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Thrashers' owner on Atlanta future

9:17 AM, May 13, 2011   |    comments
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Atlanta Thrashers defenseman Dustin Byfuglien

ATLANTA -- Atlanta Spirit owner Bruce Levenson broke his silence Thursday night before the Hawks playoff game with the Bulls inside Philips Arena.

The Spirit own and operate the Hawks and the NHL Thrashers.

The Thrashers are for sale, and their future in Atlanta is thought to be tenuous at best.

Levenson spoke to 11Alive's Jeff Hullinger.

Hullinger: The question is a simple one, are the Thrashers staying in Atlanta or going to Winnipeg?

Levenson: Well, our job is to continue to find a solution here in Atlanta. That's what we've been working on for a long time and what we're working on.

Hullinger: Is this solution any closer today than it was a month or two?

Levenson: I don't think so. No.

Hullinger: Is this local group with (former Braves star) Tom Glavine a legitimate contender to get this club?

Levenson: I've never commented on anybody we're talking to. There is an enormous amount of speculation for years and I've never commented on speculation. We sign a confidentiality agreement, and we honor them.

Hullinger: What's your drop dead date on this? When does it have to come together?

Levenson: I don't have a drop dead date.

Hullinger So you continue to have negotiations with other parties? Without being specific.

Levenson: My job is to try and find buyers that will either buy all of it or as Michael (Gearon Jr., Spirit co-owner) and I have indicated, we would be happy to retain an interest if that helps make the deal better.

Hullinger: How about this scenario -- the team stays here for another year while you shop it for a new owner. Is that within the realm of possibility?

Levenson: That's a scenario we haven't thought about. We want to find somebody to keep the team here.

Hullinger: Everything I read indicates the NHL and Commissioner Gary Bettman sound like they don't want to keep the team here.

Levenson: Gary's first priority is to keep the team here.

Hullinger: If you were a betting man -- one year from today -- are you standing here as owner of the Thrashers?

Levenson: Well, ah--no. I hope we can find somebody who can come in and take either a controlling interest -- it's their choosing -- (or) own the whole thing. We have been working on this a long time.

Hullinger: What would you like to say to fans wondering where all this stands? What would you like to say to them?

Levenson: If you know anybody who is interested, have them get in touch with us.

Hullinger: Do you regret getting involved (as Thrashers owner) in this at all?

Levenson: That's a great question. There have been a lot of highs and lows. I'm disappointed we haven't had more success with the Thrashers. I'm disappointed we haven't had the same success as the Hawks.

Hullinger: Do you think (NHL) hockey can make it in Atlanta?

Levenson: I don't see why not. I really don't

Hullinger: Has the mayor or governor tried to step in?

Levenson: The mayor has issued a statement. I rather he speak for himself.

Hullinger: Thanks Bruce.

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