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EXCLUSIVE: Glavine working to keep Thrashers in Atlanta

7:04 PM, Apr 20, 2011   |    comments
Tom Glavine
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ATLANTA -- Tom Glavine is searching for investors to try and keep Atlanta's troubled hockey franchise in Atlanta.

The former Braves pitcher told 11Alive's Fred Kalil and Jerry Carnes he could not afford the $80 - $100 million to buy the Thrashers himself, but is trying to find investors interested, and could end up a part owner.

Rumors have swirled about the Thrashers in recent months, with new potential ownership groups and new destinations emerging for the team that has not been in Atlanta long.

The team's owners have said the franchise is losing millions of dollars, and new investors are needed.

"I don't want them to leave," said Glavine.

Glavine made his mark in Atlanta as a legendary pitcher who was a part of five World Series teams, but as a Massachusetts teenager he was also an outstanding hockey player. Glavine was drafted in 1984 by the Los Angeles Kings, but chose baseball.

USA Today Hockey beat writer Kevin Allen said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman would likely want the Thrashers to stay put.

"If you look at Gary Bettman's history as commissioner, he's always wanted to keep teams in the cities where they're located," said Allen.

Allen said his sources are indicating there at least one group interested in buying into the Thrashers and keeping them in Atlanta.

"I think right now there's no sense that the Thrashers are going to move," said Allen.

Winnipeg is reportedly hungry to regain a franchise and may land the Phoenix Coyotes. That deal could have a ripple effect on the situation in Atlanta. If Winnipeg fails to land the Coyotes, the group anxious for NHL hockey in that city could look to the Thrashers.

"We don't comment on matters like that," said Scott Brown, spokesman for True North Sports and Entertainment, the group reportedly trying to lure an NHL franchise to Winnipeg. "It wouldn't be fair."

The Thrashers were ranked nearly the least valuable team in hockey by Forbes in December 2010. The Thrashers are valued at $135 million and rank No. 29 out of the NHL's 30 teams. The Atlanta team's value dropped 5 percent in the past year, Forbes noted.

The team is owned by Atlanta Spirit LLC, which bought them for $80 million in 2004, Forbes said. 

11Alive partner Atlanta Business Chronicle reports Atlanta Spirit recently sued big Atlanta law firm King & Spalding LLP for legal malpractice, claiming the firm botched its efforts to acquire full control of the Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Thrashers sports teams, with the mistakes costing the owners about $200 million. The plaintiffs say they tried to sell the Atlanta Thrashers hockey team in 2005, but because the team's ownership group was fighting in court, they could not unload the team. Since then, according to the lawsuit, the value of the Thrashers has fallen off a cliff, losing about a quarter of its value.

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