2003 - 2004
June 9, 2004
League 'anxious' to keep Generals
In meetings this week, the ECHL will seek to save its Greensboro franchise.
BY LARRY KEECH
GREENSBORO - Although the fate of the rudderless Greensboro Generals will be a prime topic of discussion when the ECHL holds its annual meeting in Atlanta the next three days, the search for new ownership for the franchise appears likely to continue through most of the summer.
"There are a number of scenarios that could come out of the meeting," said Matt Brown, managing director of the Greensboro Coliseum and the franchise's representative in Atlanta. "But I know the commissioner and most of the other owners are anxious to keep a hockey team in Greensboro."
"There are a number of scenarios that come out of the meeting," said Matt Brown managing director of the Greensboro Coliseum.
Photo Credit - The News & Record
The ECHL still recognizes Art Donaldson as the Generals' owner. But Donaldson, the Greensboro attorney who bought the franchise in 1999, leased it to local businessmen Bill Black and Don Brady last summer. Black and Brady then turned over the operational and financial responsibility for the team to the city of Greensboro for the 2003-04 season.
Last week, when city manager Ed Kitchen submitted the 2004-05 budget to the city council, there was no provision for continued financial support from the city.
That means the Generals, who were assigned a 2004-05 schedule by the league and have a season-ticket drive underway, must find substantial private ownership in order to put a team on the ice next season.
Complicating the matter is former coach Jeff Brubaker's pending lawsuit against Donaldson, Black, Brady and the city of Greensboro to collect a court-ordered judgment of $109,752.
Although Donaldson remains a member of the 31-team league's board of governors, Brown and ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna said they did not expect him to attend the meeting. He did not return phone calls to his office Tuesday.
The board of governors could choose to dissolve Donaldson's ownership of the Greensboro franchise at the league meeting. But because of his ties to the group, that scenario appears unlikely.
Instead, the ECHL may grant Greensboro an extension of several weeks to reach a settlement of Brubaker's suit and enlist new ownership.
Brown said an outright sale of the franchise by Donaldson to new ownership would pose fewer obstacles than dissolution of the old franchise and establishment of a new one.
In his efforts to find new ownership, Brown has a valuable ally in McKenna.
"It will be a matter of determining the steps the league wants to take to resolve Greensboro's situation," McKenna said. "I'm always in contact with prospective owners, and I'm optimistic that we can work our way through it."
Brown figures he still has 4-6 weeks to work it out and put a team on the ice next season.
Art Donaldson - Photo Credit: The News & Record
"I've seen this kind of situation extend into July for franchises, but seldom if ever past Aug. 1," Brown said.
"The teams have already released their schedules to their season ticket holders and fans, so major changes become problematic at some point."
Contact Lariy Keech at 373-7080 or firstname.lastname@example.org