2003 - 2004
June 12, 2004
Generals get more time to find owners
The ECHL has placed a late July deadline on Greensboro's efforts to maintain its hockey franchise.
BY LARRY KEECH
Coliseum director Matt Brown called the ECHL's decision "a stay of execution."
Photo Credit - The News & Record
The ECHL has given Greensboro a little more than a month to secure new ownership and avoid folding the Greensboro Generals hockey franchise.
"I guess you could say they've granted us a stay of execution," said Greensboro Coliseum managing director Matt Brown, who represented the Generals at the ECHL league meeting the last three days in Atlanta.
The owners who form the ECHL's board of governors decided not to dissolve the Greensboro franchise during the meetings despite its current absence of financial backing for the 2004-05 season. That decision gave Brown at least another month in which to strike an agreement with a prospective owner or group.
The league continued to recognize Art Donaldson as the Generals' owner. Donaldson purchased the team in 1999 and managed its operation through the 2002-03 season. He relinquished its financial management to the city of Greensboro during the 2003-04 season, when Brown oversaw the operation.
When city manager Ed Kitchen submitted Greensboro's budget for 2004-OS early this month, he announced that the city would no longer assume financial risk on behalf of the franchise.
Brown has continued to spearhead the search for new ownership because he doesn't want to see the coliseum lose a primary tenant that occupies the building for at least 36 dates per year.
Most of the other ECHL owners and league commissioner Brian McKenna share Brown's concern about losing a viable market as well as the league's largest arena.
So, even though Donaldson has made it clear that he no longer intends to assume ownership of the Generals, the ECHL governors did not dissolve his franchise. They took that action partly as a courtesy to Donaldson and partly to ease the transfer to new ownership.
Now that the league meeting has ended, the ECHL will put Donaldson on notice that he will have one week in which to file a $150,000 letter of credit with the league to insure the Generals' participation in the 2004-05 schedule.
Then, when that deadline passes, Donaldson and Brown will have 30 more days in which to find new ownership to file the essential letter of credit. Otherwise, the ECHL must revise its schedule to operate without a Greensboro entry in '04-05.
"That will give us a time frame until July 18-21 to find an owner or owners," Brown paid. "After that, life will have to go on without a team here because 27 of our 36 away games are tying up Friday and Saturday nights in other buildings."
Nonetheless, Brown drew encouragement from the league meeting.
"I had a lengthy preliminary discussion with one prospective owner," he said. "There also were a number of owners of other teams who offered to support our efforts to keep a team in Greensboro."
Brown said there is a chance that former coach Jeff Brubaker's lawsuit against Donaldson and the city will be resolved before the ECHL's deadline.
"That (the lawsuit) has had a negative impact on negotiations with prospective local ownership groups but isn't as much of a factor from the standpoint of outside interest," Brown said.
Contact Larry Keech at 373-7080 or firstname.lastname@example.org