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Aquilini brothers happy to bring local ownership back to Canucks

The Aquilini Investment Group, owned by local businessmen Francesco, Roberto and Paolo Aquilini, have entered into an agreement to purchase the remaining half of the Canucks and GM Place arena from Seattle billionaire John McCaw.

The Aquilini group originally purchased 50 per cent of the team and the building in November of 2004.

"When our partnership was first formed (with McCaw) we both knew 100 per cent local ownership was always a possibility because it made sense," Francesco Aquilini told a news conference Thursday, a day after the deal was announced.

"We will now have a complete local focus with a made-in-Vancouver vision, brand and set of priorities. This is more than just a business transaction. We as a family are proud to be stewards of our province's hockey team."

Aquilini declined to say how much his family paid for the team. Back in 2004, Forbes magazine estimated the team to be worth US$148 million but that figure did not include the 18,630-seat building.

McCaw, a reclusive man who rarely spoke to the media, became the Canucks majority owner in November of 1996.

The transaction between the Aquilinis and McCaw is expected to close early in 2007. The sale is subject to NHL approval.

Aquilini didn't rule out changing the Canucks' uniform and killer whale logo.

"The management team will be looking at that," Aquilini said. "That's a possibility. There's always room for change if it makes sense and if it's better. Depending on the feedback of the fans, that's a possibility."

Aquilini also declined comment on a lawsuit brought against him by two local businessmen over the family's original purchase of the team.

Tom Gaglardi and Ryan Beedie filed a statement of claim in court alleging McCaw and Aquilini acted in bad faith and disregarded legal agreements when they completed their deal.

"The matter is before the courts," Aquilini said.

"I've made my statements I don't think I've done anything wrong. The court process will take it's course."

The Aquilini group was founded almost 50 years ago by Luigi Aquilini, Francesco's father. One of his first investments was a house he purchased in East Vancouver.

The company now has a real estate portfolio that includes commercial and residential property, hotels and golf courses. It also has significant agricultural holdings, including blueberry and cranberry farms.


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