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Wild sale by Naegele is called unlikely

  • Article by: Michael Russo
  • Star Tribune
  • August 2, 2007 - 11:54 PM

Could Craig Leipold, who signed a letter of intent Wednesday to sell the Nashville Predators to a group of Tennessee investors for $193 million, be eyeing another NHL franchise?

According to an ESPN.com report Thursday, Leipold, a Wisconsin native, has been in discussions with Wild owner Bob Naegele regarding his interest in buying into the Wild.

Citing an unnamed source, ESPN.com reported that "plans are in the works for [Leipold] to step into an ownership role with the Minnesota Wild after cutting ties with the Preds and when current Wild owner Robert O. Naegele Jr. decides to step away from the business."

Naegele declined to comment to the Star Tribune through a team spokesman. A source close to Naegele said he'd be shocked if Naegele, the lead investor of an ownership group with 21 principals, would sell all his shares to Leipold.

The source said there have been no meetings to discuss ownership changes.

"If someone wanted to reduce Bob's stake in the team, I'm sure he would listen," the source said. "Sell it outright? I doubt it."

Leipold left Thursday for a vacation in Africa. Predators spokesman Gerry Helper told the Tennessean that Leipold declined to comment. Helper said Leipold is "focused solely on the sale transaction ... and couldn't even consider anything else at this point."

Rumors that Naegele was considering selling the team began surfacing in February 2006. Naegele always has denied the team was on the block, although he always has added a caveat that anything can be sold.

Michael Russo • mrusso@startribune.com

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