Vincent Viola, the CEO of electronic trading firm Virtu Financial, has
purchased the Florida Panthers for $US250 million.
A West Point graduate and once the chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange, Viola founded a center geared toward helping military officials combat terrorism after the September 11 attacks.
He was also a minority owner of the Nets until the basketball team moved to Brooklyn.
Viola and his “hockey-mad” family will relocate to South Florida now that the deal has closed. From the AP:
“We understand the privilege of the stewardship that ownership of a sports franchise really means,” Viola 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. I really, truly believe that.”
Viola also gets the Saveology.com Iceplex where the Panthers train, along with team’s development partnership with Boyd Gaming, an effort to put a casino adjacent to that arena. His acquisition of the Panthers happened quickly, starting about a month ago when he asked NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to have lunch.
“A very nice lunch,” Bettman said.
Since 2000, the Panthers have been to the playoffs once. They finished with the fewest points in the NHL last season.
So Viola will have his work cut out for him. The team gets very little love in South Florida.