Damian Crisdotero of the Times has a good article up about the Lightning's current ownership situation.
The team has been under the control of Oren Koules since this summer with Len Barrie having sign off on any player deal of more than $2M. Commissioner Gary Bettman arranged a deal whereby Barrie would get first crack to buy out Koules' stake in the club, but he apparently could not. Koules would then have had the opportunity to buy out Barrie, but he has chosen to rescind his exclusive buyout window, and it looks now as if both men have tried to line up wealthy investors to become majority owners while they would maintain minority stakes.
Barrie's "team," if you want to call it that, still seems like the long shot as his investor, St. Louis real estate magnate Anthony Sansone Jr. apparently hasn't filed with the league to undergo vetting. Sansone's father started a large real estate development and management firm, Sansone Group, and had made a previous attempt to purchase the St. Louis Blues in 2005. However, until he files ownership paperwork, it's hard to interpret Sansone's interest as much more than tire kicking.
That means that Koules' investor, who has filed paperwork, seems like the current favorite to win majority control of the team. Jeffrey Greene, a real estate developer and investor with ties to Miami and Los Angeles, was ranked #559 in Forbes magazine's listing of billionaires this March, checking in with an impressive net worth of $1.3 billion. According to a Forbes story that accompanied his listing in the Forbes 400, which lists his wealth at an even higher $1.4 billion, Greene came from a working class family in Massachussetts and made his first 100K off of telemarketing sales before investing his money in real estate, primarily in Los Angeles, which he eventually rode out to a net worth of $700-800 million. The real genius is that Greene, foreseeing the housing crash, began to put his money into a hedge fund betting against subprime mortgages, which pushed him over the billionaire's hump. That he foresaw the crash and put his money where his mouth was seems to indicate he's one of the smartest guys in the room, certainly smarter than a lot of politicians and economists who played their fiddles while Rome was starting to burn. Greene is now reportedly buying up properties at pennies on the dollar, meaning when the economy turns up he should be well positioned to push his wealth up even more.
Greene is also renowned for spending his money lavishly, which may bode well for a Lightning team that could certainly use a filthy rich owner who is willing to spend like a drunken sailor to win hockey games. His parties, when he decides to throw one in one of his five homes or on his 145-foot yacht, have been attended by such Hollywood dignitaries as Oliver Stone and Paris Hilton and his best man at his wedding was none other than Mike Tyson. (Bolt Prospects wonders if Tyson will bring his tiger to opening night next season if Greene does indeed buy the team.) Whether a man who has dabbled in such Hollywood flamboyance is a perfect fit culturally for the Tampa Bay market, where the average resident makes a much lower wage than pretty much every other large market in America, remains to be seen. However, if Greene were to resolve to step back and let his hockey operations people be the organization's front men, something that seems likely considering he doesn't have the player backgrounds that Koules and Barrie had, my suspicion is that Tampa Bay would welcome Greene and his large sacks full of money with open arms. In any event, Greene has the rare ability to buy the team tomorrow, cash money, with no credit necessary, which is a huge plus to anybody trying to buy anything of value, much less a sports franchise, in the current economic climate.
The question is, considering Koules has let Barrie back into the bidding, one wonders if some compromise may ultimately be worked out where perhaps both men eventually take minority stakes behind Greene? Perhaps that would be the best of all worlds, with Koules and Barrie offering their passion for the sport and Greene offering his considerable business saavy (remember, there's undeveloped property in Channelside that comes with the team and the Forum) and considerable wealth to the group. With Greene having filed ownership paperwork, it seems likely all will be revealed within the next six months.