Peter Karmanos Jr., majority owner of the Carolina Hurricanes, is considering an offer to sell the team that would keep the NHL franchise in Raleigh.
A statement issued by the team Thursday said: “Since an offer has been made to purchase the team, Mr. Karmanos intends to evaluate that offer and also will continue to evaluate his other options, including retaining his ownership of the team.”
Hurricanes president Don Waddell said Thursday the offer, if accepted, would result in the team staying in Raleigh. “The team is not moving,” he said.
Bloomberg News reported a sale of the team for about $500 million could be close to being completed. The report said the team could be sold to an ownership group that includes Chuck Greenberg, a former part-owner and chief executive officer of the Texas Rangers.
Greenberg did not return messages Thursday. Waddell said he could not comment on the proposed price or potential ownership group or how long the process could last.
Hurricanes minority investors contacted Thursday would not speak publicly about the proposed sale.
Karmanos, 74, has owned the franchise since 1994, when he joined the late Thomas Thewes and Jim Rutherford in purchasing the Hartford Whalers for $48 million. The team was relocated to North Carolina in 1997 and renamed the Carolina Hurricanes, winning the Stanley Cup in 2006 to give the state its first major-league champion.
Karmanos offered five-year investment shares in the team in the fall of 2011. Hurricanes Holdings LLC is made up of 18 investment groups, and among the investors are Ron Francis, the Hurricanes’ executive vice president and general manager, and Charlotte Checkers owner Michael Kahn. Two of the initial investors cashed in after five years, which wasn’t unexpected.
The Bloomberg report said Greenberg, 56, would retain and seek to add other local investors. Questions remain about other members of the potential ownership group and whether Greenberg would be a majority or minority owner, and how much assumed debt would be a part of the purchase.
The Hurricanes hold a lease with PNC Arena that extends through 2024. Jeff Merritt, executive director of the Centennial Authority, the arena landlord, said Thursday the authority had received no notice of a sale or pending sale of the Hurricanes.
Karmanos has scoffed at the annual Forbes valuations of NHL teams, saying the valuation of the Hurricanes – $230 million for 2016-17, last in the NHL – was too low. He noted former New York Islanders owner Charles Wang sold the Islanders for more than $400 million, according to multiple media reports.
Some concerns about Karmanos’ financial standing were raised a year ago when a lawsuit was filed last year in Michigan alleging Karmanos Jr. has defaulted on more than $100 million he borrowed from a trust established for his three grown sons. The suit also alleged the trust was used in various ways to “support the Hurricanes.”
Karmanos later issued a statement saying, “This is a family matter that has nothing at all to do with the Hurricanes.” The suit was later settled, although terms of the settlement were not released.
With Karmanos open to selling the team, employing Allen & Co. of New York to assist with the transaction, there was speculation in the NHL that the team could be bought and again relocated. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has disputed rumors the team might move several times, once saying, “I don’t think anyone needs to worry about the future of the franchise in Carolina. That’s where the league believes it should be and where it will be.”
Karmanos, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015, also owns the Florida Everblades of the ECHL and Germain Arena in Fort Myers, Fla. The former co-founder and CEO of Detroit-based Compuware now is chairman and co-founder of MadDog Technology, based in Pontiac, Mich.