by PuckStopsHere on 03/16/09 at 03:39 AM ET
Over the weekend, former Tampa Bay Lightning owner Bill Davidson died at age 86. Under normal circumstances, a former owner dying might be a sad moment for a hockey franchise, but nothing more. It may not be so simple in Tampa Bay because the current owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie were loaned the money to buy the team from Davidson himself (since they couldn’t get it through more traditional means).
Koules and Barrie have not been successful owners. They are showing signs of financial problems. Team employees now must pay to park and there is no more direct deposit of paycheques. As a result speculation was beginning that the current owners would not make it financially and Davidson might be forced to take over the team again (as its primary creditor).
Davidson’s death clearly makes that possibility not possible. When he sold the Lightning it was claimed this was because his heirs were not interested in running a hockey team out of Tampa Bay when they were a Michigan-based family. That situation likely hasn’t changed.
What happens if the OK Hockey group cannot meet their financial obligations? With be last chance backup plan of Bill Davidson dead, is there anyone else willing to step forward? Would any of his heirs be willing to run the team? Would they just accept the loss of any funds owed to him by Koules et al and let Tampa hockey die?
Would there be a more involved heir? Somebody may be worried that Davidson’s loan to OK Hockey is likely to be defaulted upon and thus be willing to step in and add another voice to the Tampa Bay back office in an effort to prevent this.
It isn’t clear what the future holds for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Financially they appear unstable. Their current owners do not appear to have a coherent plan to run a hockey franchise. The death of Bill Davidson adds another dynamic to the situation. It is not clear how his heirs will react to the current situation once they are put in charge of his financial affairs. It is very possible that this reaction will play a big impact on the future direction of that Tampa Bay team.
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