SUN Hockey Pool

Is Katz a friend or foe?

Daryl Katz made a public statement yesterday about his desire to purchase the Oilers. (Sun File/Tim...

Daryl Katz made a public statement yesterday about his desire to purchase the Oilers. (Sun File/Tim Smith)

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

Did Daryl Katz, in attempting to sweeten the deal, sour it?

Will people now resent what already felt like an uninvited hostile takeover attempt of a group of the all-time greatest guys in Edmonton history - the 37 entities who saved the Oilers?

Katz yesterday went public with a statement which was both teasing and tantalizing in terms of putting up major money toward the building of a new downtown arena, investing in a new arena for the University of Alberta and promising to spend to the salary cap to make the Oilers a winning team.

The timing of the statement is curious.

The Edmonton Investors Group won't vote until Aug. 7.

In his statement, Katz said he would not answer any questions because he doesn't want to negotiate in public. But isn't the statement itself his first move, beyond leaking the offers of $150 million, $155 million and $170 million, negotiating in public?

This column believes that Katz, at this moment, has no better than 33% of the 66% he requires to own his hometown hockey team.

Does sweetening the deal with arena and cap promises and making it public change the percentages?

"I'm very surprised. It's the first I've heard of it," said Larry Makelki, the Lloydminster oil man who, along with friends in the area, was the key for Cal Nichols to make it all come together and save the Oilers.

Makelki said he can't speak for anyone else, but he said he's definitely voting to keep his shares.

"You betcha," he said.

MINDS WON'T BE CHANGED

Ron Hodgson said he and most of the investors he's talked to feel the same way and aren't likely to change their minds after the latest volley.

"I just don't think there's an appetite to sell the team," he said.

"I think the people who invested in the Oilers did it for all the right reasons and are intending to keep their shares for all the right reasons. In my opinion, it's not close at all," he said of what the vote would be if taken today.

Certainly the investors aren't hurting for money. Most of them have done very well in their businesses in the same stretch they've invested in the hockey club, thank you very much. And most of them have enjoyed being involved.

But Katz clearly has had some bites.

Bruce Saville, one of the largest investors, confessed "I'm on the fence right now."

Saville said he liked the sound of one part of Katz statement.

"I'm delighted to hear the part about the arena for the campus. I'm on the board at the U of A," said Saville. "I'd like to see it beside the Saville Centre and Foote Field."

Saville also said if Katz did buy the team he thinks the Rexall owner would be a good fit for the Oilers.

"I know Daryl Katz a little bit. He's an honourable man, a good Edmontonian and a good businessman. If the decision was to sell, I'm confident he would be a good owner."

TEAM ISN'T LEAVING

The thing about this deal is that no matter what happens, the team isn't leaving town.

Obviously, somewhere down the road, you can't keep the ownership group at the current size.

My belief was Edmonton would be best served if the shares were sold within the group as investors became older. I envisioned it getting down to Saville and four or five others and become similar in size and structure to that of the Calgary Flames.

Clearly, that isn't happening in a hurry.

I think Edmonton would much rather have a group like that to keep the team in trust for the town.

Katz promising "to play to the cap" and saying "I am committed to building a winning team" also sounds like a warning bell to me.

Good businessmen have been known to buy teams as a toy. And if they do, they usually want to play with it.


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