Prospective Blues buyers get deadline to submit bids

Aug 10 2011 - 4:29pm

ST. LOUIS -- Prospective buyers of the St. Louis Blues have until Aug. 22 to present a nonbinding bid to the company conducting the sale, a step that could have a purchase agreement in place by mid-September.

Game Plan LLC, hired by Blues Chairman Dave Checketts, recently sent out letters to 10 "interested parties" requesting offers for the Blues, the Scottrade Center lease, Peoria Rivermen and the Peabody Opera House.

"We'll review them, make judgments, make comparisons and then we'll go back to everyone and give them a reaction to their proposal," Game Plan's Robert Caporale said. "We don't want to slow down the process, but until we get these detailed proposals, it's hard to predict how long it will take to get a binding contract with a buyer. But we hope that we could get it done within a couple of weeks" of Aug. 22.

Once a purchase agreement is in place, the sale would move into the final stages, which includes NHL approval.

There are 10 groups that received the letters, but that doesn't mean there are 10 groups that have serious interest in buying the Blues. It simply means those groups have had dialogue with Game Plan at some point in the process.

A group led by Blues minority owner Tom Stillman remains in the mix, and a source says Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer is still involved, despite indications that his interest had waned after making an unsuccessful bid. Brad Goldberg, who is CEO of Hulsizer's company PEAK6 Online and who commented for Hulsizer during his pursuit of the Phoenix Coyotes, has not returned messages left by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Meanwhile, Caporale revealed Tuesday that two groups who are attempting to purchase the Dallas Stars are planning to "move quickly on the Blues" if they are unsuccessful in landing Dallas.

Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi has submitted a bid for the Stars, and according to The Dallas Morning News, four other potential bidders could be among the two that Caporale said had interest in the Blues. They are Dallas oilman Doug Miller; a group that includes local oilman Billy Quinn, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and former Dallas Stars president Jim Lites; Detroit businessman Christopher T. Charlton; and Dallas-area sports entrepreneur Chuck Greenberg.

The Dallas sale is complicated and could extend past the Aug. 22 deadline that Game Plan gave bidders to submit their offers. The Stars could go into a bankruptcy hearing, after which the other groups may try and outbid Gaglardi.

"We're basically told that (the Stars' sale) is going to happen any day," Caporale said. "I don't think it puts us in a bind. If (the bidders) are smart, they'll submit a compelling proposal with respect to the Blues, but I can't predict what they'll do."

A quick completion of the Dallas deal also could help define the market price for the Blues. Observers have estimated that the Stars could be sold for as much as $230 million. If so, Caporale says it's possible the Blues could fetch $200 million.

At least one group has asked Game Plan if it could forgo the bidding process and make an offer. The only way Caporale said the Blues would eliminate the bidding process was if a group met their asking price.

"We have not agreed to do that, but at least it's an option," Caporale said. "We'd like to give everybody a chance. (But) if the person comes up with a price that's acceptable to everybody and willing to sign an agreement, it speeds up the process."

After initial indications that Peabody Opera House, scheduled to open in the fall, was not part of the package, it is now for sale, too.

"It's available if someone is interested," Caporale said. "It isn't required, but we are letting people take a look at it and let us know if they have any interest in it or not."

Caporale maintains that a sale is possible before the Blues' season opener Oct. 8. Checketts is under pressure to wrap up the sale after Citigroup Inc. extended repayment of his original $120 million loan last month. But while an undisclosed deadline probably exists with Citigroup, Caporale said the lenders are cooperating.

"They're fully apprised where we are with the process," Caporale said. "If it slips two or three weeks into the season, it's not the end of the world. The reason I keep saying that I'd like to do it by the start of the season is I want to give the prospective buyer as much time as possible. When it closes will depend on getting through the NHL process, which we don't control."

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