ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -As Craig Leipold prepared to take over as chairman of the Minnesota Wild, the former Nashville Predators owner promised not to ``mess with'' one of the NHL's model franchises.
The Wild announced Thursday that Bob Naegele's majority stake in the team will be bought by Leipold, the Wisconsin entrepreneur who finalized his sale of the Predators last month.
``I'm not here to fix anything,'' Leipold said at a news conference to discuss the sale.
Naegele and his group of investors formed Minnesota Sports and Entertainment in 1997 when they were awarded the rights to an expansion franchise that entered the league in 2000. The Wild have announced a sellout for every game they've played at their downtown St. Paul arena.
``This is a genuinely incredible moment for me,'' Leipold said.
Vice chairman Jac Sperling declined to reveal the purchase price, but said the deal is expected to close over the next few months pending approvals by the city and the league.
The sports business analysts at Forbes released their annual team values in November, estimating the Wild's worth at $180 million. That number ranked them 15th out of 30 NHL teams. When asked how much he will pay for the franchise and the parent company, Leipold laughed as he said, ``way too much.''
Naegele, who built his wealth on a ubiquitous Twin Cities billboard company founded by his father, said he felt the time was right to move on. A goalie at Minnetonka High School in the 1950s, Naegele currently lives with his wife in Naples, Fla.
``There are seasons in a man's life, so this is the season. How do you know? It's just maybe a business sense. An intuition,'' said Naegele, who compared his decision to sell the team to giving away his two daughters in marriage.
shows that are held at Xcel Energy Center and two adjacent facilities.
Success on the ice has been limited for the Wild, who have made the playoffs twice in six seasons and are currently in seventh place in the Western Conference. Their run to the Stanley Cup semifinals in 2003 remains the highlight.
Their focus on drafting and developing players, using a disciplined and defense-oriented style on the ice, and making fans feel like they're a part of the organization has drawn regular praise from peers and observers around the league. The decision to return to Minnesota has been a clear victory for the NHL, which allowed the North Stars to move from this hockey-crazy community to Dallas in 1993.
With that surely in mind, Leipold went out of his way to plead for the public's trust. Minnesotans have a tendency to be wary of outsiders.
``I'm passionate about hockey, incredibly passionate. I'm committed to winning. Everything that you've seen out of this organization in the past eight years has my complete respect, and it's my challenge and objective to continue that,'' said Leipold, who became hooked on the sport by going to Chicago as a kid to watch Blackhawks games.
Leipold completed his $193 million sale of the Predators on Dec. 7 after the NHL's Board of Governors approved the transaction on Nov. 29. He has said he incurred $70 million in operating losses since the league granted him rights to the expansion franchise in 1997, but predicted local owners would fare better.
Son Inc. Before he bought the Predators, Leipold founded a business-to-business telemarketing firm and later purchased a maker of protective clothing and footwear.
Within a month of his decision to sell the Predators, Leipold said he regretted it. He said he plans to buy a home near the arena and attend nearly every game.
``It's too much fun,'' he said. ``Why wouldn't you want to be involved in it every single day?''
Well-regarded around the league, Leipold was a member of the NHL's executive committee during negotiations on the last collective bargaining agreement that ended the 2004-05 lockout.
Nashville began playing in the 1998-99 season and has made the playoffs three times, partly due to a willingness to spend on free agents and a continuity fostered by Leipold. The Predators have never changed general managers or coaches.
Wild president and general manager Doug Risebrough didn't anticipate his job or expectations changing.
``He knows what it takes. He knows his influence as an owner. So I view it as a very stable move,'' Risebrough said.
Associated Press freelance writer Jess Myers contributed to this report.

Top NHL Public Bets

NHL Top Stories

Thumbnail 2018 Stanley Cup Finals Odds Following back-to-back titles, are the Penguins favored to repeat as 2018 Stanley Cup champions as well?
Thumbnail Penguins vs. Predators Game 6 Pick Can the Pittsburgh Penguins claim the Stanley Cup tonight when they go on the road to face the Nashville Predators in Game 6...
Thumbnail Predators vs. Penguins Game 5 Pick Which team will take the crucial Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final tonight as the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Nashville Predators tonight at 8PM...
Thumbnail Stanley Cup Finals Game 4 Pick Can the Nashville Predators even up the Stanley Cup Finals when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4...
Thumbnail Stanley Cup Final Game 3 Pick With the series on the move, can the Nashville Predators get on the board in the Stanley Cup Final when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3...

NHL Team Pages