Golisano reopens talks with NHL over Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Renewing his effort to purchase the bankrupt Buffalo Sabres, billionaire B. Thomas Golisano had more discussions with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday.

The meeting took place a day after Mark Hamister suspended his bid to buy the team.

“The reality is, there are conversations between Gary Bettman and Tom Golisano,” said Hormoz Mansouri, a member of Golisano’s ownership group. “And any time people talk, it is progress.”

Larry Quinn, a former Sabres executive who is consulting with Golisano on his bid, agreed that progress is being made.

Quinn added that the challenge for Golisano, whose initial bid for the Sabres was rejected by the NHL last November, is picking up where he left off in what has become a complex sale process.

“I think we’re trying to get our arms around this thing quickly,” Quinn said.

Golisano, on vacation in Florida, did not return several messages left by The Associated Press on Tuesday. The NHL also declined comment.

The Sabres could fold or move after this season if a new owner is not found. Hamister failed in his attempt to purchase the team because he was unable to negotiate about $40 million in government assistance or gain approval from Adelphia Communications, one of the nation’s largest cable television companies and the Sabres’ largest creditor.

Adelphia, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last summer, has considerable say in determining the Sabres’ next owner. The company is owed between $130 million and $160 million that former Sabres owner and former Adelphia CEO John Rigas used to buy and run the team in the 1990s.

Golisano’s initial bid was rejected mostly because, in comparison with Hamister, Golisano was offering $13 million less in guaranteed money to Adelphia. It’s unclear whether Golisano is willing to restructure his offer.

Hamister and Golisano were the only prospective bidders to submit offers to the NHL.

While Golisano is now considered Buffalo’s best hope at keeping the Sabres in town, other groups can now enter the bidding process.

Without going into detail, Erie County executive Joel Giambra said he’s had recent discussions with other prospective groups expressing interest in the Sabres.

“I’m really not that concerned about the team leaving at this point,” Giambra said. “I believe that Mr. Golisano is serious about his interest. And I’m led to believe that there are other potential suitors that might be out there that have an interest to keep the team here in Buffalo. … Stay tuned.”

Erie County has a significant financial stake in the team remaining in Buffalo, owning 25 percent of HSBC Arena, the Sabres home, and 23 years left on a lease agreement that ties the franchise to the arena.

Giambra, who’s twice spoken with Bettman since Hamister suspended his bid, said the NHL is committed to keeping the Sabres in Buffalo.

“This is no time to panic. I’m not gravely concerned,” Giambra said.

Giambra acknowledged that the team’s status would be more uncertain if it is not sold by the end of the season.

http://espn.go.com/nhl/news/2003/0204/1504008.html