Predators Get The Boots

The Nashville Predators have a deal to buy the 26 percent stake in the team held by the bankrupt estate of a California financier jailed for fraud.

The team’s owners announced Wednesday a signed agreement with a federal trustee to buy the shares of William “Boots” Del Biaggio III. The owners will pay only $15.2 million for his shares, which are valued at $25 million but are tied up in bankruptcy court.

The deal is expected to be approved by the court and the NHL in August.

“This is a significant step forward to strengthen our franchise’s financial position,” said Tom Cigarran, chairman of the ownership group, Predators Holdings LLC.

He said they worked with trustee Todd Neilson to reach what Cigarran called “reasonable terms.” The Predators’ owners had to drop claims for damages against Del Biaggio’s estate. Warren Woo, originally part of Del Biaggio’s Forecheck Investments, LLC, will continue to be a minority owner and the only one not from Tennessee.

“This transaction eliminates a significant future liability and allows the Predators to move forward,” Cigarran said.

Del Biaggio was sentenced to more than eight years in prison for fraud last year after bilking investors and banks out of millions to fund his stake in the Predators. The former San Jose Sharks’ minority owner joined Tennessee investors in buying the Predators for $193 million in 2007 from original owner Craig Leipold.

He went from a high roller who counted hockey great Mario Lemieux as a golfing buddy to pleading guilty to one charge of forging financial documents to obtain $110 million in loans from several banks and two NHL owners — Leipold now of the Minnesota Wild and Los Angeles Kings owner AEG. Del Biaggio used that money to buy his interest in the Predators.