Vancouver businessmen appeal court loss of their claim of ownership of NHL Canucks

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VANCOUVER - The fight over ownership of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team moved into overtime Tuesday.

Two businessmen filed an appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision last month that rejected their claim that they were unlawfully left out of a chance to buy the Vancouver Canucks.

Tom Gaglardi and Ryan Beedie had argued during a long, bitter trial that they were in a partnership with Francesco Aquilini when Aquilini negotiated behind their backs to buy the lucrative NHL franchise in 2004.

But Justice Catherine Wedge ruled Aquilini was no longer a partner when he made his successful bid to purchase half the Canucks franchise.

In filing a notice of appeal, Gaglardi and Beedie asked that the order of the trial judge be set aside.

They also asked the Appeal Court to declare that the "enterprise" and any profits earned be held in trust for Gaglardi and Beedie.

The document also wants B.C.'s highest court to order that Aquilini and Orca Bay "transfer" the Canucks to Gaglardi and Beedie.

The list of remedies sought by Gaglardi and Beedie also include "a declaration that the Orca Bay respondents knowingly assisted the Aquilini respondents in their breach of fiduciary duty."

Wedge flatly dismissed the claim by Beedie and Gaglardi and legal observers said she was clear that ownership belonged with Aqulini.

She said the relationship between the three men wasn't a partnership and even if it was at one time, that ended when Aquilini left the group nine months before he bought the team.

The epic battle began about five years ago when the three men agreed to work together for an ownership interest in the hockey club and ended in a five-month court fight over promises, obligations and duties.

In November 2004, Aquilini purchased half the hockey team for $250 million from American telecom billionaire John McCaw, only days after negotiations for the team fell through with Gaglardi and Beedie.

Gaglardi and Beedie claimed the trio had an agreement to work together in a partnership or joint venture and that Aquilini had a duty to them not to purchase the Canucks on his own behalf.

Wedge said in her ruling that Aqulini could petition her to order the other side to pay the legal costs and Aqulini's lawyer said they might seek money beyond just the legal fees.

Aqulini's lawyer could not be immediately reached for comment about the appeal Tuesday.



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