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Bettman: Duck Sale Efforts Not Urgent

May 04, 2003|Helene Elliott | Times Staff Writer

DALLAS — Although Disney has hired an investment banking firm to accelerate the process of selling the Mighty Ducks, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he would not be surprised if Disney retained ownership of the club "for a while."

Speaking to reporters before the Ducks' 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday at American Airlines Center, Bettman said he read no significance into the fact the Ducks are among the dozen or so clubs that have been reported to be on the market.

"I'm not sure there's as aggressive an attempt to sell the Mighty Ducks as to sell the baseball team," Bettman said, referring to Disney's tentative agreement to sell the Angels to Phoenix businessman Arturo Moreno.

"Based on my discussions with them, I think under the right circumstances and at the right price the Ducks could be sold. But there doesn't seem to be as much of an imperative to sell the Ducks as to sell the baseball team.... All leagues have franchises for sale. It may be a function of economics."

Later Saturday, Star owner Tom Hicks said he has canceled plans to sell the club, which he had put on the market in September. Hicks owns the Stars, 50% of the American Airlines Center and the Texas Rangers -- including the 10-year, $252-million contract of Alex Rodriguez.

Hicks said an efficient separation of the Rangers' and Stars' business operations made it easier for him to retain majority ownership. "I believe in the future of hockey and where ... Gary Bettman is leading the National Hockey League," Hicks said in a statement.

Bettman also said he was pleased with the recent sale of the bankrupt Buffalo Sabres to Thomas Golisano, and is hopeful the sale of the Ottawa Senators -- who are operating under bankruptcy protection -- will close within a few weeks. He added that he talks "all the time" with Bob Goodenow, executive director of the NHL Players Assn., but said it's premature to worry about what will happen when the collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players expires Sept. 15, 2004.

"I'm optimistic," he said. "I think we can do it."

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