2003 - 2004
July 16, 2004
Generals talks enter final week
As the ECHL's deadline approaches, an unidentified NHL team remains a potential owner for the Generals.
BY LARRY KEECH
GREENSBORO - Matt Brown, the Greensboro Coliseum's managing director, is spending more time on the phone than usual as he enters the final week before his deadline for securing ownership for the city's ECHL hockey franchise.
"It's the kind of problem that always seems to come down to the 11th hour in this business," Brown said Thursday. "You just have to take the attitude that it will either happen or it won't, and then you move on. But I'm hopeful that we can get it done."
Brown said he is engaged in what he describes as "serious" discussions with two prospective owners. "Both are out-of-town groups," he said. "One is a National Hockey League team. The other is a group of businessmen. We're seeking at least a two-year commitment from the parties."
He declined to elaborate further on the identity of the prospective owners.
NHL ownership of an ECHL affiliate is unusual but not unprecedented. The Florida Everblades, based in Fort Myers, are owned by Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos and partners Thomas Thewes and Craig Brush. The Los Angeles Kings own a 50 percent interest in the ECHL's Reading (Pa.) Royals.
"NHL ownership of minor-league teams appears to be a growing trend," Brown said. "With uncertainty surrounding the NHL's labor agreement and the likely reduction of the salary cap, teams are seeking more control in the development of their players."
Brown believes his negotiations with one of the prospective owners will need to advance from the "serious" stage to a written ownership proposal by Tuesday, when a conference call has been scheduled with ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna and the league's board of directors.
If that hurdle is cleared, Brown will need to have an ownership commitment in place by the end of next week.
"Brian and the ECHL directors have done all they possibly can to help keep a team in Greensboro," Brown said. "But they can't wait any longer to revise the schedule and clear new arena dates for the 2004-05 season."
The Greensboro hockey crisis arose more than a year ago when Art Donaldson, the owner of the Greensboro Generals since 1999, announced that he was no longer willing to shoulder the financial burdens of ownership. But after Donaldson leased the franchise to local businessmen Bill Black and Don Brady, they declared that they needed a year to assemble a viable ownership group. In the interim, the city of Greensboro agreed to sustain ownership responsibility until the end of the 2003-04 ECHL season.
At the end of the fiscal year, City Manager Ed Kitchen pulled Greensboro out of the hockey business, and Black and Brady still hadn't assembled a local ownership group.
Facing the loss of the Generals as a primary tenant who filled 36 dates at a coliseum that already was operating at a deficit, Brown was confronted with the need to find a new owner for the team.
Brown has retained the support of Rick Adduono, who has been the Generals' coach and general manager for the past two seasons, even though Adduono's contract with the city expired June 30.
"Even though Rick is no longer under contract, he's doing everything he can to help our negotiations and continue to work on player personnel," Brown said. "He has a desire to remain in Greensboro. His retention under new owners hasn't been broached, but both groups appear to have a favorable, positive view of his experience and passion for the game."
Contact Larry Keech at 373-7080 or firstname.lastname@example.org