Sale of Kings Still Stalled in Negotiations

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A summer's worth of paperwork, litigation and negotiation seemed to be drawing to a logical conclusion last week. Jeffrey Sudikoff and Joseph Cohen would sell the beleaguered Kings to Colorado billionaire Philip F. Anschutz and developer Edward P. Roski Jr.

An announcement was scheduled for Friday.

Then Leonard Gumport's phone rang late Thursday afternoon. The news from MAV (Majestic/Anschutz Venture L.P.) was not positive.

"It was like, 'Gee, no. There are some problems. We need to have a discussion,' " said Gumport, the lawyer for bankruptcy trustee R. Todd Neilson, who controls 28% of the Kings.

Gumport said there were no specific problems indicated in the conversation but those familiar with the dealings say that the potential purchasers are concerned about the assumable liability and potential liability in regard to a dispute the NHL is having with a cable television network.

It was yet another twist in an already convoluted deal involving, among others, former King owner Bruce McNall, Laker and Forum owner Jerry Buss, Bank of America, a bankruptcy trustee and a small army of lawyers.

An MAV lawyer declined comment Monday. King owner Cohen issued a statement, saying, "Our negotiations with MAV are active."

Some involved denied a rumor that Anschutz was quitting on the deal. Others said the slowdown was merely a negotiating tactic. One source said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman had called MAV's bluff, but didn't rule out further talks.

But at least one group said there was no room to maneuver.

"If they're squeezing, my client is not budging," Gumport said. "He [Neilson] has already budged."

So, with the season opener less than three weeks away, the Kings remain in limbo, just as they were at the end of last season.

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