It took a while, but Lisa LeMaster just sent a statement addressing The Hockey News's report that Tom Hicks, fresh off closing a deal to sell the Texas Rangers, is also looking for someone to either invest in the team or take the Dallas Stars off his hands altogether. In short: The report was right, and Hicks, after months of insisting the Stars weren't for sale, has changed his mind. See for yourself.
Statement from Hicks Sports Group
(Dallas, TX February 4, 2010) - Hicks Sports Group today confirmed that Galatioto Sports Partners ("GSP") has been retained to examine and advise the Dallas Stars on the possibility of securing new investors or selling a majority stake in the Dallas Stars. Last month, HSG announced it had reached a definitive agreement to sell its major league baseball club, the Texas Rangers. Officials said the Stars are in a "position of strength" because of the team's long-term success.
"While a sale is not a certainty," said Jeff Cogen, president of the Dallas Stars, "it is a possibility, and Mr. Hicks has received numerous inquiries about the team. Those potential investors recognize that the Stars are a success story. We have the third best record in the NHL since 1996. If you look at the team, it has been built in the right way -- building from within. It's a role model, especially for the Sunbelt teams."
The team's general manager, Joe Nieuwendyk, echoed Cogen's statement.
"I am not surprised there is interest in this franchise," said Nieuwendyk. "I believe it is positioned for greatness for many years because of the youth in our system, our tradition of winning, and we have an established and enthusiastic fan base."
Update at 2:07 p.m.: Shortly after posting this, Jeff Cogen returned my call. Our brief interview follows.
Cogen wants to make it very clear: A sale of the Dallas Stars is but one option on the table. Because in speaking with the team president, it's evident he hopes Hicks remains the team owner. Cogen says he's not surprised by today's official announcement, prompted by The Hockey News report, but he is "disappointed" by the possibility that Hicks will relinquish his majority stake in the club.
"What we're saying is sale is one option, and equity creation is another option," Cogen says. "But is this a surprise? I'd characterize it as a disappointment to me. I mean, Mr. Hicks has been a great owner for the Dallas Star -- a tremendous owner. if you look at his tenure both on-ice and off-ice, the Stars have been generally a pretty successful franchise. I enjoy working for him and would like to for a long time. The boss has been a very good hockey owner. If you separate all the other issues, he's a damn good hockey owner."
I asked Cogen about Hicks's earlier statements, in May and October of last year, in which he said he had no intention of selling the Stars. Cogen says those kind of business decisions -- those involving "corporate structure and equity issues" -- are made "above my pay grade." He says he's only known about a potential sale "inside of three weeks."
"It has been a relatively short-fuse issue," he says. "The banks have stepped in, and Mr. Hicks is working on solutions. ... Personally, from my perspective, I am disappointed. You can make the argument if we'd done a better job here, he wouldn't be in that position."