VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Wedge ruled Thursday that Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini was no longer partners with Tom Gaglardi and Ryan Beedie when he made his successful solo bid to buy the NHL franchise.
The fight began about five years ago when the three men agreed to work together for an ownership interest in the club and ended in a five-month court battle over promises, obligations and duties.
In November 2004, Aquilini purchased half the team for $250 million from American telecom billionaire John McCaw, only days after negotiations fell through with Gaglardi and Beedie. Gaglardi and Beedie claimed the trio had an agreement to work together in a partnership or joint venture and that Aquilini had a duty to them not to purchase the Canucks on his own behalf.
Gaglardi and Beedie went to court claiming they were the rightful owners of the Canucks and wanted the court to order Aquilini to put the team in a constructive trust for them. In a judgment almost as thick as a hockey puck, Wedge rejected that claim.
``When the partnership dissolved, the partners became free agents, equally at liberty to persuade their own interests,'' she wrote.
Wedge concluded the relationship among the three wasn't a partnership or joint venture, and even if she is wrong she said that partnership ended when Aquilini gave notice of his departure nine months before he purchased the team. Wedge noted there was no valid partnership contract and the three weren't carrying on business together.
``Former partners and joint venturers are free to compete with one another unless they have negotiated a non-competition clause as part of their agreement,'' Wedge said.

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