AnchorageAces back in auction

Posted: Sunday, June 30, 2002

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- For the second time in a week, the financially strangled Anchorage Aces hockey team was listed on sale with eBay Friday, a day after a $2.3 million bid turned out to be invalid.

Within hours of its second listing, the minor league team had received four offers on the Internet auction site, including a $2 million bid.

The West Coast Hockey League franchise filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month. The team is more than $2 million in debt and owes more than 100 creditors. Last season, the Aces finished with a league-worst 19-44 record.

A sale would be welcome news for the WCHL, which has given Aces owner Mike Cusack Jr. until Wednesday to find a legitimate buyer, said Barry Kemp, chairman of the WCHL's board of governors.

Cusack could not be reached for comment Friday.

Because of the bankruptcy, the league can take over rights to the Aces. But that's an action it would prefer to avoid, according to Kemp.

He said the eBay posting was an unlikely solution.

''Odds are it would be a difficult way to market and sell a team,'' Kemp said.

''That caveat being said, if a legitimate buyer emerges in this procedure, we could be seeing more professional teams take this method.''

If the franchise finds a new owner through eBay, it would be the first time a sports team has been sold on the popular site, according to eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove.

The identity of Thursday's high bidder -- an eBay member named kooptroop12 -- turned out to be a college-age prankster, according to KTUU TV in Anchorage. The bogus $2.3 million offer topped four others and allowed the bidder to use eBay's Buy It Now feature. That essentially skipped the timed formalities and instantly ended the auction.

''If the seller decides to re-list it, the bidding starts anew,'' Pursglove said.

Friday's top bid was made by chicagoblizt2001, who did not respond to an e-mail request for comment.

The offer, if valid, could help pull the Aces out of its debt. Another Cusack property, the Northern Lights Hotel, also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month.

The Aces face another day in court. A hearing is set for Monday for a motion filed by the U.S. Trustee's Office to convert the bankruptcy case to Chapter 7 or to order the appointment of a Chapter 11 trustee.

Under Chapter 7, the Aces essentially could be out of business and the Bankruptcy Court could sell the team's assets. A Chapter 11 trustee basically would run the business.

Cusack first listed the team on eBay Saturday with a minimum bid of $1.5 million. Friday's minimum was set at $1.6 million.

Meanwhile, a local group of businessmen wants to buy the team. The group has offered between $1 million and $1.5 million, said Dan Coffey, an Anchorage attorney and among seven members of the group, which has pursued a deal since February.

The group's offer was rejected by KeyBank of Alaska -- the only creditor with a lien against the team's stock -- because it would not pay off all the team's debt.

Coffey said his group is still hoping to make a deal with Cusack, who has said he wants $2.2 million to $2.3 million for the team.

Any sale would require approval from the WCHL and the bankruptcy court.



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