Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Ron Cain became the majority owner of the Portland Pirates on Tuesday, and said he will take the lead in any future lease negotiations with the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Cain, who had been a minority investor, said he expects to contact the civic center’s trustees to try to resume negotiations for a new lease. He said he also will take a more active role as the public face of the American Hockey League team.
The Pirates and the trustees are in a legal battle over the lease. The team sued the civic center in September to try to enforce a tentative agreement reached in April that called for a five-year lease in which the team would share concession sales and advertising revenue for the first time.
The civic center is now being renovated and the Pirates are playing their home games at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. Cain is an owner of the Colisee and the MHG Ice Centre in Saco, which is home to the Portland Junior Pirates and the Pirates’ practice facility. Cain also is chairman and CEO of Legacy Holding Co., a logistics company.
Despite his links to Lewiston and Saco, Cain said his goal is to have the Pirates return to Portland.
“I could sit back and let the team be relocated or I could step forward and try to make a difference,” Cain said. “I don’t need the demands on my time, but it was important to me. I’ve negotiated many deals in my business life. My interest is keeping the Pirates in Portland.”
Cain said his goal was always to own a hockey franchise, and the current tension between the Pirates and the civic center gave him a chance to expand his role with the team.
“It’s a chance to change the voice, the approach to the community,” said Cain, who would not say how much he paid for the majority stake. “It will be hard to be the full public face of the team, but I will take a more active role.”
Cain bought additional shares issued by Portland Pirates LLC. The previous majority owner, Lyman Bullard, and managing owner Brian Petrovek retained their stakes, Petrovek said.
“All of our efforts are focused on resolving our differences with the civic center,” said Petrovek, who declined further comment.
Cain said he would be interested in owning the Pirates outright if the other owners ever wanted to depart, but that is not a current option.
Bullard, the Pirates’ chairman and governor, said, “Ron has been a critical part of our ownership group, serving on our board of managers with myself and Brian Petrovek, and as alternate governor for the Pirates on the AHL Board of Governors since 2010. ... He is an important part of the hockey and business community in southern Maine, and we are very pleased that he has agreed to become the majority owner of Portland Pirates LLC.”
Although the Maine Hockey Group has an option on a piece of city-owned land in Saco as a potential site for an arena for the Pirates, building a new arena would be “an expensive option B” if talks with the civic center failed, Cain said. He has said it could cost as much as $40 million to build a 5,000-seat hockey arena in Saco.
Last week, a judge allowed the Pirates’ lawsuit against the civic center to proceed. The team has offered to drop the lawsuit if the civic center trustees resume lease negotiations, but the trustees have declined to talk.
Cain said Tuesday that the offer to drop the lawsuit remains. Neal Pratt, chairman of the trustees, did not return calls seeking comment.
Last week, Portland Community Chamber of Commerce President Bill Becker urged members of the business community to apply for seats on the board in an effort to get new members who might be willing to resume negotiations with the Pirates.
The board of 11 trustees provides direction for the county-owned civic center, which is nearing the completion of a $34 million renovation.
The chamber of commerce invited the trustees and the Pirates to meet to resolve their differences, but the trustees rebuffed the invitation.
The Cumberland County manager’s office said Tuesday that it received 44 applications for four unpaid trustee positions that will come open next year.
A select group of applicants will be notified about interviews to be held Monday, said Bill Whitten, assistant county manager. Whitten would not elaborate on the selection process.
The seats to be filled include District 1, which represents Portland and Long Island. The seat was held by William Troubh, who died last month. Also being filled is Pratt’s seat representing District 3 – Falmouth, Scarborough and Westbrook – and Gary Plummer’s seat representing District 4 – Gorham, Windham, Sebago, Standish and Baldwin.
Also open is the at-large seat now held by Joseph Bruno.
Pratt, Plummer and Bruno have applied for reappointment.
Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: