BUFFALO, N.Y. – Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano agreed to sell the franchise to Pennsylvania businessman Terry Pegula on Tuesday.
The team announced the agreement, but details were not released. Golisano and managing partner Larry Quinn have scheduled a news conference for Thursday.
The Buffalo News reported the agreement, which is subject to league approval, includes US$175 million for the Sabres and an additional $14 million in liabilities.
Golisano’s purchase of the Sabres out of bankruptcy in the spring of 2003 was valued at $92 million, though the billionaire businessman paid far less after about $25 million in loans were eventually forgiven. Golisano was hailed at the time for saving the franchise from potentially folding or relocating. He’s since relocated his permanent home from nearby Rochester to southern Florida.
“Tom was great,” forward Thomas Vanek said at the team’s Tuesday practice. “He’s always been good with the guys, and great for the city.”
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 $4.7 billion last year.
With Pegula poised to take over, coach Lindy Ruff acknowledged Tuesday he didn’t accept the Sabres’ offer in the fall to extend his contract, which expires after this season, but he wants to stay.
“It’s a situation I’d rather not talk about,” said Ruff, a former Sabres player and the team’s winningest coach. “They were gracious in what they offered me.”
Ruff is the NHL’s only coach to win 500 games with one team.
After losing in the Eastern Conference finals in both 2006 and ’07, the Sabres are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. The team is in 10th place in the Eastern Conference and six points behind Atlanta for the eighth and final playoff spot.
“We’ve got ourselves back to where we’re playing better and into the hunt. If our mind is on (the ownership change), it’s definitely not good,” winger Jason Pominville said, though he acknowledged it’s tough to ignore.
“I think everybody has probably thought about it a little bit and is excited to see what’s going to happen,” Pominville said. “It hasn’t been brought up to us, but every time you hear about it you can’t help but to think about it … Who knows what (Pegula) has in mind.”
Pegula has an estimated worth of $3 billion and was most recently ranked 110th on Forbes magazine’s list of the wealthiest Americans.
In September, he 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 Rochester and they’ve previously lived in Orchard Park, a Buffalo suburb, and Olean, a 90-minute drive south.
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow contributed to this report.