Report: Blues to announce sale to Checketts group

ST. LOUIS -- A Utah sports entrepreneur and pro soccer team owner with an NBA background will buy the St. Louis Blues, according to news reports Thursday.

The announcement to sell the Blues to Dave Checketts and his Sports Capital Partners was expected Friday, STLToday.com reported. Checketts owns the Major League Soccer team Real Salt Lake.

The Salt Lake City Tribune first reported on the sale being finalized Thursday.

Checketts, attending a ceremony where former Utah Jazz star Karl Malone's jersey was retired Thursday in Salt Lake City, declined to comment.

In the final stretch of the Blues' second-worst season in team history, the deal comes as one of hockey's most successful franchises is on the verge of being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

Wal-Mart heirs Bill and Nancy Laurie bought the Blues in 1999 and announced plans to sell last summer after claiming to have lost millions on the team. The Lauries had hired Boston-based Game Plan LLC to handle the deal.

Forbes magazine put a price tag of $140 million on the franchise and the Savvis Center, where the Blues play.

The first deal between the Blues and Sports Capital Partners fell through in November. In December, the team went into exclusive negotiations with Detroit-based General Sports and Entertainment LLC instead.

The NHL's Board of Governors must approve the sale of all teams. A lease locks the Blues in St. Louis until the 2010-11 season.

Checketts' professional sports resume dates back to 1984, when he became the youngest person ever to run an NBA team at 28 years old as the Utah Jazz president and general manager.

He went on to run the New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden, which also owns the New York Rangers and the New York Liberty of the WNBA.

Checketts, 50, lives in Connecticut and founded the New York-based Sports Capital Partners in 2001. He brought the MLS expansion team to Utah in 2004, and his investment group also owns a minor-league hockey team.

Checketts announced plans late last year to build a $145 million soccer stadium, according to the Tribune.

Checketts met with Salt Lake County officials Wednesday to pitch a $45 million hotel tax deal to help move the soccer team out of a University of Utah stadium, the Tribune reported.

A spokesman with Sports Capital Partners declined comment Thursday, and messages left by The Associated Press for Blues president Mark Sauer were not immediately returned.

The Blues have lost four straight games and were in second-to-last place overall in the NHL with a 20-36-11 record going into Thursday night's game against the Calgary Flames.

This season will end a streak of 25 straight postseason appearances for the Blues, the longest streak among the four major team sports.