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After years of financial struggles, Predators have turned the corner with refinanced debt

Jan 5, 2011, 11:18 AM EDT

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A few years back when William “Boots” Del Biaggio rode into Nashville to play the role of “savior” of the Predators, he was hailed as a financial genius who would be able to give the franchise the financial stability in the front office they were looking for to help keep the team locked down in Music City. After all, they had just done the dance with BlackBerry guru Jim Balsillie and they were vulnerable.

Then it turned out that Del Biaggio didn’t actually have any money and turned a bad situation even worse by putting the Predators further into the hole. Craig Leipold and and a group of local investors swooped in to save the day and while the Predators have been stable for sometime since then, especially now that they’re consistently winning games, there was still that nagging cloud of debt thanks to Boots’ mismanagement. In order to buy the team, they had to buy up Boots’ shares first, this led to taking out a $75 million loan to help secure the team for themselves.

People in Nashville can breathe a bit easier now because the team’s ownership has refinanced that debt to help make it easier for them to pay it back and get the Predators onto solid financial ground. Nate Rau of The Tennessean has the update on how the Predators may finally be able to be called a financially stable franchise in the south.

The ownership group purchased the Del Biaggio shares in September and began seeking refinancing partners shortly thereafter. Morgan Joseph and Avondale Partners served as financial advisers for the team.

“We had a real problem with our balance sheet, which was cobbled together in an emergency fashion to save the team back in 2007,” [Predators chairman Tom] Cigarran said. “I’m not being critical. If we didn’t come up with the money to buy the team in a very short period of time, there wasn’t going to be a team.”

Cigarran said that with the refinancing out of the way, he would like to begin searching for new investors in the coming weeks. The hope is to find local investors, but Cigarran said the ownership group would look outside of the Nashville area, as well.

Hearing these details shows what a desperate time it was for the franchise and now that they’re clearing the path towards stability the Predators are becoming a shining example of how it takes patience to make things work in a new market in the NHL. This is the kind of success story some are hoping will become the example for those in Arizona and Atlanta can follow. For now though, hockey is alive and well in Nashville and now people can stop talking about how the Predators are a prime candidate for relocation.

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