We don't yet know if a public company's proposal to buy the Panthers will result in a deal. But talks between Sports Properties Acquisition Corp. and the team are ongoing. And the clock is ticking.
Sports Properties is what’s known as a "special purpose acquisition company" or SPAC. It raised $215 million from investors last year and has until January to use the money to buy a sports or entertainment asset. If the money isn’t spent it must be returned to investors with interest. The SPAC signed a non-binding letter of intent last month to purchase the team for $230 million, but it still could be some time before an agreement is reached.
What makes this story interesting right now is the role of Sports Properties president and CEO Tony Tavares. Tavares is a long-time sports team executive, who has run the Anaheim Ducks, as well as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Montreal Expos and the Washington Nationals. He also headed venue operating company SMG.
Tavares is also linked to a group that is bidding to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes out of bankruptcy at auction and keep the team in Arizona. That group includes Chicago Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and is completely separate from the SPAC. Reinsdorf’s group is expected to put in a bid on Friday with the auction to be held Aug. 5, assuming the bids are qualified and accepted by the bankruptcy judge.
From what I’m told, Tavares does not plan to do both deals. If Reinsdorf is successful, it’s quite possible Tavares could be installed to run the Coyotes. In that case, he'd most likely resign from the SPAC.
If the Panthers deal occurs first, it’s unclear if Tavares would have a position with the team.
The NHL does allow minority ownership in more than one team: Panthers limited partners, Fort Lauderdale advertising executive Jordan Zimmerman and St. Louis orthopedic surgeon Rick Lehman bought into the Tampa Bay Lightning, too, last year.
It’s unknown how large Tavares’ interest would be in the Panthers or Coyotes, but it’s unlikely the league would allow an executive (and owner) of one team to invest in a second team.
So, we’ll have to keep watching and waiting to see how this all plays out.