The financial mess that William "Boots" Del Biaggio is swimming in still won't be enough to end Gary Bettman's catastrophic reign. But when the details behind the sale of the Nashville Predators are spelled out like they are in today's edition of The Tennessean, the League looks bad. Really, really bad.
To review: Del Biaggio received two loans in order to help buy into the Predators. One came from AEG, which owns the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and gave Boots $7 million specifically for the purchase of the Preds; the other came from Craig Leipold, who was selling the Predators in order to buy the Minnesota Wild.
He gave Boots $10 million and the team $10 million to make the Nashville sale happen. The loans allowed Leipold to break with the Predators and buy the Wild; and as the Tennessean writes:
AEG also stood to benefit. It has made no secret of its desire to have an NHL team as an anchor tenant at Kansas City's gleaming new Sprint Center, which AEG manages and in which it owns a stake. The firm had previously had a contract with Del Biaggio to try to get an NHL team there.
The disgraceful part for the NHL is that Bettman claims Boots was properly vetted and that it was up to Del Biaggio to disclose his loans from two other NHL owners -- who had very viable interests in seeing the Predators sold.
"To the extent somebody has loans, they should be disclosed in their application," Bettman told the paper.
Fine. But when asked if two of his most important owners should have notified the League they were funding the purchase of another franchise, Bettman said, "Not necessarily."
That's disgusting. Even more disgusting is the fact that AEG wanted to keep its loan to Del Biaggio on the down-low:
No one was ever supposed to know about AEG's $7 million loan to Del Biaggio. It only became public knowledge through the unraveling of the Del Biaggio financial enterprise in recent months. The initial lawsuit AEG filed against Del Biaggio does not outline the details of why the company made the loan, only that it was to help Del Biaggio purchase the Predators.
Logic points to AEG wanting an inside man in case the Predators had to move, so that the move could be to its arena in Kansas City.
Bettman has some plausible deniability here in the sense that AEG didn't disclose this transaction. And Leipold was simply trying to buy his way out of Nashville.
But here's the real issue: The National Hockey League was just played by a fool by two of its owners, who orchestrated a sale that benefitted one immediately and another potentially down the line.
And as of now, the League doesn't seem all that outraged about it. The best Bettman could do is tell The Tennessean that "the league plans to review its procedures to see whether a 'higher level' of disclosure among its owners should be required."
Yeah, wow. That'll teach'em.