Tampa Bay Lightning sold today

08/07/07 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

The Tampa Bay Area’s Professional hockey franchise, The Tampa Bay Lightning, have been sold. No terms of the deal were announced.

The new ownership group, called Absolute Hockey Enterprises, is headed by Doug MacLean, who for the past nine years has been general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Before that, he coached the Florida Panthers.

At a news conference this morning, MacLean emphasized that the team will not be going anywhere.

MacLean said there will be nine or 10 principal owners. Two attended the news conference, including Oren Koules, a Hollywood producer whose works include the slasher “Saw” movies. He said the entire Absolute group takes ownership of the Tampa franchise quite seriously.

Absolut Hockey Enterprises is buying the team from Palace Sports & Entertainment, a Michigan based group that also owned the Detroit Pistons basketball franchise.

Palace Sports officials admit that, except for the 2003-2004 season when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup, they never made money in the eight years they owned the team.

In addition to the team, Absolute Hockey Enterprises is purchasing its lease agreement with Hillsborough County, the St. Pete Times Forum and two pieces of adjacent property.

Tom Wilson from Palace Sports, said that the organization has no real interest in selling, but the offer made recently by Absolut piqued their interest (roll tape#3 o.q.”really relevant”)

Wilson said discussions between the two groups began about six months ago. Although no terms were announced, now former owner Bill Davidson had previously said he would never sell the team and arena for less than $200 million.

In a press release, Mayor Pam Iorio said she looked forward to meeting with the new owners. “It is important to the city and to the region that the Tampa Bay Lightning remains a part of our community," Iorio said.

The new management say they intend to keep the current coach, John Tortarella, and general manager Jay Feaster on board.

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