SBD/January 4, 2013/Franchises

Devils' Vanderbeek Takes Sole Ownership; Refinances Part Of Team's $178M Debt

Vanderbeek got full backing from the NHL even amid its labor crisis
Devils Owner Jeff Vanderbeek "completed the process of refinancing the team’s debt and buying out his partners, making him the sole owner," lifting a "dark cloud that’s hung over the organization for roughly 18 months," according to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen RECORD. Vanderbeek "takes over the 47 percent share of Brick City Hockey LLC, which was headed by Mike Gilfillan and Ray Chambers," and the 6% owned by investor Peter Simon. The deal had been "completed for a while, but the finalization was delayed with the league’s lawyers being otherwise occupied with lockout responsibilities." Vanderbeek was "approved as sole owner of the Devils" by the NHL BOG. There was a "real debt of roughly $78 million that had to be refinanced and the delicate process of Brick City Hockey LLC extricating itself from its ownership share." Vanderbeek and the Devils will be in "a much better situation, and it’s possible at least one new partner will be brought in down the road." With CIT Group "working as the lead arranger, Vanderbeek had been working for a year and a half with creditors to refinance the team’s debt" (Bergen RECORD, 1/4). In Newark, David Giambusso noted the agreement came "after a year of near-deals, phantom investors and the specter of bankruptcy." Sources said that it was "settled within the past week and as of now does not include investment from outside sources." The officials who spoke Thursday said that the Devils "have no plans to move anytime soon and bankruptcy is off the table for the time being" (NJ.com, 1/3). In N.Y., Josh Kosman cites sources as saying that the agreement "with lenders gives Vanderbeek two and a half years to stabilize the team’s finances and meet certain financial targets, or they have the right to remove him as owner." Vanderbeek personally "put down much of the $20 million that went to pay overdue loans and get lenders to agree to a $160 million package that covers both the team and arena debt" (N.Y. POST, 1/4).

FULL SUPPORT: In Newark, Rich Chere noted the NHL has "no issue" with the timing of the announcement. League officials were “consulted in advance” that Vanderbeek would be making his announcement. Devils President, CEO & GM Lou Lamoriello said that there was "nothing unusual about the timing." The NHL "approved Vanderbeek assuming 100 percent control of the team just before Christmas" (NJ.com, 1/3). In N.Y., Ken Belson notes with the backing of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Vanderbeek "kept the banks at bay and worked out a deal to refinance part of the team's debt, which is about $178 million." With interest rates "near record lows, refinancing a chunk of the team’s debt most likely freed money to pay down some of it." Going forward it is "almost certain that the Devils and other teams will receive a greater share of the league’s revenue, perhaps another reason banks were willing to refinance some of the Devils’ debts" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/4).
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Franchises, NHL, New Jersey Devils

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