Hicks exploring unloading Stars

Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2002

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks has hired a company to explore and manage a possible sale of the NHL team and his half-share of the company that manages and operates the American Airlines Center.

Any sale wouldn't affect his ownership of the Texas Rangers, his major league baseball team.

Hicks said he was selling because the franchise value has risen from $84 million when he bought the team in 1996 to as much as four times that amount due to increased revenue created when the Stars moved into American Airlines Center before last season.

''It's been a great run, I've had fun, but this is the right time,'' Hicks said. ''We built the best arena. The organization is so solid that the Dallas Stars are going to continue to be a premier team in the NHL and I'll be their biggest fan.''

The Stars won the Stanley Cup three years after Hicks purchased the team. Dallas missed the playoffs last season for the first time under Hicks' ownership, which resulted in the firing of coach Ken Hitchcock midway through the season.

Hicks said one reason he's opting to sell the Stars, who Hicks says will turn a profit even if they don't make the playoffs, rather than the last-place Rangers, who will lose money, is because he's already won an NHL championship.

''It's like which kid do you love most?'' Hicks said. ''I've done everything I set out to do with the Stars. I haven't done that with the Rangers.''

Hicks said time constraints also prompted the decision.

''I'm 56, I've got four kids and a great wife,'' Hicks said. ''I've reached the point in my life where I've gained some wisdom. I need to balance out my time. It's something I struggle with. My family is more important than that.''

J.P. Morgan Securities Inc., the company hired by Hicks, declined to specify a proposed purchase price for the Stars and the half-ownership in the Center Operating Company that operates the $420 million American Airlines Center that opened last year.

A sale could take months to complete, and Hicks said he'll wait until he finds an owner or ownership group willing to spend enough money to field a team good enough to contend for the Stanley Cup.

''We're going to take our time and if we don't get it (the right owner), I won't sell,'' Hicks said.

Hicks said the sale of the Stars would help him concentrate more of his efforts on the Rangers, who will finish last in the AL West for the third straight season.

''I am totally committed to transform the Texas Rangers into a team that competes every year for the division title and eventually win its share of World Series championships,'' Hicks said. ''Hopefully, this alignment of my personal interests and schedule will accelerate our strategies and tactics for the baseball team.''

The Stars and Rangers are owned through Hicks' Southwest Sports Group, which controls his personal sports and entertainment investments. Southwest Sports also owns the Mesquite Championship Rodeo, a half-interest in a minor league team that begins play in Frisco next year and is the developer of a 75-acre sports complex and mixed-use project where that team will play.

Stars general manager Doug Armstrong said he broke the news of Hicks' decision on Monday to six key players, including right wing Bill Guerin, the team's prize free agent pickup during the summer. Hicks led a team delegation to Boston in July to sell Guerin on the advantages of signing with the Stars and living in Dallas.

''There was initial shock because this thing had been kept quiet,'' Armstrong said. ''But they understood that it's a business decision. Part of this decision is how much the team is worth now. It's worth three or four times what he bought it for because of the new arena. Now the Stars are number one in the league in (arena) revenue. There have been 15 teams sold in the NHL over the past five, six years. That's the nature of the league right now.''

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