The sale of the Dallas Stars is heading down the home stretch. The Stars announced Thursday that they have reached an agreement to sell the team to Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a Delaware court to pave the way for the sale to be completed.
"Today's filing culminates months of cooperative effort by the League, the Club, the Club's lenders and Dallas Arena LLC," said Bill Daly, deputy commissioner of the NHL. "It represents an extremely positive step toward what we expect will be an orderly transition to new ownership for the Dallas Stars."
Under a prepackaged bankruptcy plan also filed by the Stars, Gaglardi, who also owns the Western Hockey League's Kamloops Blazers, would be the lead bidder for the club and all its hockey assets. His bid would be subject to higher or better offers and the approval of the bankruptcy court.
There have been other parties who have expressed in an interest in the Stars over the past year, but it is not clear if they'll get involved in the process and try to better Gaglardi's offer.
The sale would also be subject to approval by the NHL's Board of Governors. The Stars hope to have a new owner within 60 to 75 days.
"This is a significant step toward completing the transition in ownership," Stars president Tony Tavares said in a statement. "We are pleased that our lenders have shown substantial support for the plan and the sale process, but the Dallas Stars are focused on one thing: Hockey. The players and coaches begin training camp on Friday and we are all excited to start the new season."
The bankruptcy proceedings are not expected to have any impact on the Stars, who start training camp this weekend in Prince Edward Island.
"It will be business as usual," said Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk. "We're getting ready and getting excited about Prince Edward Island. We have a season to prepare for."
Tom Hicks, who bought the club for $84 million in 1995, announced in February 2010 that he was exploring the sale of the Stars. Hicks defaulted on $525 million in loans in March 2009 and lenders, who assumed the team's debt, have been funding the team. Forbes valued the Stars at $227 million last fall.
The next step in the process will be a hearing on motions before a judge in Delaware on Monday.
The Texas Rangers, who were also once owned by Hicks, went through a similar process before that sale was completed last year to a group headed by Nolan Ryan two months before they went to their first World Series.
A big difference between the two plans is that creditors opposed the prepackaged deal filed by the Rangers.
The Rangers' sale was stalled for months by creditors' concerns over Hicks' financially strapped ownership group. The team was eventually put up for a court auction, in which Ryan's group outbid Jim Crane and Mark Cuban and finally got the team nine months after entering into exclusive negotiations with Hicks.
The Stars said their prepackaged plan was the result of negotiations involving input from the league and the team's senior secured lenders.
Because the plan has already garnered substantial support from lenders, the Stars expect to expeditiously move through the legal process. They hope for a hearing in 60 to 75 days to confirm the plan and proposed sale, allowing the team to exit bankruptcy and complete the sale of the franchise by the end of November.
Mark Stepneski covers the Stars for ESPNDallas.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.