STARS=Not for Sale!!!!

Hicks: Stars no longer for sale

Owner notes significant changes in country, economic climate



By CHUCK CARLTON / The Dallas Morning News

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Saturday afternoon that he never wanted Tom Hicks to sell the Dallas Stars.

He has his wish.

Mr. Hicks confirmed that the Stars, his 50 percent interest in American Airlines Center and the five Dr Pepper StarCenters are no longer on the market. Nor does he plan to revisit a possible sale in the near future.

“Over the last couple of weeks, I have made the decision to not sell the team,” Mr. Hicks said in a telephone interview Saturday after the Stars’ 4-1 win over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in Game 5 of their Western Conference playoff series.

He had planned to announce his decision after the playoffs to avoid a possible distraction. But Mr. Bettman’s comments earlier in the day led to speculation and Mr. Hicks’ announcement.

Mr. Hicks said that he might add one or more minority owners that he met during the sale process but that he would remain the majority owner.

Mr. Hicks’ sports empire includes the Rangers, the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders and the Mesquite Rodeo.

He has owned the Stars since buying them from Norm Green in December 1995.

Under Mr. Hicks, the Stars have won six division titles in the last seven years and the 1999 Stanley Cup. The Stars reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2000, losing to New Jersey.

He cited two main reasons for the change of heart.

Mr. Hicks noted the significant changes in the country and the economic climate since his announcement in September that the team was for sale.

“A lot has happened since last September,” Mr. Hicks said. “Times have changed. It was a very difficult period for this country. We fought a war in Iraq.”

He also cited the decision to split the Stars and Rangers apart from under the Southwest Sports Group management umbrella.

The return earlier this season of Stars president Jim Lites has enabled Mr. Hicks to take a step back from the day-to-day operations of the team.

“I can’t go to 41 hockey games and 81 baseball games a year,” Mr. Hicks said. “I’m learning to balance that better.”

Mr. Hicks declined to specify how close he came to full sale of the team.

“I’m not going to comment,” he said. “I didn’t [find a buyer] in a basis I found attractive.”

Mr. Bettman, in Dallas for Game 5, hinted earlier in the day that the Stars might not be sold – based on a gut feeling.

“He’s a terrific owner,” Mr. Bettman said, noting that Mr. Hicks is a member of the NHL’s executive and budget committees.

“Since the day he bought the Stars, he’s been nothing but a great help and counsel to me. I always tell him that I hope he doesn’t sell.”

Mr. Lites said fans should see the announcement as good news for the organization and the on-ice product.

“Day-in, day-out, he is a great owner,” Mr. Lites said.

“He gives us the resources to be successful. He’s been concerned, but never meddling. He’s a guy I’ve been able to relate to and enjoy.”

The Stars rank among the top five NHL teams in payroll at $66 million.

Mr. Hicks personally led a recruiting effort that enabled the Stars to sign five top free agents last summer, including top goal scorers Bill Guerin and Scott Young.

Mr. Hicks’ decision would apparently increase the chances of the Stars retaining captain Derian Hatcher, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Contract negotiations had been placed on hold during the time the team was on the market.

“Tom has shown to be aggressive in fielding the best team possible,” general manager Doug Armstrong said. “If history is an indication of the future, we’ll be a competitive team, and he’ll want to field a contending team.

“That’s a great environment.”