SUN Hockey Pool

Cards are on the table

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

The sides have made their pitches.

Now the future of the Edmonton Oilers ownership is up to the individual investors.

Yesterday, members of the Edmonton Investors Group gathered at the Petroleum Club for an information session to discuss the most recent offer made by drugstore billionaire Daryl Katz to buy the hockey club.

They also explored other alternatives for ownership of the team.

'INFORMED DECISION'

"We brought in legal, accounting and other information in the attempt to try to bring full knowledge, so that each shareholder could go forward prior to Jan. 31 and make an informed decision as to what would be the best for the community, the shareholders and the corporation," said EIG board chairman Bill Butler.

Katz, head of the Rexall Group, has made a $188-million offer to buy all 7,492 shares of the club, currently divided among the 34-member EIG.

A number of high-profile investors, including ex-board chairman Cal Nichols, Bruce Saville and Jim Hole have endorsed the offer and plan to sell their shares.

Others, led by Butler and Gary Gregg, proposed other alternatives to keep the team community owned. But Butler would not disclose what those other alternatives might be.

"Those would be considering existing shareholders that wish to remain," he said.

"All of those remaining would possibly want to continue on in the community ownership model.

"My obligation as the chair is to do what's right for the community, what's right for the shareholders and for the stakeholders, which include the fans and the city."

Katz was invited by the board to attend the meeting, but instead was represented by his lawyer John Karvellas.

Butler and Katz did get together this weekend privately.

Katz also invited other shareholders to meet him in his private suite at the Oil Kings game on Sunday, although Butler did not know which, if any, shareholders accepted.

"We had a private meeting at a coffee shop," Butler said.

"But I don't think that this is about personalities. Daryl is a successful businessman, he seems like a very nice person. It may come down to a vision of community ownership versus individual ownership."

Katz set a Jan. 31st deadline on his offer.

"The offer was made to each individual shareholder, so each shareholder votes on his own accord," Butler said.

"There is no vote planned. There will be a written recommendation from the board to the shareholders prior to the deadline so they can do a full and effective evaluation of their option.

"I would think January 31 might be a date you want to put on your calendar. Don't take a holiday."

It is believe well over 60% of the group have agreed to sell their shares to Katz.

Butler has not changed his position of wanting to hold on to his shares and seek other alternatives to buy out the remaining shares and find financial backing for a new area.

As part of his offer, Katz pledged $100 million towards construction of a new arena.

"The meeting was done on a very gentlemanly basis," Butler said.

RESPECT

"We all came together 10 years ago. There was a lot of respect in the room and clearly the differences of opinion may be because people have come to different stages of their life.

"I got a sense that everyone was eager for new information and was listening, but I didn't get a sense of anything beyond that.

"I think each shareholder will make his own decision. It's our duty to put forward all the facts and all of the potential choices in front of the shareholders and let them make the decision."

If things stand as they are, it appears Katz would be able to purchase a controlling interest in the hockey team.

"I think we're moving in the right direction," Butler said.

"It's all about education and doing a proper job as chair and as a board, so yes, I'm happy.

"I think the majority of the questions have been answered.

"There are always some issues that never seem to get full priority, but yes, most of the questions were answered."


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