No governor's reprieve

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

Cal Nichols resigned from the board and effectively quit as governor of the Edmonton Oilers yesterday.

Nichols, the man who put the group together to save the franchise, resigned as chairman on Dec. 11. A few hours later he announced he planned to take advantage of Daryl Katz's offer to buy the individual shares of the NHL franchise with an offer totalling $188 million.

"I e-mailed a copy of my resignation to each and every shareholder," Nichols told Sun Media early yesterday afternoon of his remaining positions.

His latest resignation followed an ownership group press conference Wednesday, which made it clear that the Edmonton Investors Group wasn't going to go away and all follow his lead to sell their shares to Katz.

Nichols felt for several reasons -- some personal, some conflict of interest and some legal -- he could no longer continue in any capacity other than shareholder.

"I gave up my spot on the board and effectively that takes me out of being governor," explained Nichols, whom Katz said would be invited to act as team governor in the event he becomes the new majority owner.

"I'm out of it, I'm just a shareholder," Nichols said.

It's been awkward, he admits.

Nichols, who has been going through health issues with eye surgery, did attend one board meeting after his resignation as chairman. "It was difficult. It was long. But it was cordial," he said.

Could he see it coming, the Wednesday press conference and the attempt by the group to go on despite any defections if they continue to have 60% or more of the shares?

"Oh, yeah," he said.

Nichols said there is some sadness on his part to be departing from the group that he put together and did a great job of keeping together before Katz started making his offers.

In the 10 years since the now 34-owner group took over the team to keep it in Edmonton, two have died, one went bankrupt, another sold his shares to Nichols himself. There was also an amalgamation of two shareholders in the U.S.

But now, he leaves a totally divided group.

"I'd say that," he agreed.

Is it personal?

"In some cases, yes."

Personal toward him?

"In some cases, yes."

Personal in the other direction?

"In some cases, for sure."

He said he was more than aware that a significant number of shareholders felt they were totally "blindsided" by his decision to sell his shares to Katz.

"Things change," he said.

Nichols said despite Katz dangling the governorship of the team for him in the future, his decision to sell shares to Katz after a decade of being hands-on and making the job almost full-time, it was mostly a personal financial decision.

"I thought it was a good offer and that it would leave the people remaining in our group who wanted to carry on needing to go back into debt and for a cash call when it came time to put up money to build the arena. I did not have the personal financial capability and was not ready to do that. It was definitely a personal financial decision.

"For me, I looked at is as an opportunity to take a bow and do the noble thing."

Others don't see it as so noble, but let's not go there today.

This city and hockey fans will forever owe Cal Nichols, no matter how this plays out, whether it remains as a ownership group or goes to a single-owner structure.

And while this is starting to look like the same situation the team was in when he stepped in -- minus Les Alexander, Michael Largue and Jan Reimer -- it isn't.

"Whatever ends up happening will be for the right reasons," said Nichols.

"Edmonton and the Oilers will move on. However it plays out, I think the future of the team is pretty secure here. With the Canadian dollar and the economy, this team is in the top 10 franchises in the league.

"Mission accomplished!"

Thank you, Cal Nichols.


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