Hedge Fund Manager Buys Hockey Team As Hicks Prepares To Sell

Feb 5 2010 | 12:10pm ET

As one alternative investments honcho prepares to enter the National Hockey League, another is getting ready to exit.

Boston hedge fund manager Jeffrey Vinik has agreed to buy the Tampa Bay Lightning for $170 million in cash. The deal must be approved by the NHL’s board of governors, but that appears to be a foregone conclusion, as the Vinik Asset Management founder was personally recruited to buy the financially-troubled team by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Vinik moved quickly on the Stars purchase; Bettman first mentioned it to him on Jan. 1, at the NHL Winter Classic. The annual outdoor hockey game was played this year at Boston’s Fenway Park, the home of baseball’s Boston Red Sox, which Vinik owns a minority stake in.

Vinik attended last night's Lightning game in St. Petersburg, Fla., watching his new team defeat the New York Islanders 5-2.

Meanwhile, private equity veteran Tom Hicks is exploring a possible sale of the Dallas Stars, the hockey team he has owned since 1996. The move comes nine months after FINalternatives reported that Hicks’ sports team holding company, Hicks Sports Group, had defaulted on $525 million in loans. Last month, the Hicks Muse Tate & Furst founder agreed to sell HSG’s other asset, baseball’s Texas Rangers, in a deal believed to be worth more than $500 million.

Hicks still owns half of the English Premier League’s Liverpool Football Club. His stake in the soccer team is not held by HSG.

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