Jeffrey Vinik, a Boston money manager, is the latest businessman who will try to make the Tampa Bay Lightning a financial success.
Vinik, 50, bought the club for $170-million (U.S.) yesterday from co-owners Oren Koules, Len Barrie and their six minority partners. He became chairman of the Lightning immediately and will be the sole owner of the team.
"Buying the Lightning and joining the Tampa Bay community is a dream come true," Vinik said in a statement released by the team. "I've been an avid hockey fan my whole life and I pledge to our fans that I will work my hardest to build the Lightning into a world class organization both on and off the ice.
"I hope to bring a high level of excitement and intensity back to Lightning hockey, with a goal of having the team consistently compete for the Stanley Cup. I have a passion for the game and will do my best to restore a winning culture at the St. Pete Times Forum that all of our fans and partners can be proud of."
The purchase price, which is all in cash, includes the Lightning, the management lease to the lucrative St. Pete Times Forum and 5½ acres of land near the arena.
It was a difficult day for Koules because he did not want to sell a majority share of the club and was unable to maintain a role in the operation after it became clear Vinik did not want any partners. Koules, a successful film and TV producer, was forced to carry on by himself as owner when Barrie ran into financial problems last year. He reluctantly decided he could no longer carry the losses for a club whose revenues plunged to the bottom of the league.
One source said Vinik has not decided who will run the team for him but he expects to hire a president soon. General manager Brian Lawton's job appears to be safe for now.
The sale still must be approved by the NHL's board of governors but since the chairman of the board, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, is said to have introduced Vinik to Bettman, that should not be a problem. Vinik's personal worth is reported to be at least $500-million.