SBD/September 30, 2013/Franchises

Viola Ready To Do What It Takes To Make NHL Panthers Winners

Viola said that his sons will ultimately have roles in the team's future
New NHL Panthers Owner Vincent Viola, who was introduced Friday at the BB&T Center, said that he is "willing to do what it takes" to make the team a winning franchise, according to Craig Davis of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. He said, "We are committed to provide the resources to the Florida Panthers necessary to win the Stanley Cup." He used the team's signing of G Tim Thomas as the "first example of his vow to enable" Exec VP & GM of Hockey Operations Dale Tallon to "acquire the pieces needed to turn the long-struggling franchise into a winner." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "expressed confidence that the new ownership will provide the Panthers with the stability needed to succeed in South Florida." He said, "If anybody ever had a concern about the franchise -- and they shouldn't have -- there's no reason to have one now." Viola: "We're going to win. Put the word out, we're going to win." Viola said that his sons John, Michael and Travis "will ultimately have roles in the team's future." Viola: "This is a family business and it's a long-term commitment." He and his wife Teresa "plan to buy a home in Broward County, and he will commute to his businesses in New York and Texas." A source said that Viola paid $250M for the team and operating rights to BB&T Center. Virtu Financial President & COO Douglas Cifu "also has a financial interest in the team" and will be Vice Chair, partner & Alternate Governor. Team President Michael Yormark was promoted to CEO and "will continue to oversee the business side of the operation." Viola "expressed his interest in the Panthers about six weeks ago during lunch" with Bettman (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/28). The AP's Tim Reynolds wrote Viola's "enthusiasm was evident" at the press conference (AP, 9/27).

AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING DEAL: In Miami, George Richards reported Viola bought the franchise for $230M, and the sale covers everything under the Panthers umbrella, "including: the NHL team; the operating agreement with the Broward County-owned BB&T Center; the three-sheet Iceplex in Coral Springs; and the rights to develop nine acres surrounding the arena." Yormark "continues to work in trying to land a 'destination' casino on the arena land." Viola "wouldn’t go into specifics about the future development of the arena land, saying he was going to concentrate on making the hockey team more successful on the ice." Bettman said, "The rumor and speculation about the franchise has been overdone. The fact is, Vinnie comes in with an energy and an excitement and a commitment of resources. He wants to take this club to another level" (MIAMI HERALD, 9/29). In Miami, Barry Jackson reports Viola "will allow a higher payroll, and Tallon expects to be more of a player in free agency next summer." Also, Viola "has such high regard" for Yormark that he "has been allowed to become a minority owner in the team" (MIAMI HERALD, 9/29).
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