The Columbus Blue Jackets will begin play next year without Lamar Hunt as an owner.

A tentative agreement was reached that ended Hunt's attempt to obtain a share of the team and handed the franchise to the ownership group headed by steel magnate John McConnell and his partner, Wolfe Enterprises Inc., the Columbus Dispatch reported yesterday.

The lawsuits each side filed to win control of the team will be dropped and Hunt, owner of the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs and Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew, will not receive damages for being excluded from McConnell's ownership group, lawyers for both sides told the newspaper.

"Basically, both sides are going to go on their way," said Hunt's lawyer, Anthony Celebrezze Jr.

John Zeiger, a lawyer for McConnell's group, confirmed an agreement had been reached but said the document had not been completed.

"I believe it would be premature to comment before each of the parties have executed the agreement," Zeiger said.

Hunt, McConnell and Wolfe Enterprises were part of the original group of investors who formed Columbus Hockey Ltd. in 1996 to pursue an expansion franchise.

A rift developed in the group after voters rejected a sales-tax issue in May 1997 that would have financed a downtown arena and a soccer stadium.