Update: David Freeman, who is leading the group to buy the Nashville Predators, issued the following statement on the new investor:
"Nothing is changing on the ownership group. Boots and his partners will continue to own a minority interest in the team. Boots is simply diversifying or diluting his personal interest and bringing another very bright, high quality, hockey-loving investor into his group. We are very happy that Mr. Bergeron will be part of our ownership group."
Additionally, team owner Craig Leipold has said he will extend the deadline for closing the sale of the team but didn't give a new deadline.
As originally reported:
The situation with the Nashville Predators has nearly reached "FUBAR" status in the final hours of exclusivity the local group of investors has with owner Craig Leipold.
Leipold likely will grant an extension, indicating that he sees progress with the local group's negotiations with the city on lease concessions with the Sommet Center.
The whole deal has become something of a three-way negotiation. Not only has the local group of investors been negotiating with the city, it apparently has been negotiating with yet another investor, Doug Bergeron, the chief executive officer of San Jose, Calif.-based VeriFone, and it is negotiating an extension with Leipold.
That extension may not be for the exclusivity period but to keep talking with the local group to get a deal done, meaning that the local group wouldn't lose its $10 million right away, which by agreement, Leipold could keep.
Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail dropped the extra investor bombshell this morning. Sources have confirmed that Bergeron is in the picture and that William "Boots" Del Biaggio brought him to the table.
Why Boots brought in Bergeron is question that has yet to be answered. Everyone involved is being coy or simply not talking at all. It's been radio silence for the past few days, leaving everyone to speculate today.
Perhaps, Boots brought Bergeron to the table to make the local group more financially stable and make work the five-year commitment Dean seeks.
The group now consists of David Freeman, CEO of 36 Venture Capital; Del Biaggio, the largest single investor; Herb Fritch, CEO of HealthSpring; Tom Cigarran, chairman of Healthways and AmSurg; Chris Cigarran, a Healthways top executive; De Thompson V, president of Thompson Machinery; John Thompson also with Thompson Machinery; and Joel Dobberpuhl, a head fund manager in Franklin, and his wife Holly.
Negotiations between the city and the local group seemed to be stuck in neutral, although a source close to the deal said "stuck" isn't the correct description but wouldn't elaborate.
That was two days ago and still no deal with the city, so "stuck" would seem to apply. Mayor Karl Dean wants a five-year commitment from the local group to keep the team here in return for agreeing to concessions on the Sommet Center lease that include diverting more public dollars to the team and arena. The local group wants to the option to leave if losses reach $20 million.
That figure didn't come out of nowhere. That's the credit line the team would have if it closes the deal. The local group could only get one bank to agree to loan the money – CIT out of New York. Apparently, none of the local banks would or could step up. Ron Samuels, who recently started Avenue Bank, has been a lead advocate in keeping the team here and has been on the forefront of helping OurTeamNashville sell season tickets to business.
There's been some question of why his bank hasn't agreed to loan money to the local group. Federal regulations have strict lending limits relative to the amount of capital banks have. Avenue Bank has $75 million in capital. "We can't lend that kind of money," Samuels said of what the local group needed. He added that most local banks couldn't because of federal regulations set the lending limit at 20 percent of capital.