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Report: Florida Panthers on verge of being sold

Sep 18, 2013, 10:49 AM EDT

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Could the NHL soon be welcoming another new ownership group?

Not long after the Phoenix Coyotes and New Jersey Devils were sold, the Florida Panthers are reportedly on the verge of changing owners, according to the New York Post.

Citing “two sources close to the situation,” the Post said the prospective buyers are from New York, but was unable to confirm identities.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald claims the individual is Virtu Financial CEO Vince Viola, a New York-based businessman who was once a minority owner of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets.

Sportsnet’s John Shannon said he’s “hearing” the Panthers — whose current majority owner is Cliff Viner — are on the verge of being sold, adding there were two serious bidders for the team.

George Richards of the Miami Herald believes the club will remain in Sunrise, citing the NHL’s desire to make hockey work in the Miami-area market.

Related: How the Panthers make money despite, er, losing money

  1. Scott Mullin - Sep 18, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    Not sure why people have it in their heads that the Panthers would move… Bettman is dead-set against it. If he fought to keep the Coyotes in Arizona, he’d do a helluva lot more to keep the Panthers in Florida

    • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Sep 18, 2013 at 12:30 PM

      You mean like how hard Bettman fought to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta?

      • tmoore4075 - Sep 18, 2013 at 4:21 PM

        An arena wasn’t going to be empty in ATL like in PHX and in FLA. Plus while the owners looking at buying the Yotes were sketchy, there were none that wanted the Thrashers. They wanted just the Hawks and the arena. I understand why people always bring up the Thrashers but different situations. Especially compared to the Yotes who had a city willing to pony up the $$ for years to cover losses.

      • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Sep 18, 2013 at 7:32 PM

        Not really a different situation. Just the NHL handled it differently. The NHL owned the Coyotes for a while waiting for someone crazy enough to be willing to lose 20 million a season showed up. If they gave Atlanta the same chance I’m sure someone would have stepped up to buy the team. They weren’t really given a chance. There was very little effort made to keep the team in Atlanta. Atlanta being in the east were the population of hockey fans is much higher, a buyer could have been found.

        There’s a lot of politics involved too. Bettman’s been pushing to expand hockey in the west since he took over. Moving Phoenix to Hamilton or Quebec is counterproductive to his goal. Meanwhile moving Atlanta to Winnipeg fits right in. Even the way they aligned the conferences, sets the league up perfectly for two expansion teams in the west. That’s why Seattle is getting the next NHL team and not a bigger hockey market like Quebec City, Hamilton or a 2nd Toronto team.

    • badintent - Sep 19, 2013 at 2:18 AM

      Sell the team to some Russian billionaire. Putin needs more players for the Olympics

  2. hockeytowninhabitant - Sep 18, 2013 at 11:04 AM

    Please move them….it’s an eyesore on the league, and what exactly does ANYONE benefit from keeping them in Florida? One team is enough there, move the team to somewhere deserving, and where fans will actually support the team.

    • kaptaanamerica - Sep 18, 2013 at 11:53 AM

      Trolls like you should find something better to do.plenty of fans in Florida.they deserve to keep their team as much as Toronto deserves to keep there’s.

      • joey4id - Sep 18, 2013 at 12:02 PM

        Hehehehehe! 12 fans at a pre-season game. Why the hell would someone buy the team without the intent to move them? Maybe the league could take control of the team and repeat the ugliness that just came to an end in AZ.

      • tdrusher225 - Sep 18, 2013 at 12:45 PM

        That’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. Florida has a few loyal fans, and so because of this they deserve to keep their professional hockey team. So if you put a team in Iowa for 5 years and the team was doing very poorly in attendance, on TV/Radio, was doing very little to help the NHL, and it was clear that there are markets out there that are much more willing and equipped to handle an NHL team, would they deserve to keep their team because their loyal fans would be sad to see them go. The Maple Leafs as an organization are worth $1 billion dollars and have one of the most loyal fan bases in sports, despite the fact they haven’t been in the playoffs 9 out of the last 10 years. And you think Florida fans are just as deserving of a team?

      • achap39 - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:16 PM

        Plenty of fans? Are you delusional? You know how many times the Panthers have averaged 17,000 fans since THEIR EXISTENCE? One.

      • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Sep 18, 2013 at 7:37 PM

        There’s a reason they put Florida and Tampa in the same division as Toronto, Montreal, Boston and Detroit. They depend HEAVILY on ‘snowbird’ fans who go to games while on vacation in Florida.

        If fans of northern teams boycotted the sunbelt teams, most of them would be forced to fold or relocate.

    • canadianguest - Sep 21, 2013 at 4:04 AM

      Maybe they should be moved closer to the rest of their division? Great idea putting the Florida teams with the most northern teams possible. Florida and TB were not considered when the divisions were created, how can they be important enough to keep in the State of Florida. The league needs to treat these two teams better. Maybe Bettman will give them an outdoor game?

