Vinik agrees to buy Lightning
An agreement has been reached to sell the Tampa Bay Lightning to Boston hedge fund manager Jeff Vinik, the NHL club announced Friday.
"Buying the Lightning and joining the Tampa Bay community is a dream come true," Vinik said in a statement released by the team. "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."
The transaction still needs official approval from the NHL's Board of Governors.
Vinik and the NHL have been hammering out the deal throughout the week at the league's head office in New York.
Current Lightning owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie will not keep any interest in the team or stay on to play any role. Koules had hoped to stay on in some capacity, but that will not be the case.
"I'm really proud, when we got here we were last in everything and we've put together a system where as of today, we're top 15 in prospects and both our AHL team and our NHL is currently in a playoff spot," Koules told ESPN.com Friday. "A lot of credit goes to GM Brian Lawton. We put in a lot of work here. The hockey side of this organization was in disarray when we took over 19 months ago."
Koules and Barrie bought the team for about $200 million in June 2008. The sale price to Vinik is not official but a source said it would be close to $170 million.
The Lightning are officially listed as 24th in the NHL in home attendance but a source told ESPN.com the club was 29th in the league in ticket revenue and the club was in financial difficulty because of it.
Vinik, 50, is the founder and chairman of Vinik Asset Management and a minority owner of the Boston Red Sox.
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.