You might say this club's members become predatory on the ice. Predators Holdings owns and operates the Nashville Predators professional hockey franchise, which joined the National Hockey League as an expansion team in 1998. The team has yet to play for the Stanley Cup championship, but Nashville has made a number of appearances in the NHL playoffs. Nashville's Bridgestone Arena serves as home ice for the Preds. A group of local investors led by David Freeman purchased the hockey team in 2007 from Craig Leipold, who helped launch hockey in the Music City.
While improving the team's chances on the ice continues to be the focus of the franchise, scandal within the Predators' ownership ranks has dominated the headlines. William (Boots) Del Biaggio, a California businessman who joined Freeman's investment group, filed for bankruptcy in 2008 amid charges of defrauding on loans. Through his Forecheck Holdings, Del Biaggio controls more than 25% of the Preds.
The Nashville team continues to struggle to sell tickets in a market that knows considerably more about country and western than hat tricks and power plays. Despite recent playoff appearances, the franchise sports one of the lowest attendance rates in the NHL. The team did receive a financial boost in 2007 when Nashville-based outsourcing firm Sommet Group inked a long-term naming rights deal to rename the Preds home arena; the facility had previously been known as Gaylord Entertainment Center under a sponsorship deal with Grand Ole Opry owner Gaylord Entertainment.
Leipold put the franchise up for sale in 2007 claiming losses of some $70 million and struck an initial agreement to sell the Preds to Jim Balsillie, CEO of Research in Motion. The $220 million deal was scuttled, however, because the NHL would not allow Balsillie to move the franchise to his native Canada. Freeman and his partners were later successful in their $190 million bid. (Leipold continues to be involved in professional hockey: He puchased the Minnesota Wild in 2008.)
The inspiration for the team's name and saber-toothed tiger logo came from a 9-in. fang of a 10,000-year-old saber-toothed tiger uncovered in the Nashville area in the 1970s.
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