  3. lostpuppysyndrome - Sep 18, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    Are the Panthers being sold as an individual entity or as the holdings package they’re part of?

    • elvispocomo - Sep 18, 2013 at 11:15 AM

      That was my question as well, would the buyer get the larger company managing both the team and the arena rights, or just the team? Because the team alone is a money loser.

    • devilsarethebest - Sep 18, 2013 at 11:47 AM

      They are owned now by BB&T bank, which owns the arena as well. There is NO chance someone is buying them for the team.

      • ibieiniid - Sep 18, 2013 at 12:07 PM

        25bil market cap? yeah, no chance.

  4. multiplemiggs - Sep 18, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    the Florida Panthers are nowhere near the Miami area nor are they even near Miami-Dade County. They are not to be considered “Miami-area” in any way shape or form. I hate when people think they know everything, reporting news about an area when they never even been there. Its like saying the Padres are LA area or the Titans are Memphis-area. You figured these people went to school and have degrees too lol

    • Jason Brough - Sep 18, 2013 at 11:11 AM

      I would say a 45 minute drive puts them in the Miami area.

      • heavyduty9 - Sep 21, 2013 at 9:34 PM

        The arena is in Sunrise that’s the Fort Lauderdale area, smart guy.

    • Jackson Scofield - Sep 18, 2013 at 11:13 AM

      I hate when people think they know everything, commenting on news about an area when they are apparently ignorant to the use of metropolitan areas as a definition of the city’s area.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miami_metropolitan_area

    • achap39 - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      Yeah. That whole 35.2 mile drive from the American Airlines Center to BB&T in Sunrise is a hike. SMH.

      • heavyduty9 - Sep 21, 2013 at 9:34 PM

        Then again, Sunrise, isn’t that the Fort Lauderdale area? lol

    • ejbigg - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:36 PM

      I spent some time living in Miami so I can agree with multiplemiggs here. First of all the team has just about zero following in the actual city of Miami. All of their fans are South Floridians in the suburbs or northern transplants. Secondly, Miami is not an easy city to get around. It’s not as though there is public transportation to Sunrise from Miami, heck there’s hardly even public transportation within Miami! That drive is easily over an hour on game days. Technically, yes, they are in the Miami metro area but ever since they moved the Panthers have next to nothing to do with the city of Miami.

    • greatmiamisportsmind - Sep 18, 2013 at 10:22 PM

      Florida is actually in an ideal area for them. They are in Broward County which is north of Miami-Dade and is part of the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area. Plus, they are reasonably close to Palm Beach county as well, which is just north of them.

    • arlingtonrob - Sep 18, 2013 at 10:24 PM

      Yeah…right. 20 miles north of Miami just west of Ft. Lauderdale in Broward County.

      Nowhere close to Miami?

      Sunrise is closer to Miami than I am to the United Center, and I Iive about 12 miles from the Chicago city limits. To claim I don’t live in the Chicago metro area would be ridiculous.

      You’re an idiot.

  5. elvispocomo - Sep 18, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    Bring ‘em to Seattle. It’d even out the conferences and they’d surely be able to get a better crowd for preseason games than they did on Monday even if they played in the local kids arena:

    • Jackson Scofield - Sep 18, 2013 at 11:15 AM

      Sure, you can even out the conferences, but then you make the divisions within each conference a different size.

    • elvispocomo - Sep 18, 2013 at 11:20 AM

      Here’s a picture of the Monday afternoon game for anyone interested (didn’t post in previous):

      And moving them to Seattle would mean uneven divisions within the conference, but the conferences are already uneven now so I don’t see the difference. Still 8 teams on each side of the playoff bracket, top 3 from each division in, then wildcards for 7 and 8 or even best record of the remaining teams.

      • greatmiamisportsmind - Sep 18, 2013 at 10:23 PM

        your keywords are Monday and afternoon. At 2:30 kids are in school and adults (the majority) are working.

      • elvispocomo - Sep 19, 2013 at 11:41 AM

        That’s still exceptionally bad. They couldn’t have had a seniors day promotion? There’s gotta be enough in Florida to fill the stadium several times over.

    • bullwinkle88 - Sep 18, 2013 at 11:22 AM

      Forget Seattle. Portland is a much better venue.

      • kaptaanamerica - Sep 18, 2013 at 11:56 AM

        Portland should get a team before Seattle based on arena alone.not the Panthers though they aren’t going anywhere.

  6. quizguy66 - Sep 18, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    How many teams would draw flies for a Monday afternoon preseason game? They should have just called it a scrimmage and saved the embarrassment – NFL teams do stuff like closed scrimmages with other teams in the preseason. The Canadian teams could probably pull off the afternoon preseason game with something resembling a respectable crowd. The vast majority of NHL markets couldn’t.

