Court upholds sale of Vancouver Canucks

VANCOUVER, British Columbia Thu Jan 10, 2008 6:48pm EST

1 of 5. Francesco Aquilini (C) owner of the Vancouver Canucks sits with his brothers Roberto (L) and Paulo during the a news conference in Vancouver, British Columbia January 10, 2008. A judge refused on Thursday to overturn the sale of the Canucks, dismissing the claims of two men that they were unfairly frozen out of the deal.

Credit: Reuters/Andy Clark

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A judge refused on Thursday to overturn the sale of the National Hockey League's Vancouver Canucks, dismissing the claims of two men that they were unfairly frozen out of the deal.

Businessmen Tom Gaglardi and Ryan Beedie alleged that Francesco Aquilini reneged on a partnership and worked behind their backs when he struck a deal in 2004 to buy a 50 percent stake in the team.

"I have concluded that the relationship among Gaglardi, Beedie and Aquilini was not one of a partnership or joint venture," British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Catherine Wedge wrote in her decision.

Aquilini, a Vancouver real estate developer, eventually bought the entire team from billionaire Seattle businessman John McCaw for a total of C$250 million ($248 million).

Wedge also ruled that McCaw did nothing wrong.

The lengthy trial painted a picture of behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing for the western Canadian franchise, whose arena in downtown Vancouver will be used for the ice hockey competition during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Gaglardi and Beedie said they were disappointed.

"We have not wavered in our belief that this opportunity was wrongly taken away from us, however, we respect the time and efforts of Justice Wedge in reaching her conclusions," the men said in a statement.

Aquilini said he and his family feel vindicated by the ruling and do not plan to continue a public fight with the two men. "I believe we have better things to do with our time," he told a news conference.

McCaw said the court fight "cast needless uncertainty" over the franchise's future.

The Canucks are currently in first place in the NHL's Northwest Division.

($1=$1.01 Canadian)

(Reporting Allan Dowd; Editing by Rob Wilson)

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