Storm takeover bid confirmed

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

The Guelph Storm are embroiled in a hostile takeover by the group that operates the Guelph Sports and Entertainment Centre.

Guelph Centre Partners, a company established by Nustadia, served notice to current owners of the OHL team yesterday that it intends to proceed with the purchase of the franchise.

Nustadia's parent company is the Cochrane Group, which has its head office in Calgary. Nustadia, formed in 1994, is also involved with the Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre, home of the OHL's Sarnia Sting.

In February 1999, Storm owners signed a lease with Guelph Centre Partners.

Under terms of the agreement, the team was guaranteed a level of profit for the first two years, but if there was a shortfall, the team could seek the balance from arena ownership.

However, if the Storm asked for a payment, the arena group then had the option of buying the team for $3.25 million.

The team sought a payment of $336,000 in April 2002 and the matter went to court.

In January, a superior court judge in Kitchener ruled the arena group was within its rights to buy the team and ordered ownership to open its books.

The Storm's owners have appealed that ruling, saying they're not interested in selling, but yesterday, Trevor Cochrane, president of Guelph Centre Partners, announced he's exercising the option to buy the club. The purchase must be approved by the OHL board of governors, pending the outcome of the appeal.

"The current owners are bound by the recent court order to co-operate and act in good faith with all provisions of the sale," Cochrane said."We (will) seek a balance of local and experienced hockey ownership interests."

Storm president Jim Rooney, one of four partners in the team's ownership, could not be reached for comment last night.

The Storm won the OHL championship last season after knocking off the London Knights in the Western Conference final.

The Knights swept the Storm in this year's conference quarter-finals, wrapping up that series Tuesday in Guelph.

The OHL will conduct a hearing next week after Storm coach and general manager Dave Barr and defenceman Ryan Pottruff were suspended indefinitely over an incident in Game 3 on Monday at the John Labatt Centre.

Pottruff received a slashing major and game misconduct for swinging his stick at the Knights' Corey Perry.

Linesman Kevin Hastings reported to referee Kevin Cox he overheard Barr say on the bench: "Someone go out there and break someone's wrist."

Barr admitted "saying something stupid" but denied sending anyone after any Knight.


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