Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes owner in no rush to sell, team president says

Owner Peter Karmanos hoists the Stanley Cup after the Carolina Hurricanes defeat Edmonton 3-1 on June 19, 2006, to win the NHL Championship.
Owner Peter Karmanos hoists the Stanley Cup after the Carolina Hurricanes defeat Edmonton 3-1 on June 19, 2006, to win the NHL Championship. rwillett@newsobserver.com

Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. isn’t in a rush to sell the team or close to selling it, team president Don Waddell said Thursday.

Appearing before the Centennial Authority, which oversees the operation of PNC Arena, Waddell addressed comments recently made by Karmanos. In an interview with The News & Observer, Karmanos noted he was 71 years old, needed to plan for his future and would consider offers for his majority share in the team.

Karmanos referred to the sale of the New York Islanders, reportedly for between $400 million and $500 million, and said he believed the Canes could be sold for “close to the Islanders’ price.” Karmanos noted Islanders owner Charles Wang, despite the sale, is retaining majority ownership for another two years. Karmanos said he might consider a similar succession plan.

The Islanders sale was approved this week by the NHL board of governors. The sale price was not announced.

Waddell, who was named president of Gale Force Sports and Entertainment on July 1, told the authority there was “really no news” when it came to a potential sale of the Hurricanes.

“Ideally if someone wanted to come in and buy 25, 30 percent (of the team), with some kind of succession plan of buying him out in the next four to six years, that would be the ideal world,” Waddell said. “I think that’s realistic if someone said, ‘I want to own this team over time.’

“As for somebody coming in and writing a check for $400 (million) or $500 million or $300 million or whatever the number is, it’s not going to happen.”

In an interview after the authority meeting, Waddell said Karmanos “loves the Hurricanes” and again said his opinion was that if Karmanos did decide to sell, the transition of ownership would be longer than a couple of years.

“He’s not looking to get out of here,” Waddell said. “He said he’d like to stay around for a long period of time – four to five to six years.

“First of all, a lot of things have to happen. There’s not a lot of buyers for franchises and everybody negotiates different terms.”

At the same time, Waddell acknowledged the financial figures in recent franchise sales have been eye-opening. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer bought the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion, and the Buffalo Bills are being sold for $1.4 billion to Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula.

The Islanders were valued at $195 million by Forbes magazine, yet fetched twice as much. Forbes has valued the Hurricanes at $187 million.

“You look at some of the prices paid for other sports franchises, so you never know,” Waddell said. “There might be that one (interested buyer) sitting out there. I don’t want to say there’s nobody out there, but I’m not dealing with the sale process.”

The Gale Force arena lease with the Centennial Authority runs through 2024. Karmanos, in his interview, praised the lease and the arena and scoffed at speculation the team might move if sold.

A more pressing matter for Waddell is the sale of tickets and corporate sponsorships for the Hurricanes, who open the regular season Oct. 10 against the New York Islanders at PNC Arena. Waddell said about 10 suites at PNC Arena had not been leased for the year but noted the suites could be rented for individual games and for blocks of Hurricanes and N.C. State basketball games.

“The one pleasant surprise I’ve had here is the Hurricanes name, the branding, has been excellent,” said Waddell, former general manager and president of the Atlanta Thrashers. “Another thing is selling tickets. When you miss the playoffs five straight years, and 16 teams out of 30 make the playoffs, it’s kind of tough. We’re having a hard time with ticket sales, sponsorship sales. Hopefully we’ll get a real bump from the team off the start and try to capitalize on the season start.”

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