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TAMPA - For Doug MacLean and Oren Koules, opening night was just one reason to celebrate.
Their group, which is attempting to purchase the Lightning, is pleased with the progress of the application process. And one of the investment partners, Mark Burg, believes in the acquisition so much that he has doubled his stake, Koules said Thursday.
Koules said he hopes the sale to Absolute Hockey Enterprises - MacLean, the ex-Blue Jackets president, Coral Springs real estate developer Jeff Sherrin, Hollywood producers Koules and Burg and Tampa attorney Steve Burton - by Palace Sports & Entertainment will be finalized by the time the NHL board of governors meets in late November at Pebble Beach, Calif.
"Everything is moving great," Koules said. "Really in the past week or so, everything's been moving along. We're on the same page as Palace on, I think, all issues and with the NHL."
The $200-million sale of the team, as well as the St. Pete Times Forum lease and 5 1/2 acres of adjacent land, could be approved before the meeting with a unanimous vote of league owners by phone or fax.
"It's to the point now we're very close to getting things agreed," Lightning CEO Tom Wilson said. "We're feeling about as good as we have since we started. ... If everything goes right, it will be done by the end of November at the latest."
While Absolute hasn't received an update from the NHL, MacLean said he knows the review process is under way because references have been called. He said the final part of the exhaustive application process will be submitted within the next week.
"Obviously, they feel comfortable because they've started doing their due diligence on their side," MacLean said. "So I think that's a real positive step. I really respect the process, and I don't take anything for granted. They are very thorough through the whole process."
Koules said there is at least one more potential investor, possibly two. Absolute needs at least $100-million to complete the deal because NHL rules stipulate there be no more than 50 percent debt.
All parties agree the deal is moving in the right direction.
"The league wants this to happen," Wilson said. "They want this put to bed because uncertainty is no good for anybody. ... They've put together a battle plan to hit the ground running."
Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report. Eduardo A. Encina can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.