In the late 1980s, the NHL announced it would expand. Two rival groups from the Tampa Bay Area decided to bid for a franchise: a St. Petersburg-based group fronted by future Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes owners Peter Karmanos and Jim Rutherford, and a Tampa-based group fronted by two Hall of Famers—Phil Esposito and his brother Tony. One of the Esposito group's key backers, the Pritzker family, backed out a few months before the bid, to be replaced by a consortium of Japanese businesses headed by Kokusai Green, a golf course and resort operator. On paper, it looked like the Karmanos/Rutherford group had the more stable bid; however, it wanted to pay only $29 million before starting play, while the Espositos were one of the few groups willing to pay the league's $50 million expansion fee up front. The Esposito group would win the expansion franchise on December 6, 1990, and name the team the Lightning, after Tampa Bay's status as the "Lightning Capital of North America. "