NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Nashville Predators owner Craig Leipold confirmed Thursday he has signed a letter of intent to sell the franchise to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie for $220 million.
The terms of the deal, which must be approved by the NHL's Board of Governors, call for it to be completed by June 30.
Leipold has owned the team since the NHL awarded the franchise in June 1997, but decided to sell after exhausting all efforts to attract more local business support and a local owner.
Balsillie, who withdrew a $175 million offer to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins in December, said in a statement he is thrilled to have a chance to buy the Predators. He is the co-CEO of Blackberry makers Research in Motion Ltd.
Leipold was to speak at a Thursday afternoon news conference but said in a statement issued beforehand that owning the franchise and starting it from scratch has been the thrill of a lifetime.
``I know Jim shares my passion for the game and will be committed to bringing this franchise a Stanley Cup,'' Leipold said.
Balsillie, who went through a sale process with the Penguins, said he is respectful of all the ``due diligence'' required before the deal can close.
``This is still Craig Leipold's franchise until the deal is completed, so for me to comment at this time on any number of topics relative to the franchise would not be appropriate,'' Balsillie said in a statement.
He said he planned to visit Nashville, talk with Predators fans and ``become more familiar with the community'' once the deal is final

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