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Edmonton billionaire Katz says he'd spend salary cap limit, build new arena

The Edmonton billionaire, in his first public comments since making his third attempt to buy the NHL team, explained his motives in a statement Tuesday.

"To be clear, I am committed to building a winning team here in Edmonton and I would play to the salary cap every year to help make sure that happens," the pharmaceutical mogul said in the release.

"I am also prepared to make a significant additional investment of time and money towards the development of a new downtown arena facility for the team and the city if that's what the people of Edmonton want."

Katz, owner of the Rexall Pharmacy chain, is believed to have put up more than $170 million in his latest bid. Previous offers of $150 million and $145 million were made to the board of directors but were rejected.

The Oilers are currently owned by 34 investors who bought the NHL team in 1998.

"They did a great thing when they came together to buy the team and keep it in Edmonton," said Katz. "They have maintained a real community feeling ever since, and just over one year ago they came agonizingly close to bringing the Cup back to Edmonton. As an Edmontonian and as a fan, I'm grateful for everything they've done. As an owner, should that come to pass, I intend to ensure their contribution is recognized and remembered.

"At the same time, I know there are a number of people within the ownership group who would like to exit their investment and pass the torch to a new generation of leadership. I want to provide that leadership while preserving the great Oiler traditions and maintaining a strong sense of community."

Katz is listed by Forbes magazine as the 486th richest man on the planet. Last year his net worth totalled $1.6 billion.

"If I'm successful in acquiring the team I will be more than happy to make myself available to the media to answer your questions directly," Katz said in finishing. "There is no great mystery in any of this, other than the sound business practice of trying not to negotiate a transaction in public. To that end I have offered to meet with all of the owners privately to further explain my offer and answer their questions.

"I've had several productive discussions already and look forward to others in the weeks ahead."

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