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Predators co-owner Del Biaggio files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

SAN JOSE, Calif. - A Silicon Valley financier who owns a stake in the NHL's Nashville Predators has filed for personal Chapter 11 bankruptcy just weeks after being accused of loan fraud.

William "Boots" Del Biaggio III's filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California caps a turbulent two weeks for this scion of a prominent San Jose banking family.

While the filing didn't list the 40-year-old businessman's assets or debts, a list of the biggest unsecured claims against him shows that he has at least US$57 million in unpaid personal and business loans, credit card bills and other financial obligations.

One known outstanding debt is $10 million that Del Biaggio has said he owed to Craig Leipold, the Predators' former owner who sold the franchise to Del Biaggio's group in August for $193 million. Leipold went on to buy the Minnesota Wild.

In the filing, Del Biaggio estimates his assets and liabilities each between $50 million and $100 million. More complete information about Del Biaggio's finances are expected to be submitted later to the court.

A call to Del Biaggio's bankruptcy attorney by The Associated Press wasn't immediately returned Friday afternoon.

David Freeman, chairman of the Predators' ownership group, said in a statement Friday evening the financial allegations against Del Biaggio won't affect the operation of the team. He said the Predators are in talks with the league and their banking partners.

"It is my hope and anticipation that the club will be even stronger once this saga reaches its logical conclusion and Mr. Del Biaggio is no longer associated with the club," he said.

Outside of his stake in the Predators, Del Biaggio is known for co-founding the investment firm Sand Hill Capital, which has given money to chip maker Broadcom Corp., juice company Odwalla Inc. and other companies, according to Sand Hill's website.

Del Biaggio abruptly resigned May 26 from Sand Hill Capital. His financial troubles began emerging shortly thereafter: three banks sued him claiming $17 million in unpaid loans.

Modern Bank, a New York-based private bank, is trying to force Del Biaggio to repay $10 million he used to help buy his slice of the Predators. Heritage Bank of Commerce, a San Jose-based bank co-founded by Del Biaggio's father, wants Del Biaggio to immediately repay a $4-million loan. And DGB Investments Inc., a San Jose-based investment firm, is suing Del Biaggio over an unpaid $3-million loan.

Those transactions and others are also being probed by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Securities and Exchange Commission over allegations that Del Biaggio passed off brokerage accounts that weren't his as loan collateral.

Merriman Curhan Ford said it has fired the broker who helped Del Biaggio with the transactions and is co-operating with the federal investigations.

Del Biaggio's defence lawyer has said his client will co-operate with the investigations.

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