So the Panthers are likely being sold soon. This has been rumored for some time, since reports pegged current owner Cliff Viner's annual losses on the team standing at $20 million per year, even as the parent company SSE as a whole is profitable. But who is the man that will take the Panthers and SSE forward?
After an early morning NY Post report said that a New York investor group was purchasing the team, Andy Slater of 640 AM in Miami, and later Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, reported the man leading the group is Vince Viola, a Brooklyn hedgefund manager and current chairman of the Virtu Financial group. Viola was previously a minority owner of the Brooklyn Nets, who have connections to the Panthers through Barclays Center and Nets CEO Brett Yormark, brother of Panthers president Michael. The great George Richards has reported a letter of intent has been executed, but the sale still needs to be confirmed and approved by the NHL. It's not immediately clear whether Michael will continue in is current role (although I'd put my money on it), and Viner and his current partners could all retain a stake in the franchise if they so choose. So who is Vince Viola, more specifically?
He is Brooklyn born and bred, and was an Army Ranger at West Point graduating in 1977. He got most of his fortune from his association with the New York Mercantile Exchange, which he took public when he was the Chairman just after the chaos of September 11th. He is a successful commodities dealer, and also has headed up proprietary trading and clearing firms. He has been involved in numerous philanthropic organizations and has received many awards for his philanthropy as well.
On the subject of the Panthers moving as a result of the sale: with the iron-clad lease holding the the Panthers to BB&T Center until 2028 unless they meet costly escape clauses, and with Gary Bettman's insistence on protecting the snowbird heavy Phoenix market, one could guess he'd probably do even more to protect the Miami-FTL market, which is the 10th largest in the country.
What might this mean for the on-ice product? Probably not much as of right now, although a pending sale might explain why Dale Tallon had his hands tied in signing players this offseason. So long as Michael Yormark is still the CEO of the team, not much will likely change due to his commitment to Tallon, and Tallon's further commitment to Kevin Dineen.
With the new scoreboard and Club Red (I know) both increasing value in the BB&T Center, and with the hesitance to spend money this offseason, the rumors that the team was up for sale that now bring some fire along with the earlier smoke can't surprise too many people. Viola's Brooklyn character might inject some new life into a franchise that could desperately use it, and one hopes new cash could help get the Cats up off the mat.
If you want more on Viola's background, check out this from sister site Nets Daily from 2009 when Viola was involved in buying the Nets from Bruce Ratner.