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Rumor Central: Sale of Florida Panthers Done? Neil Smith as GM?

Bac Got a tip late Tuesday night that the Florida Panthers sale to the Sports Properties Acquisition Corp. is not only not dead, but could be voted on Wednesday.

The NHL's Board of Governors is meeting in Chicago this week with the sale of the Panthers from the Alan Cohen ownership group to the SPAC apparently on the agenda.

As of 11:45 p.m. I have not been able to confirm this, but I have been told it's on the list for Wednesday's things to do -- although the Phoenix/Saskatoon/Hamilton/Winnipeg Coyotes deal will be taking precedence and headlines.

The deal, which I was told was dead in the water at the NHL Draft last month, would include the team, the Sunrise Sports group which runs the team and the arena, as well as the development rights to the land surrounding the Sunrise arena.

We will see what happens on Wednesday. Bill Torrey is in Chicago representing the Panthers; others may be up there as well.

Andrew Murstein, who led the charge for the SPAC, has previously been reported as the new face of the ownership group.

Of course, the NHL could just be approving SPAC for potential ownership of the team; I've been told for SPAC to buy the Panthers -- which there is considerable interest on both sides, obviously -- it would need 80 percent of the shareholders to approve the deal.

There has been a major question whether these investors -- who made their initial investments in 2008 -- may just want their money back instead of investing in a hockey team that has lost plenty of money under Cohen since he bought the team from H. Wayne Huizenga's Boca Resorts group in 2000.

By terms of the SPAC, if a team isn't bought by the bought by the end of the year, the money gets returned to the investors.

Both sides have been incredibly quiet about this, and it is very possible SPAC has its 80 percent and Wednesday's vote (again, which I have not been able to confirm) would usher in a new owner for the Panthers. 

And then again, there may be nothing.

Stay tuned. I'll be up early.

-- If Murstein comes in to run the team, I would think Randy Sexton staying on as general manager is probably unlikely (yes, I wrote today I thought he was keeping the job).

Murstein is reportedly close to former New York Rangers/Islanders GM Neil Smith, who I have been told is one of a handful of finalists for the job as it stands today.

The other finalists for the GM job: Sexton, Doug Reisbrough, Doug MacLean and Jeff Gorton.


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Jeff Gordon?? Cool--Nascar on ice! ;)

Seriously, this is finally some news that we've been waiting for. I am so ready to move forward!

Great.Neil Smith. Kept out of the league except for a few weeks with crazy Islanders because he has serious issues. Way to find another disaster Panthers

George: when you spoke with Deboer, any discussion on naming a captain over the coming few weeks?

This looks like: Out of the Alan Cohen frying pan and into the Murstein oven. I hope new ownership is more committed to winning than Cohen's group; however, with that list of characters for GM, it seems like we're starting off on the wrong foot.

George- a brief synopsis of the potential GM's would be great for our inquiring minds. Thanks,

George, They do not have the 80% vote. If you go to www.sec.gov and search the EDGAR system (the Form 10-K), you see management and directors own less than 20% and there are no recent filings disclosing purchases of more than 5%, formation of groups etc. to get the 80%, they have to have a shareholders meeting and solicit proxies. None have been filed.It makes sense they would first sign an agreement to buy the team and other properties subject to shareholder approval.

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