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Report: Steinbrenner interested in buying NHL team

August 26, 1997 GMT

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is interested in buying the NHL’s New York Islanders, according to a published report.

Steinbrenner has made preliminary inquiries, through an intermediary, about purchasing the Islanders, according to several persons close to the NHL and major league baseball, the Newark Star-Ledger said Tuesday.

Steinbrenner was traveling Monday and was unavailable for comment.

The Islanders are up for sale for the second time in less than a year after John Spano’s purchase for $165 million was nullified by the league last month. Spano failed to make several scheduled payments and faces federal fraud charges in several jurisdictions, including New York, Texas and Boston.

Brett Pickett, the son of Islanders owner John Pickett, refused to divulge the identity of any suitors for the team, citing confidentiality agreements. But Pickett, whose law firm _ Richards and O’Neil _ is representing his father in sale negotiations, indicated there is no shortage of potential purchasers for the team.

``We’ve had interest expressed by close to 18 investor groups. We’re engaged in due diligence with about 10 of those groups, and about four are close to talking numbers,″ he told the Star-Ledger.

Although Steinbrenner initiated contact with the Islanders more than two weeks ago, his representatives ``have not followed up over the last 10 days,″ the Star-Ledger said, citing a person familiar with the discussions. It appears that the expected $200 million-plus price tag for the Islanders, plus the rights to their lucrative long-term cable TV deal, may be too steep for Steinbrenner, who probably would have to seek the support of his Yankees limited partners to finance the deal.

Steinbrenner’s group purchased the Yankees in 1973 from CBS for $10 million. Steinbrenner’s family owns 55 percent of the shares in the New York Yankees Partnership, and the team is worth at least $250 million, possibly much more.

In 1981, Steinbrenner seriously weighed a bid to buy the NHL’s Colorado Rockies, but was beaten out by rival and former Yankees limited partner John McMullen, who moved the team, now the New Jersey Devils, to the Meadowlands. In the late 1980s, Steinbrenner also made preliminary inquiries about the availability of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets.

Between September 1991 and May 1992, Steinbrenner owned a single-digit minority in the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. His interest was bought out by a Japanese corporation, Kokusai Green Co. Ltd., which owns the team.

Four major league baseball teams _ Anaheim (Walt Disney Co.), Atlanta (Time Warner Inc.), the Chicago White Sox (Jerry Reinsdorf) and Florida (H. Wayne Huizenga) _ have controlling owners who also control a major league team in another professional sport.