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Predators end naming rights deal for arena, sue Sommet Group for failing to pay

NASHVILLE - The Nashville Predators ended their naming rights deal Wednesday with the Sommet Group of Tennessee for the team's arena and are suing the company for failing to pay.

The Nashville Hockey Club Limited Partnership filed the lawsuit in Davidson County Chancery Court accusing the Sommet Group of Tennessee breach of contract under the three-year naming rights agreement reached in 2007.

"We have reluctantly terminated our relationship with Sommet Group," Ed Lang, the Predators' president of business operations, said in a statement.

"For months, Sommet Group has not met its payment obligations under our naming rights agreement. We repeatedly reached out to Sommet Group and sought its compliance with these obligations. Unfortunately, Sommet Group did not do so, or give us any indication that it would."

Under the deal, the arena had been called the Sommet (soh-MAY) Center since 2007.

Brian Whitfield, Sommet's managing partner, issued a statement saying they hope to resolve the issue amicably. But he said they withheld payments because the Predators were not acting like a partner, instead using a competitor for products and services rather than the Sommet Group as the preferred provider.

"The most recent straw that broke the camel's back was their order of thousands of T-shirts from out of state instead of from Sommet's BrandCentrik business unit. That in our view is not being a good partner as was promised," Whitfield said.

This is the second naming rights deal to fall through for the Predators on their arena, which has had three names since opening in December 1996. The building started off as the Nashville Arena in honour of the city that built and paid for the building. Then it became the Gaylord Entertainment Center in 1999 as part of an $80 million, 20-year deal.

The Gaylord Entertainment Company quit making payments in May 2003, and the team and company sued each other before settling that legal fight and ending the naming rights deal in February 2005. Sommet, which handles human resources administration, human resources administration, payroll and risk management services, put its name on the arena in May 2007.

Lang said the Predators plan to present a proposal for a new name to the local sports authority within weeks.

The Predators currently are seventh in the Western Conference and have won six straight games.



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