Soon-to-be former Sabres owner Tom Golisano spoke with the media today about the impending sale of the team to Terry Pegula. During Golisano’s rather odd press conference, he talked about how Pegula would be buying the team from him for $189 million but he also discussed how he had another offer for the Sabres.
In this revelation, Golisano said that this mystery buyer pledged to pay $70 million more than Pegula’s offer with one key stipulation: The new owners were allowed to move the team out of Buffalo. If you’ve followed any previous team sales or attempted sales, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who the leading candidate for such a gross overpayment for a franchise would be.
BlackBerry guru James Balsillie figures to be the wily spendthrift behind such an offer and, honestly, it would make sense for him since moving the Sabres to Hamilton, Ontario would be just a matter of packing up trucks and driving there. For what it’s worth, Golisano wouldn’t divulge who made the $250+ million offer for the team so we’re just making educated guesses here.
Still, it’d be fascinating if Balsillie was indeed the guy behind the bid to try and take the Sabres out of Buffalo. After his failed coup to get the Coyotes off Jerry Moyes’ hands and out of Glendale, Arizona many thought that he’d quit trying to buy an NHL team knowing full well that the NHL Board of Governors wouldn’t approve him. After all, he’s had failed bids to buy both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators before this and burned every bridge he had with the NHL owners after the Coyotes situation.
Give credit to Golisano for resisting the call of cash and destroying his legacy in western New York. When he bought the team from the corrupt Rigas family he saved the Sabres from being a serious candidate for relocation and made sure the team was stable again in Buffalo. Some Sabres fans are upset with Golisano for not doing more to help the team retain stars like Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, but he did his part to make sure they still had a team to cheer for. Now they’ve got a new owner who’s committed to making the team better. Everything works out in the end.
With lots of off-ice news going on in Buffalo concerning the potential announcement of Terry Pegula as the new Sabres owner coming this Thursday, there’s another bit of breaking news that managed to go unannounced as well.
The Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington breaks the story that Sabres GM Darcy Regier was apparently signed to a two-year extension back in the fall worth between $2 and $2.5 million.
This is surprising on a few levels because the Sabres have struggled this year and Regier’s contract was set to expire at the end of the season. With how the team has underperformed and the lack of major upgrades made to the team, the possibility existed that Regier wouldn’t be brought back.
The other side of this is that it was current Sabres owner Tom Golisano who signed Regier to the extension. Harrington gets the wink-and-nod truth of the matter.
Asked by The News Monday if Regier has been given an extension, managing partner Larry Quinn did not confirm — or deny — the move.
“I’m not going to confirm that today,” was all Quinn would say.
As is the case with new owners, they sometimes want to get their own people into executive positions to run the team the way they’re looking for it to be done. Golisano giving Regier an extension while he was openly looking to sell the team seems quite bizarre. Making matters worse for Sabres fans, they’re not happy at all with the job Regier has done of late and the fans are looking for someone to pay for the team coming up small so far this season. Giving new owner Pegula a new contract to potentially have to eat seems like a reckless and rather jerky move.
After all, signing a team executive to an extension like that and not announcing it to the public seems very questionable as it is. These sorts of things aren’t really the kinds of things you can keep a lid on for so long. Everything of late surrounding this potential Buffalo sale to Pegula has been wrought with strange happenings and seemingly foolish delays in getting things all put together. Adding a twist like this certainly makes for good theater and for a team that’s as hot and cold as the Sabres, giving the fans a soap opera to follow like this in such a tenuous time seems like a bad idea.
On Sunday, we told you about the news that things are rumbling in Buffalo about the potential sale of the team. Kevin Paul Dupont of The Boston Globe reported that Sabres owner Tom Golisano was looking around to see if there was anyone interested in buying the team. Dupont mentioned specifically that founder of the Penn State University varsity hockey program, Terry Pegula, was someone of interest that could be involved.
This stirred up quickly this morning when Ken Campbell of The Hockey News dropped news of a report saying that Pegula signed a letter of intent to buy the Sabres and that the wheels were well in motion to get things done in Buffalo. The buying price for the franchise? A cool $150 million.
