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McNall Set to Give Up His Titles With Kings : Hockey: He will no longer be president or governor, but he will have a salary until 2001.

November 11, 1994|LISA DILLMAN and JAMES BATES | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Bruce McNall is expected to give up his high-profile titles of president and governor of the Kings as early as next week, although he will continue working for the organization.

The impending move appears to be largely image-driven to ease any potential embarrassment for the Kings and the NHL when McNall is formally charged by federal authorities with bank fraud and three other counts. That may happen as early as Monday, in connection with a plea agreement he worked out with the government.

Still, sources maintain that many key issues related to McNall's status are still in flux and could change. McNall, under an employment agreement reached in May with new majority owners Jeffrey Sudikoff and Joseph Cohen, earns $650,000 a year, with the potential for significant additional bonus money.

The agreement, dated May 16, was filed among bankruptcy court documents and states that McNall's services can be terminated if he enters a guilty plea or no contest for any crime involving a felony punishable by imprisonment. However, he is still guaranteed an annual base salary of $487,500 until January 2001, even after such termination of employment.

A lawyer for McNall declined comment Thursday, as did Cohen, the Kings' chairman.

When it was reported that McNall had reached a plea agreement in August, Cohen offered a strong show of support.

"The point is, Bruce McNall is still very much a part of everything this organization is doing," Cohen told The Times. "The way I see it, Bruce is the fan's ombudsman. He's got that very special gift of being able to relate to the fans, and they to him."

But McNall's imminent plea bargain has posed a sticky image problem for the team in the face of mounting national attention. Having him relinquish the title of president would serve as a form of damage control when he is formally charged. He is expected to eventually enter his formal guilty plea in December.

However, according to sources, the move appears to be little more than a title change to curtail any embarrassment when the charges are made formally.

Other sources note that McNall retains a minority interest in the team and holds a smaller stake in any potential arena project and therefore would not sever his ties with the Kings.

McNall has not spoken with reporters about his situation since late September. Then he said he would step down "if it was in the best interest of this team." But even then, he hinted that he may have a role in the organization even without a title.

His influence with the Kings and his leaguewide role have gradually decreased as his legal and financial problems have increased. He resigned as chairman of the league's Board of Governors on April 29, after it was revealed that a federal grand jury was investigating his banking practices.

Since then, five of his business associates have been charged in the bank loan fraud investigation with three already having entered guilty pleas. The two others have agreed to enter guilty pleas, according to their lawyers. Another high-ranking McNall official reportedly has agreed to a plea bargain with the government but has not yet been formally charged, according to sources.

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