It didn't take long, but the New Jersey Devils' rather brief ownership saga came to an end Thursday. A group led by Josh Harris, billionaire owner of the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, and business partner David Blitzer has purchased the team from Jeff Vanderbeek, the NHL announced Thursday. The sale was approved by the NHL Board of Governors Wednesday.
Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record has more on the details of the sale:
An individual with knowledge of the sale agreement said Harris's group will pay "more than $320 million," a stunning price for a team that has been mired in debt.
Harris and his primary partner, David Blitzer, are also part of the group that purchased the Philadelphia 76ers for a reported $280 million in 2011.
The last remaining hurdle in the Devils' sale, which progressed quickly over the last week, was cleared Wednesday when the NHL's Board of Governors completed its vote to approve the transfer from outgoing principal owner Jeff Vanderbeek to Harris' group, a source said.
Vanderbeek will retain a small minority ownership stake and a role in the organization. Lou Lamoriello, who has been with the team since 1987, is expected to remain CEO, president and general manager.
The sale price will cover the approximately $200 million in debts the Devils and Devils' Arena Entertainment have accumulated and still leave Vanderbeek with a significant surplus.
Considering the agonizing process of finding new owners for the Phoenix Coyotes, this was a rather smooth ride for Vanderbeek and the Devils, and profitable as well.
In addition to the team, Harris and his group will also acquire the operating rights to the Prudential Center, the Devils' home arena. That could have been one of the big carrots dangled as the building was one of the top earning venues in the world in 2012 when it came to concerts and other entertainment, according to Billboard.
"Josh Harris and I are thrilled to own the Devils and, as someone who was born and raised in New Jersey, I am especially excited by this unique opportunity," said Blitzer. "Both of us have long admired the team for its passionate fans who reflect the character and commitment to winning that are trademarks of this organization.
"We want to thank Jeff Vanderbeek for his leadership of the Devils organization and his great work in bringing the Prudential Center to Newark. The Rock is a first-class entertainment venue, which will continue to grow and bring amazing talent to the city. Newark is showing positive signs of growth, and the Devils and the Prudential Center look forward to supporting this progress. We will be committed stewards of this great franchise and arena as we work closely with city and state leadership to ensure the Devils, their fans and the Newark and greater New Jersey community all share in the future success of their favorite team."
Vanderbeek was in some serious trouble and had a mountain of debt to contend with. Harris' deep pockets, with an estimated worth of $2 billion, should make those types of worries a thing of the past. He will remain with the team as a senior advisor.
How Harris and Blitzer's group choose to operate the team remains to be seen, but the club should be able to move forward with putting together a competitive roster for next season. That should start with re-signing restricted free agent Adam Henrique.