With news breaking last night that by the start of the season the NHL could become the owners of the New Jersey Devils, the public is already starting to speculate. James Vanderbeek is currently the sole owner of the Devils. Unlike almost every other owner in all of sports, he never owned a business before a hockey owner. He was a Wall Street guy. He ran many different divisions over at Lehman Brothers before retiring to run the Devils. It is one thing to run somebody’s business, but it is a whole different animal to try and run your own. The decisions become all on you, and certain people don’t know how to react to it.
The selling of the Devils is the best case scenario for everyone, especially whoever buys them. What people are forgetting to realize is that when you buy the Devils, you are also buying the Prudential Center. This is considered one of the best arenas in the world today. As a hockey fan, it is hard to look at the facts of outside revenue, but that is where owners can really make big money. It is said that the reason why Vanderbeek isn’t making good money off of incoming shows is he is unwilling to front the money to pay for certain expenses, which can turn off some acts. Still, they had The Who, the Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift, and Justin Bieber play in the arena. No matter what you think about any of those acts, you know they are producing dollar signs.
The league does not want to own any of its teams; sometimes it just has to. It wants more than anything for this team to find an owner sooner rather than later. It just found someone to buy the Phoenix Coyotes, which took much longer than they thought. The Devils have more of a pedigree than the Yotes do, and based on that it should be a much quicker process.
This arena/team deal is something that some billionaire must be salivating over. There are reports saying that billionaire could be Joshua Harris. He is said to love the idea of owning the arena on top of the team. He also is said to want to own a team in the New York/New Jersey area which is where he is from. His group will sneeze at the $200 million it will cost to own the Devils and the Prudential Center. This is the kind of investment that Harris has been looking for to buy into this market.
The Devils as a franchise aren’t bad to own either, especially now. They are currently worth $205 million, which puts them as the 19th highest NHL franchise. Even with the reported $230 million worth of debt they have, only $15 million of that needs to be paid annually. It sounds like a lot, but it isn’t when you’re worth $2.1 billion. They have one of the greatest hockey minds in Lou Lamoriello controlling day to day operations. The Stadium Series begins this season which will have their first outdoor game at Yankee Stadium. They are currently playing in an arena that hosts stars such as Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Rick Nash, Evgeni Malkin, John Tavares and many more within the division. They are playing in quite possibly the final season of the greatest statistically in the history of the sport in Martin Brodeur.
This is a deal that is going to get done, and the Devils will not be moved. The Prudential Center will be the home of Jersey’s team for as long as the arena is up. Harris has said that he won’t move the team. Nobody will move the team when such a money making arena is tied to it.