Carolina Hurricanes

Canes' owner would entertain offers at $400 million plus

Carolina Hurricanes incoming General Manager, Ron Francis, left, team owner Peter Karmanos, center, and outgoing General Manager Jim Rutherford announce a management change at PNC Arena in Raleigh.
Carolina Hurricanes incoming General Manager, Ron Francis, left, team owner Peter Karmanos, center, and outgoing General Manager Jim Rutherford announce a management change at PNC Arena in Raleigh. cseward@newsobserver.com

Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. said Monday he would entertain offers for his majority interest in the NHL team.

“I’m 71 years old, and at 71 you start planning stuff like that,” Karmanos said. “I’m looking for the proper way to make sure the team has continuity, hopefully with people in North Carolina.”

Karmanos noted the New York Islanders recently were sold by owner Charles Wang for more than $400 million. Asked about the value of the Hurricanes franchise, he said, “I think the proper price would be close to the Islanders’ price.”

Karmanos said he has retained Allen & Co., a New York investment firm, to negotiate with potential buyers for a gradual buyout of his share that would allow him to retain control of the team for several more years.

“I want to do the proper job in planning,” Karmanos said. “Teams have gone up incredibly in value. I’m 71 and have a wife and four young kids at home. You plan. Is it wrong to do that? There’s no real intrigue here.”

Karmanos said Wang, while agreeing to sell the Islanders, planned to remain majority owner and governor of the team for the next two years before turning over control to the new owners – Jon Ledecky, former co-owner of the Washington Capitals, and London-based investor Scott Malkin.

“Even though Charles Wang sold his team, he will run it for two years,” said Karmanos, who would prefer a similar succession plan if he decides to sell.

Karmanos, a co-founder of Detroit-based Compuware, bought the NHL franchise in 1994 for $47.5 million with former business partner Thomas Thewes and Jim Rutherford. Karmanos moved the franchise to Raleigh in 1997 and renamed it the Hurricanes, winning the Stanley Cup in 2006 but incurring sizable financial losses along the way.

Thewes died in September 2008. Karmanos later hired Allen & Co. to try and sell Thewes’ share in the team, saying he was helping the Thewes family resolve some estate issues.

“My former partner (Thewes) died six years ago,” Karmanos said. “I’m looking for a new partner.”

Karmanos, who retired from Compuware in March 2013, has sold investment shares in the team in recent years. He has said he retained “about” 70 percent ownership of the team and is the Hurricanes’ chief executive officer.

Forbes magazine, in its valuations of the NHL franchise, pegged the Hurricanes’ value at $187 million (and the Islanders at $195 million). For Karmanos, who has disagreed with the yearly Forbes reports, the Islanders sale has upped the ante.

But Karmanos, who said Monday he was on a business trip in Geneva, Switzerland, bristled at the idea a sale of his interest in the team could result in the franchise moving again.

“This is one of the best franchises in the league and one of the best markets in the league, one of the fastest-growing markets,” Karmanos said. “It has one of the best arena deals in the league and one of the best arenas to play in.”

The Hurricanes’ arena lease with the Centennial Authority, which oversees the operation of PNC Arena, runs through 2024.

“The team isn’t going to leave,” Karmanos said. “I’m tired of hearing that. Why would it leave?”

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