January 29, 2008
Katz door opening for Oil?Local billionaire's quest to own the Oilers on track after potential counter-bid by investors fails to materialize
By JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media
Daryl Katz's quest to buy the Edmonton Oilers has suddenly become much easier with the collapse of a potential bid from within the team's board of directors.
The small group of non-Katz members within the Edmonton Investors Group have notified the 34 EIG members that there is no counter bid that can match or exceed the local billionaire's offer.
This news comes on the heels of Sun Media learning that members of the EIG board - clearly non-Katz members - made an attempt to contact Jim Balsillie, the Ontario billionaire with a checkered NHL past when it comes to purchasing a team.
A source from outside Edmonton revealed that information yesterday, though attempts by Sun Media to contact Balsillie for confirmation were unsuccessful.
Balsillie has twice tried to buy NHL franchises - Pittsburgh and Nashville - and has clearly tried to launch a team in Hamilton.
It's fair to assume that the NHL head office would have likely frowned upon any move to bring Balsillie into the Edmonton Oilers ownership picture to prop up a counter bid to Katz's highly respected offer.
At the moment, it appears Katz has secured at least 60% of EIG's 7,492 shares.
While he could close the deal with that amount, a source indicates he would ideally like close to 80%.
By apparently upping his offer to $200 million for the team ($22,000 per share) - a jump from the $188 million he earlier offered - could certainly bring him at least 70% of the shares.
(Josh Pekarsky - the spokesperson for Katz - declined to confirm that the offer has now reached $200 million.)
Regardless, the long list of Katz's supporters within the EIG are surely happy that momentum is clearly on their side.
"I met with (Katz) and was impressed with the fact he was a good Edmontonian and sincere," Jim Hole told Sun Media.
Hole has agreed to sell his 9.14% of the EIG's share total to Katz.
Ron Hodgson is a much smaller EIG member with just a 1.74% stake. But he has pledged his shares to Katz.
"I thought it was an evolution and inevitable (that he would acquire the team)," Hodgson said from Arizona.
FEB. 5 DEADLINE
Katz has now imposed a Feb. 5th deadline to officially close the deal.
The key members of the non-Katz group - Gary Gregg and Bill Butler - didn't make public comments yesterday.
Jakob Ambrosius, Art Mihalcheon and Brian Nilsson are also against Katz's probable ownership.
A highly-placed source close to that group, though, made it seem late yesterday that there is still a very small flicker of hope.
"We will see, we have a few days left," a source told Sun Media.
But the widely believed death of Plan B yesterday ended speculation that Harold Roozen - an owner of just 1.67% of the club - could come to the aid of Gregg and Butler.
Considered by some as a wild card in the ownership battle, Roozen is extremely wealthy.
The chairman and CEO of CCI Thermal Technologies, Roozen has been linked to a group that tried to buy the Oilers several years ago before the EIG was formed.