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Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lightning default on Palace loan

At the same time that the Detroit Pistons are being shopped to potential owners, Palace Sports and Entertainment Inc. is hoping to avoid owning a second professional sports franchise, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Palace Sports and Entertainment sold the Lightning, the team's lease agreement with Hillsborough County (Fla.) and 5 1/2 acres of land adjacent to the St. Pete Times Forum in August 2007, to an ownership group headed by Hollywood producer Oren Koules and former NHL player Len Barrie, who is a resort developer in British Columbia.

The new ownership, however, was financed by a loan from Palace Sports and Entertainment, a loan which is in default.

According to sources in the front offices of the Pistons and Lightning, the NHL is helping to find a new ownership arrangement so that possession of the hockey team will not rebound back to Auburn Hills.

A call to the NHL offices late Wednesday was not returned.

The Palace source said that traditional financing is being sought so that the Pistons will be paid in full for the sale of the Lightning. That source also said that the NHL is setting a Feb. 15 deadline for finding new ownership.

The Lightning source, however, said that Tampa Bay ownership denies that it is working under a deadline.

Restructuring the Lightning ownership group with the addition of new capital is a possibility and one that the current Tampa Bay ownership would prefer. But the source said that: "The most likely scenario is a new owner. The League wants to expedite it."

When Bill Davidson died March 13, ownership of Palace Sports and Entertainment transferred to his wife, Karen Davidson. She put the family vacation home in Colorado up for sale at a list price of $47 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Sources at the Palace said that Mrs. Davidson is also looking for a buyer for Palace Sports and Entertainment, which includes the Pistons, the Palace of Auburn Hills and the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston.

Among the potential owners approaches, according to a Palace source, was the Ilitch family, owners of the Detroit Red Wings. The Ilitches didn't enter negotiations for the Pistons. Had they bought the basketball team, they would have been in the untenable situation of also owning a mortgage on the Tampa Bay Lightning, an NHL rival.

Palace Sports and Entertainment bought the Lightning and the team's home, the St. Pete Times Forum, from then-owner Art Williams on March 3, 1999, subsequently operating the Lightning for eight seasons. During the Palace ownership of the NHL team, the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004.


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