New Co-General Partners Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel along with SSE president/COO Michael Yormark (Socrates Gomez)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel, announced Monday as co-general partners of the Panthers, said they are committed to setting a vision and direction that will result in accountability, communication and a winning culture throughout the organization.
Formerly limited partners with the Panthers, Viner and Siegel, longtime hockey fans who can usually be seen at BankAtlantic Center mingling with fans between periods, are also eager to build relationships throughout the South Florida community. Both have an extensive history in philanthropic causes.
“We’re going to be with the fans,” said Siegel, who played hockey at the University of Pennsylvania and continues to play in various leagues. “We’re going to be crying with them. We’re going to be laughing with them. We are the biggest Panthers fans.”
Viner, a limited partner for nearly seven years, added he and Siegel are “not here to make player changes; it’s not our job.” But both men agree they will hold everyone accountable throughout the organization.
“We’re going to talk about what kind of team we want to mold,” Viner said. “We want a team that competes hard every night. We don’t want guys who take a day off here and there. We want guys giving 100 percent every single night. That’s more the type of questions (for us as owners) rather than, ‘I think we ought to get rid of this center or that winger.’ Again, that’s not what we should do, but we should be able to help mold the team.”
Viner said better communication between hockey operations and management has already started and all sides of the business are in synch. “Hockey decisions coordinated with business decisions coordinated with ownership decisions,” he added.
“What we can do is set an overall direction; budgets, how much we can spend on players, even getting down to working with the GM on positional things…how much we spend on defense, how much we spend on goalies,” Siegel said. “In the world of the salary cap you can’t just do anything you want. Trades become more difficult, too. Teams just can’t take salary without getting rid of salary, so it’s a lot more complicated.”
When asked if they were happy about contracts signed in the past with some players, Siegel and Viner were philosophical.
“Are there some contracts we wish we could go back and renegotiate?” Siegel asked. “I think there’s probably a few.”
Viner reminded that contracts signed several years ago were during a “different mindset.”
“It was 2004, 2005, 2006…the economy was doing very well, the league was doing very well,” he said. “Salaries were beginning to escalate. I think part of the mindset was, ‘Lets see if we can lock in some of those costs longer term,’ because we didn’t know where the escalation was going to take us.”
Since the Panthers have played nearly at the cap the past several seasons, Viner said the Panthers might not have always invested wisely. “That’s why we’re interested in having better direction and better communication and better scouting and better drafting and better player development.”
“I don’t think the amount of money we’ve spent is the issue,” he said. “We just haven’t spent it as well as we could have or should have.”
After a short pause Siegel added; “Or as well as other teams.”
“But I think (GM) Randy (Sexton) has this philosophy as well, it’s not how much you spend but how you spend it. That will be critical going forward.”
Asked if they would support Sexton and coach Peter DeBoer, Siegel said; “That’s our goal. But in any sport the GM and coach are most on the line for succeeding.”
“With any business people are constantly being evaluated,” Viner said. “We want to hold people accountable and keep evaluating them. Do they bring a team that competes every night, which competes hard every night? Are we getting the most out of our guys? The definition of success is multi-faceted.”
Siegel, in his second year with the Panthers, serves as chairman of the Florida Panthers Foundation and a private foundation he formed with his wife Jill over a decade ago. He has built a reputation as a sharp business leader. Most recently, Siegel was CEO of the Boca Raton-based eNeighborhoods, one of the fastest growing technology companies for the real estate industry. From 2005-07, Siegel was named to the Inman100 list of the 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders.
Viner is general partner of AVM, L.P., a fixed income broker/dealer. Along with his wife Jill, Viner established the Compassionate Care Program at Ruth Rales Jewish Family Services in Palm Beach County and created Camp BreakAway, where over 110 children are sent to camp each summer in Pennsylvania. The Viners have also established financial aid scholarships in perpetuity at the University of Pennsylvania and have endowed financial aid scholarships in athletics at Boston University. Jill is also Senior Vice President of the Executive Board at the Barton G. Kids Hear Now Foundation and a National Board Member of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation.