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Latest offer believed to have Katz set to be new owner of Edmonton Oilers

EDMONTON - Daryl Katz's new C$200-million bid has triggered the avalanche of investor support that is expected to see him become the new owner of the Edmonton Oilers next Tuesday.

The 46-year-old pharmacy billionaire reportedly already had support for 60 per cent of the shares needed to take a controlling interest. But his latest bid for the NHL team has solidified that.

"He's receiving increasing support from among the Edmonton Investors Group," said a source close to the transaction.

The latest bid, the fifth from Katz since last March, also swept away a last-minute bid from some of the current Oiler owners to raise enough capital to match the offer and keep the team in their hands.

Katz has extended his Thursday deadline to next Tuesday to wrap up the deal.

Katz spokesman Josh Pekarsky declined comment on the latest offer for the 7,492 shares from the Edmonton Investors Group, or EIG.

Katz is offering $22,000 a share, meaning those members of the EIG who came together a decade ago to buy the Oilers and keep them from relocating would more than double their investment.

The acquisition would end a high-stakes game of table hockey that began 10 months ago when Katz offered $145 million for the Oilers, then made four more bids, each escalating in value, drawing more and more investors into the fold.

The tipping point appeared to come Dec. 13, when Katz offered $20,687 per share. Cal Nichols, then chairman of the team and the leader of the group when it saved the Oilers, publicly announced he would sell and encouraged others to do the same.

Some of the remaining owners, led by new chairman Bill Butler, then tried to raise money to match the offer but couldn't.

The Oiler players said they're keeping an eye on developments but are focused on getting back into the Western Conference playoff hunt.

"I think it's really a significant time for the Oilers," said captain Ethan Moreau after Tuesday's morning skate. "It's pretty exciting, but it's hard to comment on anything until it's finalized."

Forward Jarret Stoll said the back and forth on the bids has not been a distraction.

"It's one of those things," he said. "We just go about our business and let that stuff take care of itself because obviously it's out of our control.

"Either way something's going to happen and it will be the best for the organization."

Katz has promised to take the Oilers to a new level in competitiveness and comfort. He said he plans to spend to the maximum amount allowed for players salaries under the cap, contribute $100 million to a new arena to replace the aging Rexall Place, and build a practice facility at the University of Alberta.

The Oilers, a financial mess when the EIG purchased them to keep them from leaving for Houston, are now a financial feel-good story. Rexall Place is routinely sold out and player salaries - which must be paid out in US dollars - are more manageable now that the Canadian dollar is close to the US greenback.

The wild card has been financing a new rink.

The city is studying the feasibility of a downtown arena complex, but Mayor Stephen Mandel has made it clear he doesn't want taxpayers' dollars funding the project, which has been estimated at between $500 million to $1 billion.

Katz is a homegrown businessman who studied law at the University of Alberta before building his pharmacy empire. He has a $20-million custom-built home in the city's river valley.

The Katz Group owns the Rexall brand and other drugstore chains. In 2003, the Katz Group signed a 10-year deal for naming rights to the Edmonton rink at a cost believed to be $20 million.

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