ST. LOUIS - The owners of the St. Louis Blues signed a letter of intent to negotiate a sale with a group headed by the former chief executive officer of Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
The letter gives Sports Capital Partners, LLC, a group led by David Checketts, 30 days to negotiate the sale of the team and arena lease with Bill and Nancy Laurie, who bought the team in 1999 and put it up for sale in June. Checketts also is a former president of the NBA's Utah Jazz and New York Knicks, and ran Madison Square Garden from 1994-2001.
"While no sale agreement has been reached, we welcome Sports Capital Partners' interest, and we look forward to working out the details of an agreement that we hope will benefit all involved, including the team and the city of St. Louis," Blues president Mark Sauer said in a statement.
The NHL Board of Governors would have to approve the sale.
Sports Capital Partners is a sports, media and live entertainment company with interests in Major League Soccer, College Sports Television Network (CSTV), Running Subway Productions, and other properties.
Game Plan LLC, a Boston firm that specializes in professional sports franchise transactions, is handling the sale on behalf of the Lauries.
The team said details of ongoing negotiations will remain confidential.
Checketts, 49, was president and general manager of the Jazz at age 28, making him the youngest chief executive in NBA history. He became president of the Knicks in March 1991, and in his four seasons as president the team made it to the Eastern Conference finals twice and to the NBA Finals in 1994.
He was president and CEO of Madison Square Garden, which owns the New York Rangers, New York Knicks, New York Liberty, the Madison Square Garden arena and the MSG television network. MSG acquired Radio City Music Hall in 1997.
Checketts founded Sports Capital Partners in 2001. In 2002, the firm acquired SportsWest Communications, a syndicated broadcaster of college sports. He bought into Major League Soccer last year and established a team in Utah, Real Salt Lake.
The Lauries, of Columbia, Mo., claim to have lost $60 million over the previous two seasons. A phone message left for the Lauries was not returned.
Since the announcement, the Blues have pared payroll, trading star defenseman Chris Pronger to the Edmonton Oilers for Eric Brewer and two prospects. The team also was not active in the free agent market, preferring to keep costs down to attract more prospective bidders.
Coach Mike Kitchen learned about the sale after an exhibition loss at Dallas on Wednesday night.
"It sure gives a lot of stability to the organization for everyone, players and fans," Kitchen said. "I think it's good but I imagine there's still a long ways to go before it's completed."
The Lauries bought the Blues and the team's lease on the Savvis Center in September 1999. Laurie unsuccessfully tried to bring an NBA team to the Savvis Center.