As is typical in these situations when news breaks out of the blue about something that would be a very big deal, Sabres managing partner and minority owner Larry Quinn released this statement to throw a bucket of water on everyone.
“Reports regarding the sale of the Buffalo Sabres tend to surface from time to time. There have been several inquiries in the past few years regarding this subject. Our company policy is we do not comment on them because people make inquiries all the time. Some of these inquiries are serious, some are not, some make the media and others do not. The report that a $150 million letter of intent has been signed is simply not true.”
Well that’s unfortunate to hear. Not because Tom Golisano is a bad owner, he’s not. He’s the guy that essentially saved the team after going through hell being owned by the corrupt and prison-bound Rigas family in the 1990s. It’s a downer because Terry Pegula is a rising star in the wealthy person game. After all, donating $80 million to get your alma mater’s varsity hockey program started is a good way to win friends and influence people when it comes to hockey. Pegula is a big fan of the game and with his wife being a Buffalo native, maintaining that local ownership angle to the front office sure looks nice.
All that aside, this is the second report in three days discussing the Sabres and the potential sale of the team. That’s an awful lot of smoke for there not to be a fire and with the same name being mentioned as a lead candidate, you have to think that we’ll see real news of the sale of the Sabres sooner than not.
You can call Sabres owner Tom Golisano a hero in upstate New York. He was born and raised in Rochester and when the Buffalo Sabres desperately needed someone to swoop in and save the franchise financially, he was the man to do so. After former owner and Adelphia Cable magnate John Rigas went to jail and put the future of the Sabres in jeopardy, Golisano saved the team from complete collapse and a future date with moving trucks.
Now that the Sabres have stabilized, word is sneaking around that Golisano is looking for someone to take the team off of his hands. The Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont spreads the word about the potential start for an ownership search in Buffalo and you’d better believe one familiar name gets dropped in the mix.
Getting vibes once again that Sabres owner Tom Golisano is poking around for a prospective buyer for his Lake Erie stick carriers. Over the summer, Golisano had the locals all aflutter when he noted on local talk radio, “Nothing is written in concrete, but at this point I would say I’m probably going to be the owner of the Buffalo Sabres in five years, maybe 10 years.’’ The name that comes up in all NHL club sales talk is RIMM guru/hockey lover Jim Balsillie, who made himself no friends among NHL owners when he tried to pirate the Phoenix Coyotes away to Toronto’s outer suburbs. But the key name to keep in mind if this heats up: Terry Pegula. He’s the guy who forked over the $88 million gift for Penn State to build a rink and fund scholarships for Division 1 hockey. Pegula’s wife, Kim, is from suburban Buffalo, a good sign for the locals. No one ever wants to leave the Buff.
Before things get out of hand here, the possibility that Jim Balsillie gets even a cursory look to buy the Sabres is 0%. Balsillie soured his chances of ever being an NHL owner for the last time after his end-around play with bankrupt former Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes to try to buy the Coyotes and sweep them off to Hamilton, Ontario under the cover of night. The NHL Board of Governors is tired of Balsillie’s act and after not approving him for buying the Nashville Predators and seeing him back out late in his efforts to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins, it’s just not going to happen.
Seeing Terry Pegula’s name getting dropped in this is interesting. Pegula dropped a lot of money to essentially found Penn State University’s Division I varsity hockey program. Just tossing around $80 million to build two on-campus hockey rinks including a main building meant to watch college hockey in, and ensure that a major university can start their own program is no small amount of change. The Pegula’s are big hockey fans and they’ve worked to get the Penn State deal done for almost five years. It’d be fascinating to see them potentially get involved in the Sabres and we’re sure that Paul Kelly of College Hockey Inc. would love to have such a big supporter of U.S. college hockey end up on the Board of Governors.
It’s just speculation for now, of course, and Golisano isn’t on record as saying he does want to sell the team, but the rumblings about him wanting to get out of NHL ownership have circled for the last few years. If he is looking to sell, you can at least rest assured that Blackberry kingpin Jim Balsillie won’t be a factor in negotiations.