NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Apollo Global Management LLC co-founder Joshua Harris and Blackstone Group (BX - Get Report) senior managing director David Blitzer announced Thursday, Aug. 15, that they acquired the National Hockey League's New Jersey Devils franchise from cash strapped owener Jeff Vanderbeek.
The new owners did not disclose the purchase price, which has been reported to be $320 million, including debt. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman downplayed those reports during a Thursday press conference, pegging them inaccurate. Bettman declined to go into further details.
The deal includes the Devils Prudential Center arena. The NHL board of governors approved the sale late Wednesday. Vanderbeek, a former Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. executive, ran into financial trouble with the Devils despite the team's increasing attendance record, which had risen from an average of 14,755 per game in the 2010 -- 2011 season to about an average 17,114 per game during the most recent 2012 -- 2013 season, according to data from ESPN.com.
Earlier this year, Vanderbeek bought out the team's minority partners, Brick City LLC, and refinanced the Devil's $200 million debt. At the time, the move seemed to have settled the Devils' financial troubles.However, that wasn't the case. Vanderbeek reportedly missed an interest payment on a $80 million loan, leading to speculation that the Devils were headed for bankruptcy and being taken over by the NHL -- a fate similar to the league's Phoenix Coyotes. "We have an incredible opportunity to revitalize this organization," Harris said during Thursday's press conference. Harris also owns the National Basketball Association's Philadelphia 76ers franchise. Forbes has the Devils valued at $205 million as of November 2012, placing them 19th out of the league's 30 teams. As a result of the deal, current 76ers CEO and former Madison Square Garden president Scott O'Neil will take on the dual role of becoming the Devils new chief executive. Current Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello will remain in his role running the day to day hockey operations, while O'Neil will run the business operations, including sponsor and television contracts. Harris acquired the 76ers in 2011 for $280 million.
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