Another hedge fund manager has bought himself a sports team.
Vincent Viola agreed to pay $240 million for the National Hockey League's Florida Panthers. The deal was announced today at the team's home, the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., outside of Fort Lauderdale.
The deal gives Viola control of one of the NHL's least-successful franchises, one that has only made the playoffs once since it entered the league in 1992, and which has been losing money for five years. Viola will also control the operating lease for the BB&T Center, which faces stiff competition for concerts and other events from Miami's American Airlines arena.
"We understand the privilege of the stewardship that ownership of a sports franchise really means," Viola, a former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange, said. "We don't really own anything. The players sweat, sacrifice their health in later years to do well on the ice, to provide the right feeling and connection to the fans. It's about the players and the fans and our service to those two respective groups that will determine our success."
Viola and two partners founded New York-based hedge fund Actius Capital Management in 2007 and is now CEO of high-frequency trading firm Virtu Financial. He joins fellow private-equity honchos Jeffrey Vinik (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Joshua Harris of Apollo Global Management and the Blackstone Group's David Blitzer (New Jersey Devils) in owning a hockey team. Viola, a New York native and West Point graduate, said he plans to relocate to South Florida shortly.