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Canucks' Aquilini wins court case against former partners

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- B.C. Supreme Court Justice
Catherine Wedge ruled Thursday that Canucks owner Francesco
Aquilini was no longer partners with Tom Gaglardi and Ryan Beedie
when he made his successful solo bid to buy the NHL franchise.

The fight began about five years ago when the three men agreed
to work together for an ownership interest in the club and ended in
a five-month court battle over promises, obligations and duties.

In November 2004, Aquilini purchased half the team for $250
million from American telecom billionaire John McCaw, only days
after negotiations fell through with Gaglardi and Beedie. Gaglardi
and Beedie claimed the trio had an agreement to work together in a
partnership or joint venture and that Aquilini had a duty to them
not to purchase the Canucks on his own behalf.

Gaglardi and Beedie went to court claiming they were the
rightful owners of the Canucks and wanted the court to order
Aquilini to put the team in a constructive trust for them. In a
judgment almost as thick as a hockey puck, Wedge rejected that
claim.

"When the partnership dissolved, the partners became free
agents, equally at liberty to persuade their own interests,'' she
wrote.

Wedge concluded the relationship among the three wasn't a
partnership or joint venture, and even if she is wrong she said
that partnership ended when Aquilini gave notice of his departure
nine months before he purchased the team. Wedge noted there was no
valid partnership contract and the three weren't carrying on
business together.

"Former partners and joint venturers are free to compete with
one another unless they have negotiated a non-competition clause as
part of their agreement,'' Wedge said.