Saturday, June 16, 2001

Firstar Center sold to ex-owner

Nederlander also gets Cyclones in $22M deal

By Amy Higgins
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The new owner of Firstar Center is a former owner of Firstar Center.

        The Nederlander Co. LLC, which owned a stake in the riverfront arena until 1999, bought the building Friday through a bankruptcy auction for $22.1 million.

        The sale also includes the Cyclones minor-league hockey team, which had been a financial drag on the arena since 1997. But the team's future is unclear.

        Raymond S. Harris, Nederlander's chief financial officer, said the management company still needs to review and make decisions on other contracts and events planned for the arena.

        For example, Nederlander did not accept the contract to hold the Conference USA basketball tournament next spring with the acquisition. The contract could be renegotiated or the tourney moved.

        But the boy band Backstreet Boys will still sing and dance at the arena in August — and it will still be called Firstar Center.

        Detroit-based Nederlander returns to Cincinnati after selling its local interests — such as one-third of the arena and booking contracts with Riverbend, Bogart's, and the Taft Theatre — to SFX Entertainment in February 1999. SFX sold its Firstar Center interest to its partner CEA Holdings Inc. in April 2000.

        Proceeds from Friday's sale will partially repay a $30 million debt CEA Holdings owes to Provident Bank. A Provident lawyer said the remainder of the debt could not be recovered.

        Provident had formed a holding company, Cincinnati Arena Holdings LLC, to protect its interests. That firm did place a $22 million bid for the assets after Nederlander's opening offer of $21 million, but chose not to better Nederlander's counter.


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