Cal is convinced this time

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

The news came out of a mid-afternoon press release from Daryl Katz.

It stated that the Rexall owner had made yet another new offer to buy the Edmonton Oilers. It was his fourth.

But the thing that made this one different was the third paragraph.

It quoted Cal Nichols, chairman of the Edmonton Investors Group, saying that the terms and conditions of the offer - $188 million for all the shares in the franchise and $100M toward the construction of a new downtown arena - had his enthusiastic support.

"I am extremely proud of what the EIG has done for the Oilers, the City of Edmonton, and Oilers fans everywhere, but it's probably time to pass the torch to a new generation of ownership. I believe that Daryl will be an outstanding owner of the Edmonton Oilers and an important leader in the growth of our city. In addition, the sale of the team will have served all my fellow shareholders very well."

At the same time the release came out, Nichols was holding a board meeting.

And when he came out, it was obvious this time Katz wasn't going to be turned away with another "Not For Sale" sign.

HIS SHARES

In a 5 p.m. press conference at Rexall Place, Nichols explained that he'd resigned as chairman and was replaced by Bill Butler and that he himself had decided to sell his shares.

"I received an offer today from the Katz Group as a shareholder," said the man who spearheaded the saving of the franchise here by putting together the group to buy Peter Pocklington's team from the Alberta Treasury Branch for $70 million US, roughly $100 million Cdn at the time.

"The same offer went out to every shareholder," he said of the other 33.

"We were aware that it was coming.

"We were aware of the offer, the content of the offer and the price and legalities," he said of a letter previously sent out by Katz.

"It was acceptable to me. The price is very good. Nashville sold for $193 million. This is in the same ballpark."

After 10 years, the owners would come close to doubling their investment and saving a hockey team in the process.

He said between now and Jan. 31 each individual Oiler owner will "look at it independently.

"None of this happens quickly."

At October's AGM, "clearly it was divided, half and half" Nichols said, and he perceived the balance was growing in the direction of selling.

"There will be meetings. There will be debates. Many have already said they would sell. Several don't want to do this."

Katz needs 60% of the shareholders to become owner. "But, in reality, 66 2/3%," said Nichols.

A sale would require approval of the NHL.

TWO-THIRDS

Asked if he made his own personal decision on the belief two-thirds would be sold to Katz, Nichols said, "I think that's fair to say."

Nichols said he came to the realization, "The load was too heavy on my shoulders and I'm not getting any younger."

Katz said in the press release, "I have great respect for everything Cal and the EIG shareholders have done for the Oilers and for the City.

"I want to continue that tradition with a commitment to strong local ownership and an exciting vision for the Oilers. The centerpiece of that vision is a new world-class arena complex at the heart of a revitalized downtown.

"If (accepted), I will commit my time, energy and on the order of $100 million in additional funds towards a new building.

"I will be asking Cal to help lead that effort on my behalf and to continue to represent the Edmonton Oilers on the NHL Board of Governors, as he has done so ably for so long."

Nichols said he's not sure if he'd accept that last provision and will wait to see what transpires before he thinks about it.


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