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Source tells AP that the NHL has approved sale of Sabres to Terry Pegula

BUFFALO, N.Y. - The NHL board of governors approved the sale of the Buffalo Sabres to Terry Pegula on Friday, clearing the way for the Pennsylvania billionaire to take control of the franchise next week.

A person familiar with the vote confirmed to The Associated Press that the board had approved the deal. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the NHL has not announced the results.

All that's left is for Pegula to close the US$189 million deal with Tom Golisano. That's expected to happen by as early as Tuesday, the person said.

Golisano agreed to sell the franchise to Pegula earlier this month, ending about three months of negotiations.

The vote was conducted by fax over the past couple of days since the governors aren't scheduled to meet again until June. The sale already had the backing of the NHL's executive committee, and Commissioner Gary Bettman expressed confidence Thursday that it would be approved.

NHL spokesman Frank Brown said the league had nothing to announce.

Fans have been highly anticipating the sale, with one local company even designing T-shirts in the Sabres' blue-and-gold colours, but with the name "Pegula" written across the front in place of the team's logo.

Pegula has declined comment through much of the sale process, and is expected to hold a news conference in Buffalo shortly after the sale is completed.

Pegula will take over in time to oversee the Sabres' plans leading up to the NHL trading deadline on Feb. 28, but he already has played a role. In announcing the sale, Golisano said he and Pegula agreed on a short list of players who wouldn't be traded.

After a slow start to the season, the Sabres have climbed back into the playoff picture by going 13-5-2 in their past 20 games. Heading into Friday night's matchup with the St. Louis Blues, Buffalo was ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, two points behind Carolina for the final playoff spot.

Pegula has ties to western New York and committed to keeping the franchise in Buffalo as part of the deal. His wife, Kim, is from Rochester, and they previously lived in Orchard Park, a Buffalo suburb, and Olean, a 90-minute drive south of the city.

He 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.

Pegula has been described as a fan of the team and also has a deep interest in hockey. In September, the Pegulas 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 59-year-old Pegula is a Penn State graduate and has an estimated worth of $3 billion. He was most recently ranked 110th on Forbes magazine's list of wealthiest Americans.

Golisano was initially hailed for preventing the franchise from folding or relocating when he purchased it out of bankruptcy in 2003. But the former New York gubernatorial candidate has been criticized for losing interest in the Sabres ever since he relocated his home from Rochester to Florida two years ago.


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