BUFFALO, N.Y. – Prospective Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula visited the team’s offices Tuesday for what the team described as “informal discussions.”
The Sabres confirmed the visit took place in a two-sentence news release that noted neither the team or Pegula, a Pennsylvania billionaire, would comment further on the nature of the visit.
Pegula emerged as a serious candidate to buy the team from current owner Tom Golisano in late November.
Minority owner Larry Quinn was not immediately available for comment. On Monday, he told The Associated Press the team had not been sold and a letter of intent to sell the team had not been signed.
Arriving for Buffalo’s home game against Philadelphia, Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said he did not take part in the discussions or meet with Pegula.
Buffalo’s WGRZ-TV first reported Pegula was at the Sabres’ home, HSBC Arena, earlier in the day.
Pegula has not returned numerous messages left with him at his homes in Pennsylvania and Florida. And Golisano has declined comment.
Though the Sabres haven’t been for sale or actively seeking a buyer, they have been open to entertaining offers from prospective buyers.
In an interview last week, Quinn didn’t rule out a potential sale while continuing to deny reports that Pegula had signed a letter of intent.
“We may very well sell it, but let’s take it one step at a time,” Quinn said. “We’re way a bunch of steps ahead here. We haven’t signed a contract to sell the team We haven’t signed a letter of intent to sell the team.”
Pegula is the founder and former president of the energy company East Resources Inc., a major player in Pennsylvania’s burgeoning natural gas industry that was sold to Royal Dutch Shell PLC for US$4.7 billion earlier this year. He has an estimated worth of $3 billion and was most recently ranked 110th on Forbes magazine’s list of the wealthiest Americans.
In September, Pegula and wife Kim made the largest private gift in Penn State history, donating $88 million to fund a new multipurpose arena and help upgrade the men’s hockey program. The Nittany Lions will make the move to Division I hockey in the 2012-13 season. Pegula, 59, is a Penn State graduate and has ties to western New York.
His wife is from nearby Rochester, and they’ve previously lived in Orchard Park and Olean, a 90-minute drive south of Buffalo.
Quinn called Pegula “a great guy” last week and noted that if he does purchase the Sabres “you’ll be very happy with him.”
Quinn also assured fans the Sabres wouldn’t be moving in the event of a sale by noting a new owner would be expected to agree to a non-relocation clause as Golisano did when he purchased the team out of bankruptcy in 2003.
“The Buffalo Sabres are going to be here forever,” Quinn said. “I think from a fans’ point of view, that’s all they need to worry about.”
The Sabres aren’t expected to be going anywhere as they are regarded as one of the NHL’s strongest small-market U.S.-based franchises.
The team has consistently sold out its cap of about 14,000 season tickets for the past four years. And Buffalo represents one of the United States’ strongest television hockey markets, consistently ranking in the top 10 during the Stanley Cup playoffs.