UPDATE: Here’s the Devils statement per Tom Gulitti of The Record: “As Managing Member of the New Jersey Devils, it is not my desire to sell the team. My partner, Brick City, and I have different visions for the franchise. While Brick City has a right, under our partnership agreement, to explore a sale and Moag and Co. has been retained to assist in these effort, I anticipate maintaining a controlling interest.”UPDATE: NHL Insiders Tom Gulitti of The Record and Darren Dreger of TSN are questioning Bloomberg’s report. But Bloomberg’s source claims to have seen the letter the team sent out soliciting buyers.
EARLIER: New Jersey Devils owner, and former Lehman Brother executive VP, Jeff Vanderbeek may put the team up for sale, according to Curtis Eichelberger of Bloomberg News.
To some the move might come as a surprise, as Vanderbeek purchased the franchise in 2004 (and stepped down from Lehman Brothers) because he was a longtime fan and season-ticketholder.
In 2007 he moved the Devils from the decrepit Meadowlands stadium in East Rutherford into a sparkling new arena in Newark. He hoped the improved venue and public transportation surrounding it would help the Devils at the box office, where they’ve long struggled despite making the playoffs in each season since 1997.
But the Devils continue to face difficulty attracting fans. This offseason, the team uncharacteristically signed Ilya Kovalchuk to a widely-panned $100 million contract. Many fans believed Vanderbeek was directly responsible for this move. He might have assumed that the marquee name would be the answer to the Devils’ attendance woes.
Instead, the salary cap problems that arose from the nine-figure deal helped sink the Devils into last place. Vanderbeek leaves the next owner, and longtime general manager Lou Lamoriello (who has shied away from big contracts in the past) to clean up his mess.
A report surfaced in December that the Devils had actually signed the Russian superstar in hopes of drawing interest from Russian Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. Prokhorov already owns the New Jersey Nets, the Devils’ temporary Prudential centre co-tenants, and has an affinity for all things hailing from the Motherland. But those rumours were hastily dismissed.
Today’s news lends some credence to that initial report. Still, it seems unlikely that he steps in and purchases another troubled franchise that seems further than ever from hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup.
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