Monday, May 23, 2011
Thrashers moving closer to Winnipeg
ATLANTA -- The owners of the Atlanta Hawks have ended their exclusive talks with a prospective buyer, but there is no indication that change will affect efforts for the same group of owners to sell the NHL's Thrashers.
Michael Gearon Jr. said Monday the owners no longer are granting rights only to John Moores to buy the Hawks. Moores owns about 50 percent of the San Diego Padres.
The development has the potential to impact the ownership group's ongoing talks to sell the Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment, which would relocate the team to Winnipeg.
The group, which includes Gearon and Bruce Levenson as lead owners, can again entertain offers for one buyer interested in the Thrashers, Hawks and operating rights to Philips Arena, where the teams play.
Moores told The Associated Press on Monday night he remains interested in the Hawks.
"The interest continues. I don't think I can say anything beyond that," Moores said.
The owners have reported no serious interest from a buyer interested in purchasing the package, just as there has been no potential buyer who has made a convincing offer to buy the Thrashers and keep the team in Atlanta.
Barring an unexpected development, that leaves the Thrashers and True North as the most likely partners in a deal.
There were reports from Toronto last week that the Thrashers' deal with True North could be announced in Winnipeg on Tuesday. That no longer appears likely.
The Toronto Star reported Monday the only event planned for Tuesday at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg is a Kid Rock concert. Gearon left Atlanta on Monday for a business trip, leaving Levenson as the owners' point man in the talks.
"I simply can't comment on any discussions we might be having with anybody," Levenson said Monday.
Atlanta, which lost its first NHL team in 1980 when the Flames moved to Calgary, could become the first city since the league's 1967 expansion to lose two franchises.