CALGARY – Calgary billionaire Brett Wilson has made a lot of money over the years by hedging his bets so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he’s not willing to say he has a firm deal in place to buy shares of the Nashville Predators.
But he did confirm Wednesday that progress has been made in his plans to invest in the NHL team.
“We have a handshake agreement but nothing in writing,” Wilson told The Canadian Press.
“Normally a handshake agreement would be fine with me but in this case we still have to get NHL approval, cross-border deals done and the paperwork signed,” he added.
Wilson, a co-founder of Calgary’s FirstEnergy Capital Corp., originally expressed interest in investing in the Calgary Flames. He began to look elsewhere when informed that members of the current ownership group weren’t willing to sell any of their interests.
Wilson has had discussions with Predators majority owner David Freeman with an eye to investing in their third professional sports franchise together.
Freeman is attempting to recoup the 27 per cent share that belonged to minority shareholder William J. (Boots) Del Biaggio III, who pleaded guilty to charges of securities fraud after using doctored financial statements to bilk a succession of investors out of US$65 million in order to sustain his lavish lifestyle and acquire a chunk of the Predators.
“David and I have done a lot of business together,” said Wilson. “We have an understanding but that news has been out there for some time.
“It won’t be news until everything is signed and sealed. We have to get agreement first.”
Wilson has had discussions with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and his offer is being reviewed by the league. Wilson has previously said his eventual share in the Predators would be “nominal.”
The 51-year-old native of North Battleford, Sask., is also a panellist on the CBC television show “Dragons’ Den,” which involves would-be entrepreneurs competing for financing.
He made news last October when he was identified as the largest single shareholder in the purchase of Derby County, a storied English soccer team that was bought by an international consortium that included Freeman in January 2008. The investment was worth the equivalent of C$96 million.
Wilson and Freeman also own a minor-league baseball team in Jackson, Tenn.