Blues on brink of sale to Stillmanhttp://www.stltoday.com/sports/hockey/professional/blues-on-brink-of-sale-to-stillman/article_b0a45242-012c-5cda-85e8-5992ec3e5b41.html
The close of the NHL playoffs Sunday came too soon for many Blues fans. The closing on the team's sale to a new ownership group this week can't come soon enough.
After a two-year saga that reached the level of the NHL controlling the Blues' finances, a vote by the league's Board of Governors on the sale of the club to a group led by local businessman Tom Stillman will be completed today, sources have told the Post-Dispatch. The closing of the sale will be finalized Wednesday, and a press conference announcing the news is expected as soon as Thursday.
The new ownership group, according to sources, will name former Blue and Hockey Hall of Famer Brett Hull to a management position. No other changes to the team's management staff, which includes President John Davidson and general manager Doug Armstrong, have been announced.
Stillman, who is CEO of Summit Distributing in St. Louis and has been minority owner of the team since 2007, heads a list of local investors who will pay an estimated $130 million for the Blues, the Peoria Rivermen of the American Hockey League and 'significant interest" in the Peabody Opera House.
The list price of the franchise is $180 million, but that figure includes close to $50 million in future interest that will be divided among the current Blues owners: Stillman, TowerBrook Capital Partners and SCP Worldwide. In December, Forbes valued the Blues at $157 million, 27th among 30 NHL teams. The team was purchased in 2006 for $150 million.
The finalization of the sale comes just days after the Blues were eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals after being swept four games to none by the Los Angeles Kings. It marked the team's first appearance in the second round of the postseason since 2002.
An abrupt end to a record-breaking season has the Blues faithful reeling, but a resolution to the sale of the club, bringing stability to a franchise that has been operating in financial dire straits, should add comfort to a loyal fan base.
The deal will come two years to the month, May 2010, that former Blues Chairman Dave Checketts announced that TCP, a private-equity firm that has been the team's top investor since 2006 with a 70 percent stake, was divesting its interest.
In December 2010, Checketts announced that he had an investment group "95 percent" assembled to purchase the team. But three months later, he reported that the deal had fizzled and the club was entirely on the market.
Checketts later reached a deal to sell the team to Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer. Under the agreement, Hulsizer would have owned 70 percent of the team and Checketts' newly created private-equity fund would have controlled 25-30 percent. But after signing a purchase agreement in October, the group received a Dec. 31 deadline from the NHL to complete the deal and the deadline wasn't met.
In January, the league terminated Hulsizer's purchase agreement and shifted its focus to Stillman. Stillman's group signed a purchase agreement in January and has continued to be the front-runner to land the team.
Stillman's investment group includes his father-in-law, former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo.; Steve Maritz, CEO of Maritz Inc.; Donn Lux, CEO of Luxco; and the Taylor family, owners of St. Louis-based Enterprise Holdings.
Other local investors will be revealed when the sale is announced, according to sources.
"Local ownership is great if you can put it together," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told the Post-Dispatch in January. "Tom is putting together a group of distinguished people from St. Louis, and if it all comes together, we think fans of the Blues have reason to be very comfortable and excited about the future of the club."