Sturm Gets Avs And Nuggets

The bidding battle for the Colorado Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets is over, and a group headed by Colorado billionaire Donald Strum has won.

The Strum group was assured of victory Tuesday when Bill Laurie and his wife, Nancy, decided not to participate in a live auction scheduled for Wednesday.

"After careful consideration, Nancy and I regret to announce our decision not to increase our ($400 million) offer," Laurie said in a statement. "While we remain committed to the Denver sports teams as fans, we have made the difficult decision not to pursue ownership further."

The Sturm group on Monday offered Ascent Entertainment Group $461 million for the Nuggets, the Avalanche and the Pepsi Center arena, outbidding a group that included John Elway and a separate bid by a Saudi Arabian princess.

"We look forward to working with Donald L. Sturm and The Sturm Group to insure there is a smooth transition of ownership," said Chuck Neinas, interim chairman and CEO for Ascent.

The Lauries bought the sports assets for $400 million in March, but Ascent re-opened the bidding process after shareholders filed two lawsuits claiming the assets should have fetched a higher price.

A third suit was filed by a businessman who claimed the Lauries backed out of an agreement to sell the Avalanche to them for $80 million.

The Lauries will receive $8.2 million from Ascent as part of an agreement reached when the bidding process was re-opened last month.

On Monday, Ascent officials said its board of directors selected the Sturm group because it offered the highest price -- reportedly beating its nearest competitor by $11 million -- and "provided documented ability to fund the purchase price and ongoing operations."

The group also demonstrated the "ability to meet the financial and operating requirements of the city and country of Denver," while meeting the ownership standards of the NHL and NBA, Neinas said.

Princess Thara Al Saud, the widow of Prince Mohammed Abdul Aziz, a nephew of King Fahd who died in a plane crash 23 years ago, said she offered $450 million for the sports assets. She said would pursue other pro basketball and hockey franchises.

Elway's business manager, Jeff Sperbeck, declined to confirm the reported $438 million bid submitted by the retired Broncos quarterback, Denver financier Bjorn Erik Borgen and Colorado ski mogul George Gillett.

The Sturm group was set to proceed to Wednesday's live auction to determine the new owner before the Lauries withdrew from the bidding.

Analysts predicted the price could have gone as high as $500 million.

Pete Webb, spokesman for the Lauries, said among other things, the new owner of the NBA's Nuggets and the NHL's Avalanche must guarantee that if either team leaves Denver in the next 25 years, the owner will reimburse the city the cost of recruiting and bringing a new team to Denvr.

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