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by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning

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Absolute Hockey Press Conference Transcript
Absolute Hockey Enterprises Press Conference Transcript

Absolute Hockey Enterprises has executed a purchase and sale agreement with Palace Sports & Entertainment (PS&E) for the sale of the Tampa Bay Lightning of the National Hockey League, co-chairmen Doug MacLean and Jeff Sherrin announced today. The sale includes the Lightning hockey team, the franchise’s lease agreement with Hillsborough County, owners of the St. Pete Times Forum, and two pieces of adjacent land, equal to approximately 5.5 acres.

The ownership transfer of the Lightning is subject to approval by the National Hockey League Board of Governors. MacLean and Sherrin are joined as the principles in Absolute Hockey Enterprises by Oren Koules. Additional partners will be introduced at a later date.

“The Tampa Bay Lightning is one of the most exciting teams in the NHL and its future looks incredibly positive,” said MacLean upon making the announcement. “Having won the Stanley Cup in 2004 as part of a string of four consecutive postseason appearances with the same core of young, talented players, we see a very bright season in 2007-08 along with many more in succession. The fans in Tampa Bay are very knowledgeable and passionate about their team. We look forward to building upon the existing winning tradition while keeping the Lightning and its management team right where they belong, in Tampa.”

Doug MacLean has more than two decades of experience in the National Hockey League, serving in a variety of administrative, personnel and coaching capacities with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings. As head coach of the Florida Panthers, Doug led the team to the Stanley Cup Finals in his first season, garnering Hockey News Coach of the Year honors along the way. Doug followed up the 1995-96 season with another playoff appearance with the Panthers, while also coaching the Eastern Conference All-Star team for the second consecutive year. More recently, MacLean, now 53, acted as both President and General Manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets from 1998 to 2007.

Jeff Sherrin was raised in Florida and currently resides with his family in Coral Springs, just outside of Ft. Lauderdale. He is a close friend and business partner of MacLean’s, having served as a consultant to the Columbus Blue Jackets since the franchise’s inception. He is also involved as a real estate investor and developer throughout North America. Locally, Sherrin developed and still owns with his partners the Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores, which includes national stores such as Nike, Gap, Old Navy, and Tommy Hilfiger.

Sherrin, 51, was also one of the original developers and is now a significant owner in the management arm of a 500-unit condominium-hotel (with planned expansion to 1800 units) known as The Lake Buena Vista Resort Village and Spa, which is near the entrance of Walt Disney World. Additionally, he was the major owner and CEO of an internet travel company which included

The third prominent member of the Absolute Hockey Enterprises team is Oren Koules, a well-known Los Angeles executive producer of television shows such as the Emmy Award-nominated CBS series “Two and a Half Men,” the top-rated sitcom on television. He co-founded Evolution Entertainment and also owns, with his partner, the powerhouse horror franchise SAW. Koules, a former professional hockey player, has remained close to the sport and currently owns the Junior A Helena Big Horns of Helena, Montana.

A native of Chicago, Koules, now 46, played minor hockey as a youth and eventually made the leap to major junior, playing three years in the Western Hockey league. From there Koules attended the Chicago Blackhawks training camp before playing two seasons in the minor leagues. After retiring from pro hockey, he launched a successful, eight-year career as a commodities trader, leaving the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as a member in good standing in 1992.

Palace Sports & Entertainment leaves behind a strong legacy in Tampa Bay. PS&E signed a purchase agreement to buy the team from then-owner Art Williams on March 3, 1999, subsequently operating the Lightning for eight seasons. The team improved its average attendance and its position in the standings every year under PS&E’s ownership, culminating with the Stanley Cup win on June 7, 2004. The Lightning finished third in the NHL in average attendance in 2006-07, averaging 19,877 fans per game, while making the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.

“Palace Sports & Entertainment has very much enjoyed ownership of the Lightning and a wonderful relationship with the Tampa Bay community,” said Tom Wilson, current Chairman and Governor of the Lightning. “Mr. Davidson continues to marvel at winning the Stanley Cup in 2004, and he thanks Ron Campbell, Jay Feaster, John Tortorella and our players for helping make that happen. But after eight years of fantastic ownership of the Tampa Bay Lightning, William Davidson and Palace Sports & Entertainment have accepted an offer from Absolute Hockey Enterprises to transfer ownership of the team and all of our Tampa-based assets.”

“We believe this is in the best interest of the organization and the community and we are pleased to be working with a new ownership group who not only has Florida roots, but one that is also very hockey-focused. We know Doug, Jeff and Oren will prove to be great caretakers of one of Tampa Bay’s greatest assets.

“In transferring title of the team to Absolute Hockey, we are pleased to be turning the franchise over in a much better state than when we acquired it eight years ago. Thanks to a strong leadership group on and off the ice and the great fans of Tampa Bay, the Lightning continues to compete on the ice at the very highest level, making the playoffs for four consecutive seasons, while improving the business side on a regular basis.”

Galatioto Sports Partners served as financial advisor to Palace Sports & Entertainment while Dykema Gossett is serving as PS&E’s legal advisors on the transaction. Absolute Hockey Enterprises is represented by the law firm of Greenberg Traurig and the financial services firm of Cowen and Company.

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