SBJ/June 4 - 10, 2001/No Topic Name

Panthers’ only prez considers departing

Florida Panthers team President Bill Torrey may leave the team following the NHL draft June 23-24, which will be held at the Panthers' home arena, the National Car Rental Center.

Torrey, who built four Stanley Cup champions with the New York Islanders and has been Panthers team president since the franchise's inaugural season in 1993, says he's not sure whether he'll remain with the team after it is sold.

An investment team led by Alan Cohen, CEO of generic drug-maker Andrx Corp., has been in negotiations with team Chairman Wayne Huizenga to buy the Panthers for the last three months. Torrey said he's assured the prospective buyers that he'll remain at the helm through the draft, but his status beyond that has not been addressed.

"I've told them that I have made no inquiries about anything anywhere else and that there would be no changes in the hockey department prior to the draft," Torrey said.

Torrey, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, is an employee of the team's parent company, Boca Resorts Inc., whose principal shareholder is Huizenga.

The team has been on the block for more than a year, originally shopped at $175 million. Huizenga told Boca Resorts shareholders in November that interest in the team has been light and that the sale price would have to be lowered.

Colorado businessman George Gillett reportedly was close to an agreement with Huizenga in December but pulled out at the last minute and is now poised to become owner of the Montreal Canadiens.

Cohen's investment group reportedly includes former NFL and University of Miami star Bernie Kosar, South Florida car dealership owner Mike Maroone and Precision Response CEO David Epstein.

"We're down to the pretty fine strokes with this group," Torrey said. "The lawyers have done all they can do. The decision is theirs at this point. I would certainly think if they're going to go forward, they will do it soon."

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