    Perhaps if they were sharper they’d have offered free tickets to schools in the area and have ‘em bus kids in. Build some good will and get kids into the team.

    Anyway, I’m sure the arena rights are part of the deal, heck the main point of the deal for anyone buying the Panthers. I’m a big Devils fan but I know that the main asset in that sale was the Prudential Center operating rights.

    Glad to see more than the New York Post was cited as a source, since they are the least credible source on hockey I can think of.
    -QG

    • greatmiamisportsmind - Sep 18, 2013 at 10:24 PM

      finally someone with brains on here.

      Thanks, GQ

  7. hockeyknowledge - Sep 18, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    Personally I wouldn’t want the Panthers to move. That way I can watch live hockey. Besides when they made the pIay-offs the BBT center was filled up.

    • elvispocomo - Sep 19, 2013 at 11:44 AM

      Read that again: “when they made the play-offs…” Even your subconscious mind wouldn’t let you word it like they’ve made it more than once in recent history.

  8. blomfeld - Sep 18, 2013 at 11:56 AM

    BEAR STERNS PART II ?

    Not even 48 hours ago I offered the following testimony here at PHT regarding this very issue:

    Sep 16, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    The ‘fake’ lockout has been a success in the short term, with attendances and revenues trending upwards in the majority of key markets. However, like the 2008 financial meltdown, I’m still not convinced that the ‘core’ problems have gone away? Especially so in the sunbelt, where teams like Florida are offering $7.00 game tickets in-order to lure fans. Guess we’ll see in going forward eh ?

    And so now we have this news? The bottom line friends is that hockey is ‘not’ an indigenous sport in the old Confederacy or Wild Wild West … never has been and never will be. And therefore these teams like the Panthers, Lightning, Hurricanes, Predators, Stars, Coyotes and Ducks are essentially nothing more than ‘stage props’ whose sole purpose is to paint the NHL as being a ‘national’ game or brand, which it clearly isn’t. I would also argue that many of these team’s fans are like ‘paid actors’ themselves who are simply going through the motions of reading lines from a prepared script. Of course, the underlying motivation for this chicanery are the greater advertising dollars to be had from selling a ‘national’ sport vs a ‘regional’ sport. However, much like a mirage in the desert, it’s ultimately nothing more than an illusion. And and as such, it will ‘never’ work over the long term.

    Conclusion: financial volatility & deceit are ‘not’ consistent with long-term growth and/or success.

    • ejbigg - Sep 18, 2013 at 12:34 PM

      I’ve gathered you are a Kings fan from your posts? A bit hypocritical don’t you think? No one considered LA a hockey market until about, oh, a year and a half ago. They couldn’t sell out with Gretzky in town. For the past decade, they have been right in the middle of the pack for attendance, and in the late 2000s they were near the bottom.

      But I think it’s great that the NHL stuck with hockey in LA. Now they’re selling out every game and players are being drafted from California in the first round every year. I don’t like Gary Bettman either, but everyone is so quick to point out the flaws in the NHL without realizing the success that certain teams have brought. The game is expanding like never before and I think as hockey fans we should all embrace that.

      • bauxjangles - Sep 18, 2013 at 3:42 PM

        No one thought that California was a hockey location. What I find weird is that people only cite LA for having low attendances and not San Jose or Anaheim. Curious why that is

    • nflnhlrulznbasux - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:58 PM

      Teams like the Panthers, Lightning, Hurricanes, Predators, Stars, Coyotes and Ducks have been around for 15 years plus. Although your relationships with different people and furry animals usually break up with you after 2 months and you consider that long term, I think 15 years + with stable ownerships and established fan bases qualifies as LONG TERM.

      …….The bottom line ‘friends’….. Blomfeld, you have no friends.

  9. ejbigg - Sep 18, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    I would assume they are buying the entire arena managing company? In which case they would obviously stay in Florida. Not sure why anyone would simply buy the Panthers as a team.

    • elvispocomo - Sep 19, 2013 at 11:47 AM

      Oh sure, unless the plan was to move them almost immediately. If they have to make a go of it then the arena management rights are a foregone conclusion. They get those and it still doesn’t work out then a move could be made and new arena rights could be negotiated for wherever they move to.

  10. cliffneill55 - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    The Panthers just don’t work in the 32 team NHL that is coming. They want a Quebec team too. Either a move to Quebec, KC, or Seattle seems inevitable. They won’t be moving Detroit or Columbus back to the Western Conference either. They just moved them. Quebec in the west does not make any sense either. Here’s a 32 team scenario.

