I am not Laura.
Do they make cologne in bottles big enough to cover an entire franchise? If so, someone please send a couple of vats to Dave Checketts, so he can try to cover up the scent of desperation as he seeks a buyer for the St. Louis Blues. Checketts' search for a new owner is starting to remind me of one particularly awful week where, after having been dumped, I was then shot down three times in four days looking for dates, each time with progressively less attractive girls.
They could smell me coming, the odor of NEED emanating even through telephone lines. So I feel for Checketts, who not only NEEDS a buyer, but NEEDS a buyer at a certain price. If you have ever tried selling anything of large value, like a house, you should know what a futile exercise that is.
This much we know:
1) The current Blues ownership owes Citibank around $120 million. Citibank has generously agreed to forbear repayment. That will not go on indefinitely--believe me, Citibank holds my student loans. They are polite, but persistent.
2) Checketts and his ownership group are into the team and its associated properties (Scottrade Center lease, Peoria Rivermen) to the total tune of around $180 million.
3) Blues minority owner Tom Stillman previously submitted an offer for the portion of the team he does not already own, which offer is believed to be around $110 million. It was rejected.
4) Two entities, one of which is believed to be Stillman again, submitted proposals on yesterday's artificial bidding deadline.
Game Plan, LLC, the firm the team has hired to find a buyer, has said that it believes the team could fetch $200 million. Sure, in MagicLand. And hey, maybe they're right. Maybe the team really is worth $200 million. And maybe I would have been a fun and entertaining date. The problem is that the people who count--the ones writing checks--don't think so. Or, even if they think so, they're smart enough to know that they have all the leverage.
It doesn't take a team of crack researchers and financial wizards to know that selling an NHL team has not been easy of late. The Coyotes have been for sale for three years. The Stars have been for sale and in bankruptcy for quite a while. The Thrashers went through a lengthy process before the SnowVultures scooped them up.
Borrowing is not easy in the current economic climate, especially if you are asking a bank to lend you money to operate a sports franchise that, in most years, struggles to break even (and that, with spending $10-12 million below the salary cap!). This is not an NFL franchise, which is basically a license to print money.
Add to that the fact that Checkets HAS to sell--his financial backers have decided they no longer want to own a hockey team, and you get where he is today. The potential buyers don't care (nor should they) about the Citibank loan. They don't care (nor should they) what Checketts paid for the team in the first place. If they have the opportunity to grab a $200 million property for $110 or $120 million, they should take it and not apologize for it.
That does leave Checketts and his partners up the proverbial creek. They basically have three choices:
a) Find someone stupid enough to date them, I mean, pay close to $200 million for the franchise. This has not gone well so far. Even if there are now two groups vying to own the team, the idea that you could play them off each other enough to get one of them to increase its opening bid by 50 PERCENT seems like a stretch.
b) Take the $120 million or so being offered and take a bath, hoping you clear at least enough to pay off Citibank.
c) Default on the loans, and take the team through bankruptcy.
You'll notice that none of these is a particularly attractive option for Checketts, like a Saturday night alone.