Originally created 08/07/03

Owners of Lynx divulge sale plan



It appears the Augusta Lynx hockey team is about to be sold.

Majority owner Peter Gillespie and the team's three other original owners told shareholders that they have struck a deal to sell the team for $1.17 million, according to a memo to the team's six Augusta-based minority owners.

The memo, obtained by The Augusta Chronicle, had been sent Tuesday by e-mail to local owners by Mark Vieira, the Lynx owner and chief financial officer.

The memo states that aspecial meeting of the shareholders of the Lynx has been called for next Tuesday at Sheraton Augusta Hotel to "approve the sale of all assets of the corporation (Augusta Lynx, Inc.) to Augusta Entertainment Corp., LLC for the sum of $1,170,000.00."

The document, signed "E. Mark Vieira," also states that the new owners have agreed to pay $950,000 at closing and will carry a promissory note to pay the additional $220,000 over three years.

Mr. Vieira tells the local shareholders in the memo that if they are unable to attend the meeting, they should "vote by submitting the enclosed proxy." A proxy ballot is included as an attachment to the e-mail.

From there, details are few.

According to a team source, local owners were asked by Mr. Vieira and Mr. Gillespie to sign an agreement to sell their shares for $10,000 each if a buyer for the team was found.

The local owners - Angela and David Key, David and Linda Goetz, Mike and Liz Knell, Dr. Jewell Duncan, Pete Budwick and Asa Daniel - each own shares of the team equaling about 20 percent, according to a team source.

Mr. Budwick, the first local investor to buy a stake in the team, said in December that he paid $15,000 a share. He owns about 10 percent.

Mr. Budwick, a real estate investor and a co-owner of the Augusta Ice Sports Center, said neither he nor the other local investors have been told the names of the new owners.

"At this time, there's not much else I can comment on," Mr. Budwick said.

Mr. Gillespie, his son George, Mr. Vieira and Florida businessman Dolph Von Arx purchased the Raleigh (N.C.) IceCaps in 1995 and moved the team to Augusta in 1998.

According to a clerk for the office of Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox, whose agency handles the registration of corporations within the state, there had been no filings as of Wednesday for a new corporation under the name "Augusta Entertainment Corp, LLC."

One of the local investors, speaking on condition of anonymity, speculated that Frank Lawrence, who owns the Bobby Jones Ford dealership and the former Augusta Stallions arenafootball2 team, is one party involved with the purchasing group.

On Wednesday, Mr. Lawrence denied interest in buying the Lynx.

"I don't know how these rumors get started," he said. "I haven't heard anything about this, so I basically will say 'no comment' at this time."

Mr. Vieira did not immediately return a phone message left at the office of his Binghamton, N.Y., accounting firm, and Mr. Gillespie did not return a message left Wednesday on his cell phone.

Lynx General Manager Larry Kish was in Florida undergoing heart bypass surgery this week.

Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.