Boston financier agrees to buy Lightning
Boston financier Jeff Vinik has agreed to buy the Tampa Bay
Lightning, taking on the challenge of turning around a franchise
that has struggled since winning the Stanley Cup in 2004.
Vinik is purchasing Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment from
a group led by Oren Koules and Len Barrie, the team said in a
statement Friday. The deal is contingent on approval from the
league’s Board of Governors, which is expected in three to four
“I’ve been an avid hockey fan my whole life and I pledge to
our fans that I will work my hardest to build the Lightning into a
world class organization both on and off the ice,” said Vinik, who
will have sole control of the team.
Vinik agreed to buy the team, the company that operates the
St. Pete Times Forum, and 5.5 acres of land adjacent to the
downtown arena. Financial terms were not disclosed, however it’s
believed to be substantially less than the $206 million OK Hockey
paid in June 2008.
Prior to being purchased by Koules and Barrie, the Lightning
had been owned since 1999 by Palace Sports & Entertainment, a
group led by the late Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson, who
helped transform Tampa Bay from a last-place team into the 2004
Stanley Cup champion.
“The day is a bittersweet one for us, as I believe we have
established a strong foundation on the ice and begun to point
things in a positive direction for the Lightning,” said Koules,
chairman of OK Hockey. “We look forward to seeing Jeff take the
team from here and move it forward.”
The 50-year-old Vinik, a minority owner of the Red Sox,
managed Fidelity’s Magellan Fund before founding Vinik Asset
The Lightning announced the deal in a three paragraph
statement. Vinik was not available for comment, and is expected to
be formally introduced as owner and officially take control of the
team when the sale closes in a few weeks.
Koules is a Hollywood producer and Barrie, a one-time NHL
player who’s now a real estate developer in Canada. One of their
first moves as co-owners was to lure Barry Melrose out of
retirement to coach the Lightning, a move that lasted 16 games.
Tampa Bay, led by coach Rick Tocchet and stars Vincent
Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, was in the eighth and final
playoff spot in the Eastern Conference heading into Friday’s NHL
games. Brian Lawton is the general manager.
The Lightning host the Calgary Flames on Saturday night.