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Edmonton Oilers ownership group rejects latest purchase offer

That was the message delivered Tuesday by Cal Nichols, chairman of the 33-member group that owns and operates the NHL franchise. Nichols said the Edmonton Investors Group has resoundingly rejected the latest bid from local tycoon Daryl Katz to buy the team. He said they also passed a motion declaring the team is not for sale.

"This is not about dollars. This is about Edmonton," Nichols told a news conference.

Nichols said the team needs to wrap this up and move on. He said he fears there will be "collateral damage," suggesting there had been dissension and hard feelings among the owners on whether to sell.

Nichols said the latest gross offer from Katz was US$185 million. But he said once you factor in capital adjustments and tax implications, the price falls to $136 million. And then he said other liabilities may push it below even the $125-million value the ownership group has signed off on.

Katz owns the multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical giant the Katz Group, which includes the Rexall Pharmacy chain of stores.

He has made three offers since the spring to buy 100 per cent of the team's 7,492 outstanding shares. The first offer was $145 million, the next at $150 million. He needs owners representing two-thirds of the shares to get the deal passed.

Forbes magazine lists him as one of the 500 wealthiest people on the planet, with a net worth of $1.6 billion. He owns a monster multi-million home in the city's river valley and the Rexall Pharmacy has naming rights to the Oilers home rink.

The issue has boiled in the Alberta capital all summer. Katz had promised to help bankroll a new rink downtown (estimated cost C$500 million), build a new training facility and spend the maximum amount on player salaries allowed under the league's salary cap.

The cap will be just over US$50 million this year and the Oilers are currently $5 million below it.

The Edmonton Investors Group had 38 members when it purchased the Oilers for C$100 million nine years ago, saving the team from moving to Houston.

Since then, the franchise has become a financial success story. Forbes values the club at US$146 million. The team has all but reached its maximum total of 14,000 season tickets and this fall, the team's new WHL junior franchise, the Edmonton Oil Kings, begins play.

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