Potential Nashville Predators investors cancel announcement on team

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A local investor group trying to buy the Nashville Predators cancelled a Wednesday news conference after city officials denied they had reached an agreement on changes to the team's arena lease.

Earlier in the day, the group said it was set to make an announcement after weeks of negotiations with city officials about changes the potential buyers say are necessary to complete the US$193 million deal and keep the team in Nashville.

"No agreement has been reached," said Janel Lacy, spokeswoman for Mayor Karl Dean, who extended the final offer last week. "Only if and when an agreement has been reached will there be an announcement."

"It is off," investors' spokesman Joe Hall wrote in an e-mail, without elaborating.

Lacy said there is no timetable on the deal.

"We're in the same position as we were on Friday, as we were Monday, as we were in the morning," Lacy said. "Our offer is still on the table."

The Tennessean newspaper, citing anonymous sources, reported Wednesday that an agreement had been reached. The City Paper reported that Wednesday's announcement on an agreement was contingent on officials signing the paperwork by noon or 1 p.m. local time.

The deal changing lease terms for the Sommet Center must be approved first by the Metro Sports Authority and then the city council.

The investor group wants changes in the arena lease to help them combat losses. Predators owner Craig Leipold said he lost $70 million in his 10 years with the franchise when he initially announced a sale to a Canadian billionaire in May.

That deal fell through when Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. started taking season ticket deposits in Hamilton.

The NHL also must approve the sale.

The local group put down $10 million as a nonrefundable deposit for the team in August, and Leipold extended their exclusive negotiating period on Oct. 31 to give the investors more time to work out the arena lease.

Under the city's final proposal, the new owners would have an exit clause and could leave in three years if the investors lose $20 million and paid attendance falls below 14,000 per game.

The team would have to repay $6.8 million a year to leave before five years, money paid by the city to help operate and manage the arena. The owners would have to pay $10 million to exit after five years.

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