Since the entire Atlanta Thrashers project is increasingly looking as doomed as the world's economy, perhaps it's time to acknowledge--out loud and in the light of day--that there are only two possible outcomes to this fiasco:
1) The Thrashers fold, or move. (note: if the Thrashers move, they won't move to Canada. It'll be to another Sunbelt city. You can take that to the bank.)
2) The Thrashers are sold to new owners and stay in Atlanta.
I think it's pretty plain that the only condition under which the Atlanta Thrashers continue to exist is a change of ownership.
Who would buy this piece of shit? Well, many of us have mentioned Arthur Blank. That would certainly be nifty, and he has the added bonus of being local, but it's possible his hands are tied at the moment.
Some other candidates, selected from Fortune's list of the 100 Wealthiest People in the World.
Speaking of tied hands. It's possible Roman might not want to take on the responsibility of another sports franchise when he throws so much of his fortune at the highest-spending football club on all the planet, the mighty Chelsea FC. But there are at least two reasons he might take on the Thrashers:
1) He's a proud Russian, and is presumably willing to help out the Czar.
2) He's not at all averse to owning teams that operate in cities outside the Motherland. Why wouldn't he want to have homes in Moscow, London, Monaco AND Atlanta? Hmmm?
Another Russian oligarch. Made his fortune mining precious metals. Known as a bachelor who spends extravagantly and likes to zip around the world on a private jet with beautiful women. Surely this guy could be talked into spending on the Thrashers. Hey, he loves travel! Atlanta has to be exotic to a guy who used to mine in Siberia all day (and now has other people to do that for him).
Richest resident of Europe. His house in South Kensington is the most expensive in the world (gold-plated, diamond-encrusted swimming pools in the basement). Your Chronicle editor, when he lived in London, used to walk by it every now and then. Hard to get into. Anyway, he owns the world's largest steelmaker and could be persuaded to spend a fraction of his fortune on the Thrashers because, well, why not? It would be another interesting chapter in his globe-trotting life: raised in India, resident in the UK, why not go farther west and spend some time in our glass-tower mecca of Chick-Fil-A and UPS and Coca-Cola?
Your editor loves a true "guy comes from nothing and makes a bundle" story, stories that--in real life--are increasingly coming from places outside the Walton Family's personal playground, the United States of America. Anyway, Ingvar owns Ikea. Used to sell matches from his bike. Being a Swede, he has social-democratic convictions and his only extravagances are a classy villa in Switzerland and the occasional nice cravat and Swedish fish roe. He seems like the kind of guy who would purchase the Thrashers out of sheer generosity.
Another Russian oligarch. Makes aircraft and cars and all kinds of other stuff. Married to a relative of Boris Yeltsin. Needs to repay Kovalchuk for bringing Russia the Gold Medal.
You have to love the fact his name is KA-$HING! Anyway, this guy was born dirt-poor, a refugee from Mainland China in Hong Kong. Started his career selling plastic flowers, now owns all kinds of companies. Richest guy in Hong Kong, which is no mean achievement. Has pledged to donate one third of his wealth over time. The Thrashers are a sad-sack charity case. Why not?
One last Russian oligarch. Made his fortune in steel. Would presumably buy the Thrashers because he recently opened a mill in Mississippi, so he's already familiar with running an operation in the American South. Right?