RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Dallas billionaire Tom Dundon has signed a purchase agreement to buy a majority stake in the Carolina Hurricanes from longtime owner Peter Karmanos.
The team announced the agreement Thursday, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the team would not move.
The move marks the latest step toward the end of Karmanos’ lengthy attempt to sell the team he moved from Hartford, Connecticut, to North Carolina two decades ago. Karmanos will retain an equity stake in the franchise.
Dundon is the 46-year-old former CEO of Santander Consumer USA, a Dallas-based lending firm. He’s also an investor in the Top Golf chain of golf and entertainment facilities and a key financier of a new golf course in Dallas.
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“I am thrilled to continue to build upon what Peter Karmanos started in Raleigh,” Dundon said in a statement from the team. “The Hurricanes are a team on the rise, and I believe we have an opportunity to take the franchise to the next level. I’m ready to get to work.”
Dundon will control all team operations once the deal receives league approval and is finalized.
“Tom has had tremendous success in business, and I fully expect that to continue as he takes control of the Hurricanes,” Karmanos said in a statement. “I look forward to working with him, and bringing another Stanley Cup to North Carolina.”
Karmanos had been publicly seeking a local buyer for at least three years. He acknowledged over the summer that he and a group led by former Texas Rangers CEO Steve Greenberg had agreed to a term sheet but did not come to terms on a purchase agreement. He also said he was looking for a sale price of about $500 million.
Karmanos bought the Hartford Whalers franchise in 1994 and moved it south three years later.
Reports about another possible relocation have plagued the Hurricanes even as team officials and even Bettman have persistently and repeatedly denied them. Bettman said at the All-Star game in January that “the club is not moving” and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly echoed that sentiment by saying the league is committed to Raleigh in the same manner it has stuck with the Phoenix area during years of struggles for the Coyotes.
Karmanos in 2015 said “we’d have to be idiots to move from here,” largely because of the team’s PNC Arena lease, which extends through 2024 and is considered one of the most team-friendly in the league.
In its most recent franchise valuations, Forbes magazine ranked the Hurricanes last in the NHL at $230 million. Bill Foley paid a $500 million expansion fee to the league to bring the Golden Knights to Las Vegas.
Carolina ranks next to last in the league in attendance this season, averaging 11,863 fans through 13 home games, after finishing last in the NHL in each of the previous two seasons. The Hurricanes drew an average of just 11,776 fans to their 18,680-seat home arena in 2016-17 and filled it to just 63 percent capacity — their lowest per-game average since they moved into the building for the 1999-2000 season. They averaged just 12,204 at home the year before.
The best way to improve those numbers, of course, is with a winning team — and it’s been a while since Carolina had one.
The 2006 Stanley Cup champions have made the postseason only once (2009) since the club captured its lone title. They have the longest playoff drought in the NHL at eight years. The Hurricanes entered Thursday night’s game at San Jose with an 11-10-5 record, tied for last place in the Metropolitan Division, and were six points out of a wild-card playoff spot with 27 points.
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