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Wal-Mart Heir Buys Nuggets and Avalanche for $450 Million

From Staff and Wire Reports

John Elway may be the king of Denver, but he won’t be owner of the city’s professional hockey and basketball teams any time soon.

The Colorado Avalanche, the Denver Nuggets and their arena will be sold to a Wal-Mart heir who owns part of the St. Louis Rams for $450 million, outbidding a group led by the former Bronco quarterback.

The agreement Monday to sell to Stan Kroenke ends a year of indecision for the two teams during which two offers fell through, three lawsuits were filed and a chief executive officer resigned under pressure.

Kroenke owns 40% of the Rams. His bid was strengthened because he was a sole owner and not dependent on other individuals, said Gary Howard, chief operating officer of Liberty Media Group, which is selling the sports assets.

“We weren’t depending on a bank group to provide a loan,” Howard said.

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The agreement must be approved by the NHL, the NBA, Liberty Media Group shareholders and the city of Denver. But neither Kroenke nor Liberty Media anticipates problems, Howard said. The sale was scheduled to close June 30.

NHL officials plan to review the sale as soon as possible. The NFL said the agreement presents no conflict of cross-ownership because Kroenke does not own a majority stake of the Rams.

Howard said considerable time was spent ensuring Kroenke is committed to Denver. Asked if he would keep the teams in Denver for at least 25 years, Kroenke said, “Yes.”

Mayor Wellington Webb has said he would accept no deal without a guarantee of the teams staying in Denver.

A year ago, Ascent Entertainment Group executives thought they had the teams and arena sold to Bill and Nancy Laurie, another Wal-Mart heir, who offered $400 million. That bid collapsed after shareholders sued. Then-Chief Executive Charlie Lyons resigned after shareholders questioned his role in brokering the deal.

Ascent then offered the sports assets in an auction, which was won by Denver billionaire Donald Sturm’s $461-million bid, but that agreement fell through when Sturm would not guarantee the teams would remain in Denver for 25 years.

Soccer

A man wanted by police for allegedly providing Turkish youths with knives used in the stabbing deaths of two British soccer fans turned himself in to authorities at Istanbul.

Yilmaz Tutas walked into a police station and was questioned about the killings of Leeds United fans Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight last month.

Tutas denied any involvement in the fighting on the eve of a UEFA Cup semifinal game between Leeds United and the Turkish team Galatasaray.

A 25-year-old man was sentenced to 17 years in prison at Madrid for the 1998 stabbing death of a Basque soccer fan at a UEFA Cup match between Atletico de Madrid and Real Sociedad.

Ricardo Guerra also was ordered to pay $117,000 to the parents of the slain Aitor Zabaleta and $58,000 to the dead man’s girlfriend, who was with him when he was stabbed.

Manchester United celebrated its sixth Premier League title in eight seasons with a 3-2 victory over Chelsea and raised its goal total for the season to 90 in 35 games. Charlton is assured of winning the Division One title for the first time after a 1-1 tie at Blackburn. Second-place Manchester City tied Portsmouth, 2-2.

FC Barcelona showed up but refused to play a semifinal game against Atletico Madrid, a move that could get the team disqualified from the Copa del Rey.

Barcelona sought a postponement of the match arguing that playing at that time meant it would be without top players for upcoming European exhibitions and World Cup qualifiers. But the Spanish Soccer Federation sent a fax insisting that the game should be played Monday.

Bobby Howe, 54, director of coaching education for U.S. Soccer for the last three years and the man who coached the U.S. Under-20 national team to an eighth-place finish at the 1993 FIFA World Youth Championship in Australia, stepped down to “pursue other coaching opportunities.”

Gymnastics

Six months after finishing last in the medal round at the world championships, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team won the Senior Pacific Alliance championships at Christchurch, New Zealand.

Elise Ray won the individual all-around gold and Morgan White tied for the bronze in the competition that ends today.

Australia was second, and China, the world bronze medalist, finished third.

Four-time U.S. champion Blaine Wilson, competing for the first time since shoulder surgery last November, won the men’s all-around. The U.S. men finished second.

Miscellany

Louisville sophomores Quentin Bailey and Caleb Gervin, nephew of former NBA star George Gervin, have been suspended from the men’s basketball team for the 2000-01 season for a violation of team rules, the school announced. In a statement, Gervin admitted to using marijuana.

Former Dallas Cowboy running back Sherman Williams was arrested at Mobile, Ala., on charges he was dealing marijuana.

Ex-NFL lineman and Outland Trophy winner Moe Elewonibi, who is being treated for alcoholism, was traded from the B.C Lions to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League while he is in a rehab center.

Kent Stanley, who coached Oklahoma City to the NAIA women’s basketball championships the last two seasons, will not return because of a university investigation into reports players have said they were verbally abused by the coach.

Felix Mantilla, recovering from a back injury and looking to fine-tune his clay-court game, defeated Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands, 6-1, 6-3, on the opening day of the Barcelona Open in Spain.

Louis Orr, a former Syracuse and NBA player who spent the last four seasons as an assistant coach at Syracuse, signed a five-year contract to replace Paul Hewitt as coach at Siena.

Former Princeton offensive coordinator Joe Susan was hired as football coach for Division I-AA Davidson.

Cornerback Wasswa Serwanga, who spent last season with the San Francisco 49ers, has agreed to a two-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs also said they had agreed to a contract with Jonathan Jackson, a rookie free-agent linebacker from Oregon State.

San Diego Charger General Manager Bobby Beathard likely will announce his retirement after this weekend’s minicamp, a team source told the Associated Press. The Los Angeles Times reported on March 28 that Beathard was considering retiring.


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