Come clean? Come on!

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

Not so fast, Mr. Katz.

Bill Butler isn't buying what Cal Nichols is selling. And 'Not For Sale' may be the answer Daryl Katz now gets for a third time.

Butler, the new chairman of the Edmonton Oilers ownership group, doesn't believe old chairman Nichols's contention that owners who don't want to sell their shares to Daryl Katz don't have the money or the will to buy the shares themselves.

And Butler doesn't believe the old chairman's conclusion that Katz's putting up $100 million toward building a new arena will chase them off, either.

The first thing you need to know about Bill Butler is what he does for a living. He's in real estate development. Over the last 15 years, Butler has developed a billion dollars in real estate.

GREATER WEALTH OF KATZ?

If the reason Daryl Katz wants to get his hands on the Oilers isn't about owning the hockey team for the greater glory of Edmonton but about "owning" the new arena and the business opportunities around it for the greater wealth of Daryl Katz, a significant number of Oiler owners obviously aren't going to give the game away.

"There are a hundred different ways to finance this thing," Butler told your correspondent late yesterday afternoon after a press conference held earlier in the day.

The Edmonton Investors Group, or at least the ones Katz hasn't been able to count as having signed up to sell him their shares yet, obviously aren't just going to up and wave the white flag like Nichols predicted.

"Our existing bank debt is very low," said Butler. "We've also heard from a lot of people who would like to be new members of the group.

"When we took over, we had $60 million in debt and a 65-cent dollar and the hockey team wasn't selling out. There's no train wreck here. The debt would be very manageable," he said.

"To this point nobody has taken out a dividend or a penny," he added of the group which saved the franchise.

"Can we take on more debt? I think we can. We'll have more sessions and bring choices to the shareholders," he promised.

"What do we need with a Jan. 31 deadline? If the wheels aren't falling off, what's the rush?"

Katz received 'Not For Sale' responses to his first two offers. In his third one, he sent out a press release announcing he had chairman Cal Nichols on board.

Nichols, the man who put together the group to save the franchise, called his own press conference and made it seem like selling the team to Katz was now going to be fait accompli.

Officially yesterday the EIG was responding to Katz's latest purchase offer by requesting hard answers from the Katz group, now called Rexall Sports. But it was obviously about more than that.

"We needed to give Edmonton some sense of what is going on," said Butler.

"We've now met with commissioner Gary Bettman, with Northlands and have had time to take the offer we'd been given to our lawyers.

"It happened so quickly and at the worst possible time with the Christmas holidays," he admitted of Nichols's resignation.

"We're currently being advised not to sign in this current form," said Butler of individual investors selling their shares to Katz.

STILL IN HIDING

Katz, who has yet to appear in public to answer any questions of his own, sent out another press release later in the day which was just plain curious considering the circumstances.

While he said he'd respond to the EIG questions, he didn't leave it at that.

"I think they owe an equal duty to come clean about any involvement members of the Board may have in fashioning an alternative bid, how much debt they plan to assume to retain ownership, and what commitments they are prepared to make to help secure a new arena ..."

Come clean?

The choice of those two words will likely result in two predictable words coming back his way.

This is a guy who won't come out of his hole and appear in public demanding answers from the citizens who saved the team without his help and without making a dime to answer to him because why? Because he's Daryl Katz and is worth two billion bucks?

Come clean? Come on!


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