    Metropolitan Division: NYI, NYR, PIT, NJD, PHL, WSH, CAR, TB
    Atlantic Division: BOS, MTL, BUF, TOR, CBJ, OTT, DET, QUE**
    Central Division: CHI, STL, DAL, NSH, WPG, MIN, COL, KC**
    Pacific Division: LA, ANA, SJ, CGY, EDM, VAN, ARI(Phx), SEA**

  11. vstar1us - Sep 18, 2013 at 2:10 PM

    Buy them out to them to Portland Oregon, the ” Portland Panthers”

    Nice ring to it

    • dallasstars9 - Sep 18, 2013 at 2:41 PM

      It’s like you were listening to me talk to myself. The Rose Garden is ready, and so is the city. Bring NHL to Portland!

    • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Sep 18, 2013 at 7:40 PM

      Portland makes more sense than Kansas City.

  12. amityvillefun - Sep 18, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    Where ever they go, lose that logo. It’s terrible. My local high school team (the Wildcats) has a much better looking logo than that! The name “Panthers” just seems overdone anyway. It is borderline generic.

    But then again, it must be tough to sell hockey sweaters to people that are living in 90 degree temps on a regular basis. Do they go to hockey games for the air conditioning? ;)

  13. sportsfan69 - Sep 18, 2013 at 6:37 PM

    I hate to brake it to my Canadian fans is losing its currency value. That why the Quebec team was relocated. Plus, one winning record in over decade. The fans will come if they are winning team.

    • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Sep 18, 2013 at 7:53 PM

      Hate to break it to you, but your knowledge of Canadian currency is 20 years out of date. What you’re saying was true when they lost the team in the 90’s but not anymore. Back then $1.00 US was worth $0.67 CDN

      Hasn’t been true for well over a decade now. The Canadian $ is pretty much equal to the US $. There’s a 2 cent difference and the C$ has been gaining strench since 2009.

  14. sportsfan69 - Sep 18, 2013 at 6:41 PM

    My apologies, smartphone typing – Canadian currency is losing its value to the US dollar. The loss of the Quebec team is the example.

  15. gmsalpha - Sep 18, 2013 at 11:49 PM

    Move them to Phoenix. I’m pretty sure that’s a city that could easily support a second team.

    • blomfeld - Sep 19, 2013 at 1:09 AM

      I concur … if the small town of Tombstone could support 3 x Earp brothers as law enforcement officers, then surely Phoenix can afford to take on another ‘basket case’ NHL team eh ?

  16. tlow97 - Sep 19, 2013 at 9:22 AM

    Hockey is obviously working in the south.

    Come on, aside from the mid-day debacle of a preseason game, whenever I see a Panthers game there are ALWAYS groups of empty seats in the arena. Doesn’t matter if it’s a Tuesday or a Saturday night.

  17. yeahsos - Sep 19, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    It’s obvious the fan base has struggled in Florida for years. The main culprit is poor ownership and management decisions not fan apathy. During the Cup run in ’96 and the Bure years earlier this century the fan base was energized, but all that energy was thrown away and misused with poor drafting, signings and lots of losing. Dale Tallon is doing a tremendous job building up this team, fans are beginning to show up in droves again. I live in South Miami and make that hour plus trek each way as a season ticket holder.The atmosphere is great, my girls love it, it’s a ton of fun for the family. Are they here forever? I’d say the next few years will tell, if they assemble a winning team like it looks like they’re doing and still fans don’t show then it becomes more precarious. The deal however as was pointed out is for the whole arena as well which is where there is value. Many times there are concerts at the BB&T that don’t go to Miami. There is value in the arena and soon there will be in the hockey team. As to no one showing up on Monday, it was a 2pm game on a Monday, and the other was a 7pm game which drew about 7,000 fans, not great but an early preseason game against slim competition (Predators) it’s to be expected. The Panthers are turning it around, the energy is back in the building, new ownership will invest in the team, to quote the teams new slogan, #REDRISING!

  18. pmonte3122 - Sep 19, 2013 at 1:58 PM

    Good

  19. greenmtnboy31 - Sep 19, 2013 at 10:31 PM

    Indecently spent a season in that area of Florida,actually a little north. I could goto any game I wanted and never paid more than $35 and essentially sat wherever I wanted; against the glass, next to the bench, etc…
    That’s not a recipe for a sustainable franchise. Enough with this experiment. Time to retract this team and Phoenix and send those 60 players around the league back to,the minors where they belong. NHL trying to get us to pay NHL prices to see AHL talent.

    • greatmiamisportsmind - Sep 20, 2013 at 1:19 AM

      good luck with retracting 2 teams, when the league is looking at expansion.

  20. heavyduty9 - Sep 21, 2013 at 9:44 PM

    I think it’s funny that some Canadians are complaining about hockey in Florida. Toronto, supposedly one of the glamour franchises of the NHL hasn’t been relevant YEARS. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has won a Stanley Cup and they don’t have near the history or tradition that the Leafs have. Must suck Canada! lol

    • heavyduty9 - Sep 21, 2013 at 9:45 PM

      *for years

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