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Cable executive may buy Islanders Cablevision's Dolan closes in on deal


NEW YORK -- Charles Dolan is in and John Pickett is almost out as head of the New York Islanders if the deal consummated over the weekend comes to fruition. Dolan, chairman of Cablevision, has agreed to buy 99 percent of Pickett's stock in the Islanders with the provision that the management group that bought into the Islanders last year runs the team, at least for now.

Dolan said yesterday that he will assume responsibility for the Islanders' $32-million debt and that Pickett will continue to receive revenue from the team's contract with Cablevision. The contract, which has 19 years to run, reportedly pays the Islanders $10 million a season.

A Long Island, N.Y., management group headed by Stephen Walsh and Robert Rosenthal agreed to buy a portion of the team from Pickett last December.

The group reportedly paid or made a loan of $10 million to the Islanders, with the provision to buy up to 50 percent of the team from Pickett within five years.

Dolan said he is taking over that arrangement.

Dolan said the deal with Pickett was contingent on the management group running the team. An associate said, "We don't know anything about running a hockey team."

But one man who does, Bill Torrey, is a friend of Dolan's and a source said last night Dolan might ask Torrey to stay with the club. How that would affect the management group's power is unclear.

Dolan and Pickett met with Walsh and Rosenthal on Friday.

A statement released by a representative of the management group said, "In theory, a closer association with Cablevision and SportsChannel (a division of Cablevision) would be positive for the Islanders and Long Island."

A possible snag could be the contention of one official that there is a clause in its agreement with Pickett that if Pickett sells the team to Dolan, the group would have the right to get back its $10 million, plus $5.2 million.

But, Dolan said, "Those agreements were reached between the group and Pickett. It was indicated to us that they didn't want to take advantage of that. If there are any problems with the deal, we'll work on it. If they have options they want to pursue, they will be accommodated."

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