NHL could take control of New Jersey Devils, says report

Bruce Bennett

For many, the opportunity to own and operate a professional sports franchise is a once in a lifetime dream. For the NHL, it has become a nightmare.

For a few days, the NHL was able to celebrate stable ownership throughout the league. That apparently is no longer the case as Mike Ozanian of Forbes is reporting that the league will take over organizational control of the New Jersey Devils prior to the start of the 2013-14 season.

Previous reports have indicated that team owner Jeff Vanderbeek missed the first payment on a restructured bank loan. In addition, the club possess $230 million of debt, owes the NHL approximately $25 million and is projected to have a $55 million payroll for next season.

In June, the New York Post reported that the club was looking to add minority shareholders in an attempt to raise at least $20 million. The NHL denied the accuracy of this report and expressed confidence in the long-term sustainability of the club in Newark.

Now, that sustainability has (reportedly) fallen directly into the league's hands.

According to Ozanian, the league will take over control of the club at the start of the year, which lines up with when payroll checks are scheduled to be paid. The NHL does not want the team to file for bankruptcy and is apparently looking for another owner to buy the club from Vanderbeek. Ozanian also reports that Andrew Barroway was on track to buy the club and the operating rights of Prudential Center before pulling his offer within the last two weeks after reviewing the club's books.

I'm not a financial expert, but that can't be a good sign.

This account coincides with a report from Howard Eskin of Fox 29 News that states that Philadelphia 76ers owner Joshua Harris has placed a bid on the Devils. Harris is a co-founder of Apollo Global Management, which is a firm that specializes in purchasing distressed securities involving corporate restructuring.

Certainly sounds like a service the Devils are in need of.

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