SBD/September 19, 2013/Franchises

NHL Panthers Reportedly Will Sell For $230M To Group Led By Ex-Nets Investor Viola

Some Panthers players expressed excitement over a new ownership group
The NHL Panthers reportedly will be sold for $230M, with former Nets investor Vincent Viola as leader of the purchasing group "buying out several of the team’s minority owners," according to Jackson & Richards of the MIAMI HERALD. Letters of intent "have been executed, but the transaction still needs to be signed and approved by the NHL." A source said that it is "conceivable the deal could fall through, but both sides want to make it happen." The Panthers are "expected to remain in South Florida," with the team’s lease at the BB&T Center running through '28. A source confirmed that the sale was "in the works" and that Exec VP & GM of Hockey Operations Dale Tallon has been "telling players interested in coming to the Panthers ... that a new owner would be in place soon." Panthers D Ed Jovanovski said, "Someone new coming in must be eager to take over the team. You have to look at that as a positive. We’ll see. Anytime you have an ownership group that wants to win and wants to spend money, that’s exciting for a player." Jackson & Richards note Viola is "a successful commodities dealer" who previously was New York Mercantile Exchange Chair and is now Virtu Financial Chair (MIAMI HERALD, 9/19). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde reports Viola allowed Tallon "to spend some minimal money to bring in" G Tim Thomas and "a couple of other free agents." That "doesn't mean Viola ... will be the owner the Panthers need to really bring this franchise back from hockey oblivion." But it "offers an opening glimmer of hope" and "represents a small change in a good way." Viola will be "the fifth owner for the team in the past 13 years." No franchise can "overcome that instability at the top, especially when no owner since H. Wayne Huizenga had the deep pockets or necessary conviction to make hockey work here" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/19).
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