leisure and entertainment sectors. It was one of the bidders for the Chicago Cubs baseball team and has looked at other sports properties.

SPACs are also known as blank-cheque companies because they essentially ask investors to invest in a management team rather than a company itself.

Sports Properties' management, according to its most recent SEC filing, includes Tony Tavares, the former president of the Washington Nationals baseball team and former CEO of Disney Sports Enterprises, which launched the Anaheim Ducks hockey team.

The group also includes Andrew Murstein, a New York City taxi tycoon, Hall of Fame baseball player Hank Aaron, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and Richard Mack, a senior partner at Apollo Real Estate Advisors.

After an IPO, a SPAC typically has two years to make an acquisition, or it has to return money to investors.

After a banner year in 2007, investor enthusiasm for SPACs cooled significantly last year, with SPAC investors voting down one acquisition proposal after another, preferring to get their cash back in an uncertain stock market.

About 21 acquisition proposals were nixed by shareholders in 2008, while nine won approval.

 
 
 
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