Media mogul, car dealer seek deal for Winnipeg

Tue May 24, 2011 6:19pm EDT
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By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Winnipeg's True North Sports & Entertainment Ltd has so far been the story of a major-league mogul and a local businessman making good money in hockey's minor leagues.

Now, the privately held company on the verge of reestablishing a National Hockey League team in the Canadian Prairie city will have to transfer that success as owner of the franchise with the smallest population base.

True North, a 10-year-old business owned by David Thomson, No. 17 on Forbes' list of billionaires, and Mark Chipman, the outfit's public face who runs a string of Winnipeg automobile dealerships, may be close to sealing the purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers.

Media have said an announcement could come as early as Tuesday, but a source familiar with the situation said that was premature.

For True North, the goal has been to offer top-level hockey in the city of 635,000 people, although attracting a new NHL franchise has not always been the priority.

"The stars had to align for this opportunity to come along, given the state the NHL was in a number of years ago, and a number of things just fell into place," said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

True North has said little publicly, other than its standard line that it would pursue the opportunity if it arose.

The cash-strapped Thrashers have struggled to maintain a large fan base in Georgia, home to well-established American football, baseball and basketball franchises.   Continued...