LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 25: Liverpool fans protest against the Club's owners prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on October 25, 2009 in Liverpool, England. Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett have confirmed their intention to sell Liverpool FC. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Yesterday Ken Campbell published a story for The Hockey News, reporting that Calgarian oil tycoon Bill Gallacher had agreed in principle to purchase the Dallas Stars from HSG for a sum of $225 million. Immediately, various reporters around the NHL began to check with their own sources to try and verify this news, especially since many felt that the price tag of $225 million was much higher than other teams that have been sold lately.
Nearly everyone with well-placed sources in the NHL refuted the report, shockingly saying that $225 million was actually too low an offer. Stars fans (and many reporters) were a bit perplexed, especially after a premature celebration that the sale had gone through. Yet how could a reporter with such a great reputation as Campbell out with a report that was universally deemed to be grossly inaccurate?
Ken Campbell is certainly not the type of reporter to come up with a fabricated story, and I believe there has to be some truth to what he was saying yesterday. I also think that there's a good chance that the sources he got this information from might have been close to the truth of what exactly was happening, while perhaps feeding a bit of misinformation as well.
It's not unheard of for "sources" to have agendas of there own, forwarding bits of information or being misleading about certain details in order to serve their own gain. Is that what happened in this case?
No way to know exactly, but there's just too many inaccuracies in the report to ignore.
I'm sure that the sale of the Stars is closer to being done than we are being led to believe by the counter-reports that came out yesterday. According to various reports by Mike Heika and others, Bill Gallacher is no closer to agreeing on a price for the Stars and becoming the potential new owner than he was just two days ago. As of now, we're still down to two (Gallacher and Tom Gaglardi) and there's still some negotiating going on.
Unlike the Texas Rangers sale, the process involving the Dallas Stars sale has taken place behind closed doors and without much leaking into the press. There's really not much information out there and it's impossible to determine just how far off from reality Campbell's article is. Heika says that a lot of this has to do with the price of the Stars, as the team is supposedly much more valuable than $225 million:
Maybe this is all just part of the negotiating process and the team is trying to get a bidding war going, or maybe insiders really do believe this team could be worth close to $300 million. Forbes put it at $246 million in November, eighth highest in the league, and it has routinely been in the top seven in the past decade in the Forbes rankings. So there is obvious value there.
So what exactly is going on here? Are the Stars going to be sold to Gallacher or not? Just how close to this sale being final are we?
I believe that Gallacher is the leading candidate to purchase the Stars and he has been all along. He's the perfect fit for this team, an owner with insanely deep pocket who loves hockey and is willing to do what it takes to turn this into a winning franchise once more.
Tom Hicks infamously condemned the potential value of hockey teams "south of Pennsylvania", saying that any owner that spends to the cap in Dallas will be instantly losing money. That's a tough pill to swallow (especially coming from Hicks) when you consider that the Stars are one of the most valuable franchises in the NHL, are routinely tops in generating revenue, have a firm hold on spreading hockey in North Texas, have a very lucrative arena deal and it seems that a new television contract could be very valuable for this franchise in the near future.
That last point is what is most important. The Dallas Stars don't generate great ratings locally, but there is the thought out there that a new deal (especially if worked in conjunction with the Mavericks, possibly) will bring a new stream of revenue that is more important to this team than anything else that can be done.
I don't believe for a second that the Stars can't use a higher budget, build a good team (both through free agency and the draft) and be successful. The Stars just need to show progress, instead of treading water like we've seen for the past three years. All fans want is a sign that management is dedicated to truly making a difference, and attendance and ratings will improve.
Many fans are also concerned about what's going on with the sale of the Texas Rangers, as it's now dragged on for nearly a year and is now locked in a nasty battle in bankruptcy court. Is this what will happen with the sale of the Stars? Here's what Heika has to say:
I've been told that Hicks Sports Group and the NHL have learned a lot from the Rangers sale _ that's one reason they're trying to do this so quietly. Hicks also put Galatioto Sports Group in charge of the sale, and they are one of the leading lenders to Hicks Sports Group. Because GSP will have a say in how the deal is structured, Hicks and the NHL believe they will be able to make the lenders happy and make the sale go more quickly.
We knew months ago that Hicks had placed a law firm in charge of overseeing the sale of the team, but knowing that they are one of the actual lenders involved in HSG's financial mess can only be a good thing. What's happening between the Rangers and the lenders stems from HSG playing both sides of the sale and the lenders not willing to settle for anything less that what they feel they are entitled to.
Most of all, the mess with the Rangers sale is compounded by the fact that the team is attempting to be sold to an ownership group that actually wasn't the highest bidder. Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan were picked by HSG and the MLB over the higher bidder Jim Crane, since the league has the right to choose who they sell their franchises to whomever they deem worthy. After Crane caused a bit of havoc after backing out of buying the Houston Astros at the last second, he's not exactly welcome in MLB circles. That's caused issues with the lenders, since they believe they are entitled to getting as much money as they can from the sale of the team.
That's not going to happen with the Stars. Whether $225 million is too low or not, whomever is the highest bidder between Gaglardi and Gallacher will be accepted by the NHL. I'm sure that when we are down to one buyer and there has been a price agreed to, then the next steps in the process will be taken with great care to ensure the sale hits none of the snags we've seen with the Rangers.
So that's a good thing.
I have to believe that even if Campbell's report isn't entirely accurate (Mark Cuban has absolutely zero interest in purchasing the Stars at this point), there's some truth behind what's in his story. At this point, that's better news than we've heard in a long time.
The sale isn't going to get done as quickly as we'd like, but it certainly seems that that the sale of the team will be done most likely in time for the start of the season, and certainly in time for the trade deadline. If the Stars are in the middle of the standings, on the cusp of a playoff spot or battling for one, that's very important as the Stars can then go and make the big trade move they needed last season.
We're getting closer, fellow Stars fans. Just have patience.