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Former Devils owner Katz dies in plane crash

Sunday, 06.01.2014 / 5:41 PM / News

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Former Devils owner Katz dies in plane crash
Lewis Katz, a former co-owner of the New Jersey Devils, died in a plane crash at Hanscom Field, approximately 20 miles northwest of Boston. He was 72.

Lewis Katz, a former co-owner of the New Jersey Devils, died in a plane crash at Hanscom Field, approximately 20 miles northwest of Boston. He was 72.

Katz was among seven fatalities when a Gulfstream corporate jet, owned by Katz, ran off the end of a runway, plunged down an embankment and erupted in flames during a takeoff attempt Saturday night at approximately 9:40 p.m., according to the Associated Press. There were no survivors.

"The National Hockey League family is stunned and deeply saddened by the loss of former New Jersey Devils owner Lewis Katz," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "While he was a person of tremendous influence in a variety of businesses, including sports, Lewis was, pure and simple, a great guy who highly prioritized his family and his friends. We send heartfelt condolences to them, to the many organizations that benefited from his philanthropy and to all who were affected by this tragic accident."

Katz was part of Puck Holdings group which purchased the Devils in 2000 and owned the team until 2004. He was also the co-owner of the New Jersey Nets and, in 2012, became a minority investor in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"I was shocked this morning to receive the news regarding the loss of one of our former owners, Lewis Katz, along with six others last night," Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said in a statement. "I worked for Mr. Lewis Katz with both the Devils and New Jersey Nets, and experienced first-hand the influence he had on both organizations. Lewis was extremely active in the business community, a philanthropist, and a family man. On behalf of the entire Devils’ organization, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Katz family, as well as the loved ones of the other six casualties."

Katz was returning to New Jersey from a gathering at the home of Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, according to the AP. Also killed was Anne Leeds, a 74-year-old retired preschool teacher and a next-door neighbor of Katz's who was invited on the trip. The identities of the other victims weren't immediately released.

"We are terribly saddened to learn about the untimely passing of such a passionate leader, philanthropist and humanitarian, Lewis Katz," Devils, Prudential Center and Philadelphia 76ers CEO Scott O'Neil said in a statement. "He meant a great deal to all of us as a friend and former owner of the New Jersey Devils. Lewis inspired us with his ongoing efforts to give back and improve his community, about which he cared so deeply.

"On behalf of the Philadelphia 76ers, Devils and Prudential Center, we send our sincere condolences to the entire Katz family during this difficult time."

Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider, who was close friends with Katz, also issued a statement.

"He was like my brother," Snider said. "My heart breaks for his son, Drew, and his daughter, Melissa, and his grandchildren. Lewis was the epitome of the word 'mensch.' He was a wonderful human being."

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