VANCOUVER (CP) - The current owner of the Vancouver Canucks offered to be the "white knight" during bargaining for the sale of the hockey club, his ex-partner told a B.C. Supreme Court civil trial.
Tom Gaglardi testified he and his two partners, Ryan Beedie and Francesco Aquilini, agreed at a meeting in November, 2003 that Gaglardi would be the partnership's lead negotiator.
He told the trial Aquilini said that tactic would work well because Gaglardi could play hardball with Orca Bay CEO Stan McCammon and then Aquilini would step in as the "white knight" to finish the deal.
Gaglardi testified Aquilini told the meeting "'I can come in and make the deal once you're deadlocked," but Gaglardi said he rejected the suggestion immediately.
He and Beedie accuse Aquilini of using the inside information he gained while posing as their partner to cut them out of a deal and scoop the team from them.
They want a judge to order Aquilini to hold the team in trust for them, but Aquilini has said outside court he is the rightful owner and has done nothing wrong.
Gaglardi told the trial the trio, along with a lawyer and a consultant, had discussed how they would be represented "in solidarity" when they negotiated the deal for half the team.
He said they were all concerned about the $250 million asking price, and suggested they may be able to find other ways of brining down the costs.
The group was also very concerned about the looming NHL player labour dispute and decided that any agreement for the team would include a clause saying they wouldn't pay rent on GM Place in the event of a labour disruption.
Irwin Nathanson, lawyer for Beedie and Gaglardi, said this kind of inside information was used by Aquilini to surreptitiously bid against his clients.
One year after the three men had their meeting, Aquilini reached an agreement with Orca Bay owner John McCaw to purchase half the team, and last year, Aquilini exercised his option to buy the rest.
Tuesday's proceedings started with an angry Howard Shapray, the lawyer for Aquilini, complaining to the judge that Nathanson's opening statement was prejudicial.
"The opening is not argument so the use of rhetoric, sarcasm and derision and the like is impermissable."
He said the plaintiff's opening statement was loaded with "gratuitous, inflammatory and prejudicial comments."
Shapray was also angry the lawyers handed out copies of their opening statement to the media, calling it "utterly improper."
"This trial is supposed to be about fairness," he said to Justice Katherine Wedge.
But Wedge noted that among the crowd of lawyers in the court room there was about 200 years of legal experience, and that the defence had an opportunity to object to the opening statement when it was made on Monday.
"It most certainly cannot be said any party is under-represented," she noted. "I will assume if you don't object you have reasons for not doing so."
Wedge said she would rule later on the propriety of lawyers handing out the opening statement to media.