The Florida Panthers finished this season with the 2nd lowest points total in the NHL and drew the 2nd lowest average attendance of 14,200 fans per home game. The team is losing $25 million annually. All of this is the exact opposite situation of the team’s owner – Vincent Viola of HFT firm Virtu Financial infamy. As Bloomberg reports, Viola, whose high-frequency trading firm plans to raise millions in an initial public offering next month, is seeking tax dollars to help cover the bills for the hockey team he bought six months ago. Viola asked lawmakers in South Florida’s Broward County to use $64 million in taxpayer funds for arena bond payments owed by the team. In addition to taking over bond payments, which would be made over the next 14 years, the team wants concessions that would cost county taxpayersanother $14 million in the same period.
As Bloomberg reports, officials in Broward, which encompasses Fort Lauderdale on the Atlantic Coast, disagree on how to proceed, with some saying that if they don’t pick up the tab, the team may move and leave taxpayers with $225 million in debt and an empty arena.
“If we lose the Panthers and the arena operators, we would devalue our asset,” said Broward Mayor Barbara Sharief, referring to the $220 million BB&T Center arena near Fort Lauderdale. “The building could stay vacant for six months out of the year. That’s a significant loss.”
The value of the 20,000-seat arena would drop 70 percent if the Panthers fold or relocate, Sharief said. The arena would probably lose its concert promoter, Live Nation Entertainment Inc., and forfeit a $2 million annual state subsidy.
iola has been owner since September…
The team, in its current location since the 1998-99 season, was sold to Viola and Douglas Cifu, Virtu’s CEO, in September for $250 million, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Team CEO Rory Babich declined to comment.
The team is losing $25 million annually, according to a county review.
But everyone involves expects the taxpayer handout…
With more tax money, the Panthers could recruit better players, said Babich, the team CEO. The county could share the profits, he said.
In addition to taking over bond payments, which would be made over the next 14 years, the team wants concessions that would cost county taxpayers another $14 million in the same period.
Babich wouldn’t say whether the team would move if it doesn’t get a bigger subsidy. He said the team expects to reach a “satisfactory’’ resolution with Broward.
So the big question is – why does Viola need US taxpayer help when his firm (and his pocketbook) is exploding with holy grail cash? Or is that, in a nutshell, how one gets rich in this new normal… take the profits and let government take the downside.