Amerks partners stop feud

February 14, 2008 - By

This is a copy and paste of the article as it appeared in the Democrat and Chronicle.

Amerks partners stop feud
Kevin Oklobzija
Staff writer
(February 14, 2008) — The possible sale of up to half the Rochester Americans and Knighthawks became a whole lot more probable on Wednesday after an amicable, call-a-truce telephone conversation between feuding ownership partners.

Minority owner Randall Latona, who in the spring filed suit in New York Supreme Court to have Amerks president and controlling partner Steve Donner ousted from power, opened a direct line of conversation in hopes of expediting a resolution to their dispute.

“They’re in a move-forward, go mode,” said Lisa Latona, Randall’s wife and business partner.

Donner and the Latonas, who live in Andover, Mass., spoke by phone Wednesday afternoon. Afterward both sides agreed that a buyout of Randall Latona’s 20 percent share of both the hockey and lacrosse franchises is much more likely to take place sooner than later.

“We may have had a breakthrough; I’m excited,” said Donner, who predicted completion of a buyout by the end of the month if there are no snags. “It’s the best heart-to-heart talk we’ve had about the situation in probably four to six months.

“We’ve had our differences but he really doesn’t want to hurt the team.”

Which is one reason Latona made the call on Wednesday.

“Randy’s intent is having the organization be on firm ground,” Lisa Latona said. She said her husband was unavailable for comment Wednesday evening because of another commitment.

The parties have been negotiating a buyout of Latona through their attorneys and also with direct contact between Latona and the third partner, Walter Turek.

The talks have been more fruitful since the emergence of an unnamed investor in late November, but there apparently has been little progress in the past several weeks.

Securing the new investor will enable the financially troubled hockey and lacrosse teams to regain stability, Donner believes.

“Randy initiated the talks today,” Donner said. “He realizes this has probably dragged on too long. We had a chance to talk honestly and rehash what drove the wedge between us.”

More than anything, Donner said, that wedge was created by poor communication and an assumption of what the other party was thinking, not what either side meant or did.

“It’s more an admission of our dysfunction,” Donner said, adding that the two even went so far in their conversation on Wednesday as to say they might be able to do business in the future.

“He does feel attached to the organization,” Donner said. “He told me to tell everyone ‘It has not been my goal to hurt the team, that I was just fighting for my rights.'”

Donner said no dollar amount for a buyout has been agreed upon, so discussions with the unnamed investor will continue.

Lisa Latona said they were encouraged by Wednesday’s telephone call but wouldn’t say Donner’s end-of-February goal is reasonable.

“With a third party involved (the unnamed investor), there are not enough cards on Randy’s side of the table to put a time frame on it,” she said. “Anything’s reasonable if you’re moving forward in the right direction.”

Once a buyout of Latona is completed and the new investor is brought in, the next order of business is a lease at Blue Cross Arena at the Community War Memorial.

Donner is confident the Florida Panthers will become the sole parent team for next season, and Panthers officials have said they’ll assume control of hockey operations in Rochester if the franchise’s financial ailments are rectified.

“There will be one partner and one who understands our needs,” Donner said, referring to the Panthers.

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