Carolina Hurricanes

Dallas businessman signs purchase agreement to buy controlling interest in Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes will soon have a new majority owner.

Tom Dundon, a Dallas businessman, has signed a purchase agreement to buy a controlling interest in the team from Peter Karmanos Jr., NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday. Bettman said the agreement was signed Wednesday night.

Bettman said the transaction was not completed but could be in the next few weeks. Bettman also said the team would remain in Raleigh.

Karmanos, who has owned the franchise since 1994 and moved it to North Carolina in 1997, will retain an equity stake in the team.

Dundon, 45, and Karmanos appeared Thursday before the NHL board of governors executive committee at Manalapan, Fla., to discuss the pending sale. A formal vote of the board is required for a change in ownership after the vetting process is completed.

“I am thrilled to continue to build upon what Peter Karmanos started in Raleigh,” Dundon said Thursday in a statement. “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.”

“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.”

The Canes' Rod Brind'Amour hoists the Stanley Cup for all to see after the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals in 2006. Chris Seward

At Thursday’s quarterly meeting of the Centennial Authority, the public board that administers PNC Arena, the authority went into closed session to hear an update on the sale from chairman Thomas McCormick, who had previously spoken to Dundon.

“If he indeed acquires the team, it will be of great benefit to the arena and the whole region,” McCormick said afterward.

Whether the authority would have to approve the transfer of the arena lease to Dundon would depend on how the sale is structured. If Dundon becomes a part-owner of Gale Force Holdings, the Hurricanes’ current parent company that also manages the arena, there would potentially be no alterations to the lease. That would change if Dundon created a new entity to operate the team and arena.

Karmanos joined his former business partner, the late Thomas Thewes, in buying the Hartford Whalers in 1994 – former general manager Jim Rutherford also had a share of the team – and relocated the franchise to Raleigh in 1997. Renamed the Carolina Hurricanes, the team moved into PNC Arena in 1999, reached the Stanley Cup final in 2002 and won the Stanley Cup in 2006.

Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos. Chris Seward

In recent years, Karmanos first looked to add investors in the Canes, then to sell a controlling interest in the team. A group headed by sports attorney Chuck Greenberg put together a term sheet that had Karmanos’ approval, but Greenberg had trouble lining up enough investors to meet Karmanos’ selling price – between $450 million and $500 million, Karmanos said.

Hurricanes president Don Waddell said Dundon attended a preseason exhibition game and was given a tour of PNC Arena and the community.

Dundon, a billionaire, was CEO and president of Santander Consumer USA, one of the nation’s largest subprime auto lenders, until July 2015. It was reported by Auto Finance News this month that Santander Consumer, which Dundon founded in 1995, agreed to pay Dundon more than $700 million in an exit deal.

Dundon is managing partner at Dundon Capital Partners LLC and CEO and president of Dundon Capital Acquisition Corp. in Dallas. He is the majority owner of Employer Direct Healthcare and co-chairman of Topgolf entertainment centers.

Dundon and his wife, Veruschka, have five children.

Dundon was one of the developers in the creation of Trinity Forest Golf Club in southeast Dallas. The course was designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, who oversaw the many changes to Pinehurst No. 2 before the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open.

The PGA Tour selected Trinity Forest to host the AT&T Byron Nelson, scheduled in May, as the tour shifted the tournament from TPC Las Colinas. Dundon is also a primary investor in the Top Golf national golf-entertainment chain; the closest location is in Charlotte.

The Hurricanes are on the West Coast, playing the second game in a six-game road trip, and face the San Jose Sharks on Thursday. Their next home game is Dec. 16 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Chip Alexander: 919-829-8945, @ice_chip

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