Sacramento King owners Joe and Gavin Maloof, who are interested in buying the Mighty Ducks, have met with Duck General Manager Bryan Murray and Al Coates, the team's vice president of business operations.
Disney officials, who have had the team on the market for four years, arranged the meeting early last week. Murray and Coates were brought in to discuss the Ducks' day-to-day operations.
Disney officials, Duck officials and the Maloofs declined to comment.
There are three parties believed to be serious about buying the Ducks, who were valued at $111 million by Forbes magazine. Disney officials have said only that "more than one party is interested." The Maloofs are believed to be the only suitors who have met with Murray and Coates.
The Maloofs are trying to get a new arena in Sacramento but have said publicly that they have no interest in moving the Kings to Anaheim. A hockey source said the Maloofs' interest in the Ducks had reached the point where they are contemplating moving the team's training camp to Las Vegas.
The Maloof family has built a business empire through banking, hotels, beer and liquor distributorships and, more recently, hotels and casinos in Las Vegas. The brothers bought the Kings for $240 million in 1998.
Although the Ducks are valued at $111 million, Disney may have to sell for less because of the looming NHL labor dispute. The increased possibility of the owners' locking out the players when the collective bargaining agreement expires next September has made the NHL a buyers' market.
The Ducks, a cash cow in earlier seasons, have been a money loser lately for Disney. The team is believed to have lost $10 million to $15 million last season, despite having made the Stanley Cup finals. The player payroll is $54.4 million this season, eighth highest in the NHL.
The Maloofs have long been interested in hockey. They tried to buy the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1996. They also frequently attended Duck games as guests of then-team president Tony Tavares in the mid-1990s.