TAMPA BAY - Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment LLC, which is owned by Jeff Vinik and a related family entity, has executed an agreement to purchase the Tampa Bay Lightning of the National Hockey League from its current owners, the club announced today. The sale includes the Lightning hockey team, the company which operates the St. Pete Times Forum, and two parcels of adjacent land. Vinik will be the Chairman and sole person controlling Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment. The ownership transfer of the Lightning is subject to approval by the National Hockey League Board of Governors.
"Buying the Lightning and joining the Tampa Bay community is a dream come true," Vinik said. "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. I hope to bring a high level of excitement and intensity back to Lightning hockey, with a goal of having the team consistently compete for the Stanley Cup. I have a passion for the game and will do my best to restore a winning culture at the St. Pete Times Forum that all of our fans and partners can be proud of."
Vinik is purchasing the team from OK Hockey, LLC, whose Chairman and Governor is Oren Koules. "The day is a bittersweet one for us, as I believe we have established a strong foundation on the ice and begun to point things in a positive direction for the Lightning," Koules said. "We look forward to seeing Jeff take the team from here and move it forward. I believe we are leaving him with some great pieces in place and hopefully he can build upon them to deliver a consistent winner in the future."
Vinik, 50, is the founder and chairman of Vinik Asset Management and a minority owner of the Boston Red Sox. Prior to founding Vinik Asset Management, he managed Fidelity's Magellan Fund, at that time the world's largest equities fund. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Duke University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering and Economics, Vinik went on to earn his Masters of Business Administration degree from the Harvard Business School.
The lifelong hockey fan currently resides in Boston with his wife Penny and their four children, Danny (19), Jared (17), Kyra (16) and Joshua (9). The Viniks are active charitably, both in the Boston community and worldwide, directing their efforts to serving basic human needs.
Founded in 1990 by Hockey Hall-of-Famer Phil Esposito, the Tampa Bay Lightning achieved the crowning moment in franchise history on June 7, 2004, when it won the Stanley Cup in just its 12th year of competition in the NHL. The Lightning averaged 17,820 fans per game that season and then averaged 20,509 fans per game after the NHL lockout in 2005-06. It ranked in the top five in the NHL in attendance for three consecutive seasons.
The Lightning has made the NHL playoffs five times in its history, winning two Southeast Division titles, the Prince of Wales Trophy as Eastern Conference Champions and the 2004 Stanley Cup. During the 1996 NHL playoffs, the team set an NHL single game attendance record, drawing 28,183 fans to a matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers at the Thunderdome in St. Petersburg. It moved to its permanent home, the St. Pete Times Forum (then called The Ice Palace) in Tampa, at the start of the 1996-97 season.
The Lightning are currently 24-21-11 in the 2009-10 regular season, good for second place in the Southeast Division and eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The team is led by star players Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. The Lightning's general manager is Brian Lawton and its head coach is Rick Tocchet.