The Associated Press is reporting that the Atlanta Thrashers' owners said they have lost more than $130 million since 2005 and that the franchise is worth $50 million less because of a dispute that ended plans to sell the team.
These number were filed in a lawsuit by Atlanta Spirit, who owns the team, against a city law firm. Atlanta Spirit claims faulty legal work is to blame for the sale not going through.
The suit, according to the Press, claims the owners had been trying to sell the team over the past six years but things came to a halt due to a split with co-owner Steve Belkin. The Boston-based Belkin's shares were finally bought out in December.
Remaining owners of the Thrashers' claim is that the dispute should have ended in August 2005, but didn't because the Atlanta law firm King & Spalding hadn't negotiated a “fatally flawed contract.”
King & Spalding, the suit says, were hired to negotiate Belkin's buyout and give Belkin fair value for his 30 percent stake in the team. Atlanta Spirit says they gave Belkin too much, then tried to conceal their error.
"Instead of quickly buying out their co-owner's interest for a fair price in the fall of 2005, plaintiffs were tied up in litigation for five years, operation of the Atlanta Hawks and the Atlanta Thrashers was impaired and title to the franchises was clouded," the lawsuit said.
While Canada licks its chops in hopes of the Thrashers heading North, the Thrashers sit toward the bottom of the league in attendance and the NHL can't be pleased with more ownership troubles. Atlanta Spirit originally wanted to sell the team in the same range as franchises such as the Tampa Bay Lightning who sold for $204 million, but they say it is extremely unlikely they could sell for anywhere near that price.
Matthew Coller is a staff member of the Business of Sports Network, and is a freelance writer. He can be followed on Twitter
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