Potential buyers' lineup still in flux?

Group bidding for Lightning actively recruiting others to join the venture.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
Published September 9, 2007

TAMPA - Oren Koules has had his greatest success as a Hollywood producer working with business partner and friend Mark Burg.

Why not, then, bring Burg along as part owner of the Lightning?

Koules, part of Absolute Hockey Enterprises, which wants to buy the team from Palace Sports & Entertainment for about $200-million, said he asked Burg to join the group that also includes former Blue Jackets president Doug MacLean and Coral Springs real estate developer Jeff Sherrin.

"He's my partner and my best friend," Koules said Saturday. "I'd love him to do it."

Koules, in town for coach John Tortorella's charity fishing tournament, was apologetically vague about the proposed sale announced last month.

He said he believed all the "paperwork" would be submitted to the league by Monday, and is hopeful the deal will be approved by the NHL and closed by December.

The most intriguing revelation concerned Burg.

When Absolute Hockey on Aug. 7 announced it signed a purchase agreement to buy the team, it was said there could be up to seven other investors. Even if Burg's involvement is tentative, his name is the first to surface.

It also shows the group may not be set.

"I just said, 'Come along for the ride,"' Koules said. "He's a huge sports fan."

Burg, 47, and Koules are co-founders of Evolution Entertainment and Twisted Pictures, responsible for the successful Saw series. Burg also produced Bull Durham.

He could not be reached, and Koules said it was too early to speculate on Burg's contribution.

Koules was less reluctant to talk about his day on the water.

"It was fun," he said. "Caught some little ones, nothing big."

Nancy Crane, executive director of the Lightning Foundation, said the third-annual event should raise more than last year's $38,000. It benefits the Child Abuse Council, the Children's Home and the Lightning Foundation.

"Nancy Crane and her staff, they make this work," Tortorella said. "It's money going to the organizations, it's awareness, and it brings the hockey team and community together right before our camp starts."

Koules, who with Burg founded Evolution Entertainment in 1998, knows the value of working together with a friend.

"I'm trying," he said of getting Burg to invest. "If I'm going to get into this, I want him with me."