Sturm’s deal to buy Ascent falls through

Denver co. can't get rid of Nuggets, Avalanche

Denver-based Ascent Entertainment Group was thwarted again in its attempt to sell off its sports-related businesses when its deal with billionaire Donald Sturm fell through on Monday night.

That could jeopardize Liberty Media’s recent agreement to buy the rest of Ascent for $500 million in stock. The agreement was contingent on a successful sale of the sports assets.

Ascent said in a statement that Sturm was not able to come to terms with the city of Denver on the sale, in which he would have purchased NBA team the Denver Nuggets, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and the new Pepsi Center in Denver. The city declined to extend its agreement-in-principal on the sale, which expired Monday.

This is the second attempted sale of Ascent’s sports assets that has fallen through; a deal to sell the sports assets to William and Nancy Walton Laurie failed in August when shareholders successfully sued Ascent and its then-CEO Charles Lyons to stop the transaction. In that case, shareholders balked at what they considered an unreasonably low sale price brokered by Lyons.

Liberty Media, a unit of AT&T, said there’s a possibility that its deal with Ascent could be salvaged and talks were under way, but nothing had been decided. Ascent’s remaining assets include a lucrative hotel pay-per-view and Internet access business.

Ascent announced Tuesday that it is considering bringing a lawsuit against Sturm.

Sturm agreed to buy Ascent’s sports assets in August, but later expressed reservations about the deal when Denver mayor Wellington Webb insisted on guarantees from Sturm that he would keep the sports teams in the city for the next 25 years.