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Michael Gearon On Atlanta Thrashers Move: 'Trying To Own Two [Teams] Is Difficult'

Atlanta Thrashers co-owner Michael Gearon spoke to FOX 5 on the Tuesday announcement that the team will soon move to Winnipeg. He appeared emotional and disappointed, repeating much of what we've heard from the Atlanta Spirit Group about the team's exit, at one point turning away from a question and covering his eyes. He also, at one point, revealed the ASG had actually met with Jerry Bruckheimer about possibly buying the team -- also, I totally called there being a Joe Johnson reference.

A transcript of almost all of it:

It's just a hard time. I've been in this city my whole life. Been through positive times and painful times. It's tough on my family. There's nothing that replaces the ability to go to a hockey game with your kids. To have to replace that is just tough.

You can't blame the fans. I'm a very proud Atlantan. There's a lot of things we have to be proud of. Teams require a lot of capitol. Trying to own two is difficult. If I were Paul Allen or Bill Gates this wouldn't be a problem.

I didn't deal directly with commissioner Bettman. I've been focused for years on trying to avoid this day. I've spent time with possible investors going back four years ago with the concern that this day may come. I made a desperate plea in February that unfortunately didn't lead to any real prospect.

It's up to us to find investors to help with that. For me, sitting here today is a painful situation because a lot of effort went into to try and finding that, but we failed at it.

[On the sale price.] I've read in the paper it's $170 million. [More looking for investors stuff.] 

[On whether employees have been told.] This broke before we got to speak to our employees, and I feel awful. We have great employees. We have great fans. 

[On the NHL's June 21 Board of Governors vote.] I have no control over that. There's an approval process. That's really a question for the Board of Governors. I haven't spent a minute focused on that.

[On whether more playoff success might have helped the team stay.] Success is part of it. But the year we won the division we lost $20 million. I've never looked as the teams as an investment other than a community property that require millions to support. I feared this day coming four years ago. I worked my tail off, and I failed at it. I wish some mysterious guy had called and said, "I have a billion dollars, I love Atlanta and I love the Thrashers."

Mayor Reed has been very supportive of us. I can't speak for how every corporation in Atlanta spend their dollars. I've put millions in and wish I'd found others to do that. 

[On whether the Atlanta Hawks are in danger too.] The Hawks are here to stay. Teams require money. With the Hawks, we've stepped up with every player we have. Even with the Thrashers, we had guys like Kovalchuk who didn't work out. I haven't thought about the Hawks since the last minute of the season.

[On why the Braves and Falcons aren't leaving, but the Thrashers are.] I think it's hard on every team. Sports teams require lots of money. We as Atlantans shouldn't say we're different. We're not different. Do we have a Mark Cuban? I wish I was that person. I'm not. I stepped up seven years ago, put a lot of money in, and hate that we're talking about this. [David McDavid remark: "Name one team he's stepped up to buy" since being turned down for the Thrashers.]

[Anecdote about being devastated by the Flames' exit when he was a kid.]

[On what would happen if somebody suddenly offered $100 million to keep the team in Atlanta.] I haven't spent one minute reading that document. It's like putting a kid up for adoption. I don't want to put the kid up for adoption. There's been a lot of press about people with interest. I don't know if they have money for season tickets. We said, 'great! Just show us you have a checking account with some money in it.' And some of those same names continue to circle three years later.

For the people that work here, that's the hardest. They've given their heart and soul. This is a niche business. Being unable to ensure job stability is awful.

I can sell. I can create energy and excitement. When you meet with the likes of Bruckheimer or Basille, [there's a disappointment when it doesn't work out].

[Story on forming the ASG though Steve Belkin didn't work out, but that's OK because Joe Johnson came to Atlanta throughout that debacle.]

[Shooting down the reported interested buyers one by one, including very specific shots at J.B. Smith.]

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Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.