Devil of a deal: NHL franchise sold to Harris

11:43 AM, Aug 15, 2013   |    comments
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Newark, NJ (Sports Network) - Already the owner of the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, Josh Harris is the new proprietor of the New Jersey Devils.

The announcement was made on Thursday.

According to The Record, Harris, an investment banker, and his group, led by primary partner David Blitzer, paid more than $320 million to purchase the financially-strapped franchise and the operating rights for the arena in which the Devils play, the Prudential Center.

The NHL's board of governors on Wednesday approved the transfer from outgoing principal owner Jeff Vanderbeek to a group headed by Harris. The sale price will cover the Devils' outstanding debt, which Forbes reportedly estimated at $230 million.

"Josh Harris and I are thrilled to own the Devils and, as someone who was born and raised in New Jersey, I am especially excited by this unique opportunity," Blitzer said in a statement. "Both of us have long admired the team for its passionate fans who reflect the character and commitment to winning that are trademarks of this organization. We want to thank Jeff Vanderbeek for his leadership of the Devils organization and his great work in bringing the Prudential Center to Newark. The Rock is a first-class entertainment venue, which will continue to grow and bring amazing talent to the city. Newark is showing positive signs of growth, and the Devils and the Prudential Center look forward to supporting this progress. We will be committed stewards of this great franchise and arena as we work closely with city and state leadership to ensure the Devils, their fans and the Newark and greater New Jersey community all share in the future success of their favorite team."

Harris and Blitzer, an equity investor, are part of the group that bought the 76ers from Comcast Spectacor for $280 million in the summer of 2011. Harris is co-founder of Apollo Global management, one of the world's largest private equity firms, and Blitzer is a senior managing director of Blackstone Group.

Scott O'Neil, the chief executive officer of the 76ers, will take on the additional role of CEO of the Devils and the Prudential Center. O'Neil is tasked with handling the Devils' business operations and will work closely with Lou Lamoriello, who will stay on as the club's president and general manager.

Vanderbeek became a minority owner of the Devils in 2000 and officially became the managing partner/chairman four years later. He will work with the new ownership as a senior advisor.

"Today is an exciting day for the New Jersey Devils, the Prudential Center and the city of Newark," Vanderbeek said in a statement. "David and Josh have the experience and passion needed to grow both the Devils and the Rock, and I look forward to working with them to ensure a smooth transition. I am confident they will carry on the great tradition of 'Jersey's Team.' I am proud of our accomplishments this past 10 years - most importantly, ensuring the Devils have a state of the art arena to call home in the great state of New Jersey."

The Devils won three Stanley Cups over an eight-year period from 1995-2003, also winning in 2000, and captured additional Eastern Conference titles in 2001 and 2012. They missed the playoffs in the recent lockout-shortened season and were stunned during this summer when star forward Ilya Kovalchuk retired from the NHL to play in Russia.

The franchise relocated from Colorado to New Jersey in 1982.

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