Predators’ messy legal battle may go to arbitration with NHL
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) A chancellor will rule within the week on whether a co-owner of the Nashville Predators can keep his lawsuit against the team’s ownership group in a Tennessee court or have to submit to arbitration.
Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle heard nearly three hours of arguments Wednesday on a motion that would force David Freeman out of her court and back into arbitration with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Freeman, a former team chairman, sued Predators Holdings LLC and current team chairman Tom Cigarran on June 23 and is seeking $250 million in damages for his original 48 percent stake in the team being diluted.
The lawsuit states that Freeman, through Commodore Trust, organized the Holdings investment group in 2007 to keep the Predators in Nashville. But it charges that some Holdings members “have conspired to repay his dedication to the team and community by claiming that Commodore owns less than one percent of Holdings.”
The lawsuit also states that members of the Predators ownership group have refused to treat Commodore Trust as an owner and have repudiated Holdings’ “commitment to compensate plaintiffs in return for tens of millions of dollars of loan guarantees that kept the Predators solvent and in Nashville.”
The complaint names Cigarran “the chief architect of this scheme.”
Freeman has been involved in other NHL arbitration cases over the past year, but the lawsuit argues that Bettman cannot be impartial because he has an obligation to protect the league.
At Wednesday’s hearing, attorneys for Freeman and Commodore Trust - which is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit - argued that league rules are so overly broad that they wrongly could allow the commissioner to arbitrate this case. They also argued Freeman is technically not a co-owner of the team but rather an investor in a trust whose business dispute should not be decided by the commissioner.
Lawyers for both Predators Holdings and the NHL defended the commissioner’s impartiality and the league’s constitution, which gives Bettman the right to handle disagreements among both clubs and owners through arbitration. They also said Freeman agreed to arbitration when he signed consent agreements as part of buying the Predators in December 2007.