The latest businessmen to try to make the Florida Panthers a success will be introduced today by the NHL club.
Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel will step up from minority owners to co-general partners when they officially take control of the club from Alan Cohen, who will remain part of the ownership group but will no longer make the key decisions. Viner and Siegel, who both live in Boca Raton, reportedly will buy about half of Cohen's 42-per-cent share of the team.
Sources in the banking community say Cohen told NHL commissioner Gary Bettman he was no longer willing to pay for the club's annual losses, which run in the range of $20-million (U.S.). After a proposed sale to Sports Properties Acquisition Corp., an investment fund, fell through, Viner and Siegel decided to increase their stake in the club.
The purchase price was not announced but sources say little cash will change hands because Viner and Siegel will be taking responsibility for the club's debts.
Viner, 61, who is co-founder of AVM, a financial services company, will serve as chairman while Siegel, 46, whose background is in real estate, will be the chief executive officer. Siegel had been in charge of the team's charitable arm, the Panthers Foundation.
The Panthers have missed the NHL playoffs for the past eight seasons, thanks in part to numerous player changes because of a lack of revenue. Siegel assured the team's fans he and Viner will pay the bills.
"We're going to be there with them, we're going to be crying with them, we're going to be laughing with them. We are the biggest Panthers fans," Siegel told the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
"We're the only crazy ones who would do this."