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Bid to buy Canucks bogged down over Olympic revenues, former partner says

Tom Gaglardi was testifying in B.C. Supreme Court in a civil case against Francesco Aquilini, who he alleges used insider information to wrest control of the multimillion-dollar deal to buy the NHL team and its home, GM Place.

Gaglardi told the court after months of intense negotiation he got a call from team owner John McCaw on Nov. 5, 2004, telling him the deal was off.

Leading up to that point, Gaglardi and Orca Bay CEO Stan McCammon had been going back and forth on various items in the purchase agreement for the team and GM Place, including sponsorship deals, financing arrangements and revenues generated by the Olympics.

Orca Bay wanted to keep at least half of the money that the 2010 Games would bring in, court heard.

"We're six years from the Olympics, we would clearly be the owner of the building during the Olympics and the vendor is trying to suggest they should be entitled to half of the rental that's paid during the Olympics," Gaglardi said.

"That was a surprise and certainly different than what we had suggested."

Court had heard that the Vancouver Olympic Committee had agreed to pay the owners of GM Place more than $18 million to reserve the use of the facility and $100,000 in rent for every day the stadium was in use for the Games.

Gaglardi said Monday that would have resulted in $2 million to $3 million being handed over to Orca Bay.

But one day before his conversation with McCaw, Gaglardi said his conversations with McCammon indicated that the deal was going to go through if a few features of the financing arrangement could be worked out.

Buoyant, Gaglardi met friends that night for a celebratory dinner.

The next night, McCaw phoned.

Gaglardi inhaled deeply before recounting the litany of reasons McCaw gave for backing out of the deal, including Gaglardi bargaining too hard, too long and not paying him the full value for the team. Gaglardi said he also said he'd lost interest in the deal.

Court heard that Gaglardi challenged McCaw on each point, and said he was given information from others that was just "nonsense."

Gaglardi said when he asked McCaw if they could return to the terms agreed to on Oct. 30, the owner balked, but when Gaglardi pressed him and said they should meet to discuss it, he agreed.

A meeting date kept getting postponed, court heard, while Gaglardi kept in touch with McCammon to find out what was going on.

Gaglardi said McCammon accused him of giving McCaw an ultimatum, but he responded that the only reason a deal wasn't able to get made was because McCammon himself was being unreasonable.

McCammon's colourful response shocked Gaglardi, as he swore and said he didn't care what was reasonable.

"I had no confidence we'd ever reach an agreement with your side," Gaglardi said McCammon told him.

The conversation ended and Gaglardi continued trying to arrange a meeting with McCaw and push for a return to the original deal negotiated at the end of October.

It wasn't until almost 10 days later, while he was out for dinner in a Calgary restaurant, that he learned from a scrolling headline on television that the Canucks had an announcement about a deal for an ownership stake in the team.

Later that night, Gaglardi said, his father phoned and told him that the local news was reporting the buyer was Aquilini.

Aquilini had been part of the original trio negotiating to buy the Canucks, but he dropped out of the deal the previous March, leaving only Gaglardi and Ryan Beedie at the table.

Gaglardi told the court after the official news conference announcing Aquilini had bought a 50 per cent stake in the team, he called his old partner and demanded an explanation.

He said Aquilini told him he'd been told his deal was dead, and that he didn't move into a bidding position until he got that confirmation.

"We go back 15 years, we need to talk," Gaglardi said he told him. "He didn't want to meet."

Aquilini maintained at the start of the trial that he did nothing wrong in securing his deal to buy a share of the hockey franchise and the arena. He has since exercised his option to buy the rest of the team.

Earlier Monday, Gaglardi told the court that he known the Oct. 30 deal would be the final offer, his team would have jumped at it.

"There's absolutely no question we would have accepted it," he said. "We were never prepared to lose the overall transaction and certainly not over the amount of money that was on the table at that point between the parties. We were simply searching for what was fair."

The team, GM Place and its related assets would eventually sell for $250 million.

Gaglardi said the opportunity to own the Canucks and GM Place was "beyond a dream."

"I can't say it was a lifelong dream because I never ever thought I'd have the opportunity to own a portion of the Vancouver Canucks," he said.

"I've been a hockey fanatic and played since I was five years old and to be involved in this manner with the Canucks was something that was beyond a dream and when it became something that was attainable it became the most important thing to me."


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