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  • Hayes, Novelly, Sansone groups interested in

    Hayes, Novelly, Sansone groups interested in buying Blues; AEG negotiating for Savvis

    By Rick Desloge and Christopher Tritto

    Groups being assembled by Shaun Hayes, Tony Sansone Jr., and Tony Novelly and his son, P.A. Novelly II, have emerged as potential buyers of the St. Louis Blues, according to people familiar with the discussions.

    Hayes is regional president of National City Bank. Tony Novelly is chairman of Apex Oil., while is son is an executive with Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. Sansone is a principal in his family's commercial real estate business, the Sansone Group.

    Those local investors are checking out the Blues and the lease on the Savvis Center along with another father-son team, Michael Shanahan Sr. and Michael Shanahan Jr., those sources said.

    In addition to those local interests, Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group, better known as AEG, is exploring an option to buy the long-term lease on Savvis Center. AEG owns and operates entertainment venues and sports teams across the country.

    Interest in the National Hockey League franchise comes about two months after Bill and Nancy Laurie announced they were putting the team up for sale, and a month after the NHL reached an agreement with its players, ending a lockout that canceled last year's season.

    Mark Sauer, president of the Blues, said the sale process was still in its early stages. A group of people have looked over the building and facilities in the last week, he said. Sauer declined to identify any of the potential visitors for the team.

    Neither of the Novellys nor Sansone returned telephone messages at their offices. The Shanahans did not return telephone and e-mail messages, and Hayes could not comment. All of those parties either have the financial means to buy a multimillion-dollar franchise, or the ability to build a group of investors.

    Michael Shanahan Sr., chairman emeritus of Engineered Support Systems Inc., helped build the Blues franchise in the 1990s until he was forced out by Civic Progress leaders. His son, Shanahan Jr., owns Huntleigh/McGehee Inc. insurance agency and an area minor league hockey team, the Missouri River Otters. That team plays in St. Charles Family Arena. When the Lauries announced they were selling the Blues, Shanahan Jr. was among the first to express interest buying the club.

    Sansone is part of an investment group that owns a minor league hockey franchise in Texarkana, Texas. One of his partners in that group is Kelly Chase, a former Blues player and current sportscaster for the Blues radio broadcasts. Chase said he was not aware Sansone was interested in buying the Blues.

    Hayes was chairman of Allegiant Bank until it was acquired by National City Corp. of Cleveland last year. He was among Allegiant's largest shareholders at the time of the deal, with shares worth about $15.1 million.

    Tony Novelly's Apex Oil Co. is one of the largest private companies in the St. Louis area, with annual revenue estimated at $2.8 billion. The elder Novelly sits on corporate boards ranging from Bear, Stearns & Co. of New York to Intrawest Corp., a Canadian corporation that operates ski resorts, golf resorts and other properties across North America. His son, P.A. Novelly II, formerly worked for Bear Stearns, where we reportedly handled the investments of his father. The younger Novelly moved to Stifel in March.

    The sale of the Blues could take months to complete, but AEG was to be pushing for a quick purchase of the arena. A sale of the building to AEG would split the building ownership and team ownership. That could make the purchase of the Blues more affordable for a local buyer, since the new team owners would not have to foot the bill on the remaining $64 million in bonds on the arena.

    "I do think presents an opportunity perhaps people didn't realize existed," said Bob Caporale, chairman of Boston-based Game Plan LLC.

    Game Plan is managing the sale of the team and the arena for the Blues. Caporale said it's too early to tell whether the team and Savvis Center are more likely to be sold together to a single buyer or as separate entities.

    AEG, the apparent frontrunner among those interested in the arena alone, would be prohibited from buying the Blues because the company already owns the Los Angeles Kings hockey team.

    But arena ownership is familiar territory for AEG. The company already owns other professional sports facilities that host teams not owned by AEG. The company owns both Staples Center an the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles, for example, but has no ownership interest in the Los Angeles Clippers and only a minority stake in the Los Angeles Lakers, though both teams play home games in those arenas.

    A partnership with an independent facility owner could be "an option that is available to someone who may want to own the Blues but may see more merit or financial value in teaming up with AEG to arrange a partnership," Caporale said.

    AEG is a sports and entertainment powerhouse owned by The Anschutz Corp., a holding company led by Denver billionaire Phillip Anschutz. The company claims to own more sports teams and events than any other company in the world.

    Other facility ownership groups besides AEG also have contacted Game Plan to discuss the purchase of Savvis Center, Caporale said. He declined to name those groups, but there are only a small number of companies in that business. Global Spectrum and SMG, both based in Philadelphia, are the most likely candidates.
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  • #2
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