RALEIGH — Chuck Greenberg once bought Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers with that team’s icon, Nolan Ryan. It looks like his latest venture might see him work alongside Hockey Hall of Famer Ron Francis as the new owner of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Greenberg, along with other investors, has reportedly reached an agreement with Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. to buy the team for $500 million, according to Bloomberg.com. The deal would keep the team in North Carolina. The team released a statement Thursday afternoon regarding the reports.
“Since an offer has been made to purchase the team, Mr. Karmanos intends to evaluate that offer and also will continue to evaluate his other options, including retaining his ownership of the team,” the team said.
Greenberg was led the group that bought the Rangers in 2010 and served as the team’s CEO until March 2011 when he announced he would step down and sell his stake in the team. He assisted Mario Lemieux with the purchase of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1999, and he is owner of two minor league baseball teams — the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Pelicans and Frisco (Texas) RoughRiders.Karmanos bought the Hartford Whalers in 1994 for $47.5 million and moved the team to North Carolina in 1997, first in Greensboro while the arena was being built in Raleigh, then to the capital city.
The Hurricanes reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2002, losing in five games to the Detroit Red Wings, but returned four years later and won it all. They have since reached the playoffs just once — losing in the Eastern Conference Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 — and attendance has dropped while rumors of the team being a candidate for relocation grew.
The struggles led to general manager Jim Rutherford, the only GM the franchise had known in North Carolina, retiring and Francis being put in charge. Rutherford quickly re-emerged in Pittsburgh and has won the Stanley Cup the past two seasons, while Francis has slowly rebuilt the team Rutherford was unable to rejuvenate by stockpiling draft picks and salary cap space.
Word of the deal comes a day after the Hurricanes locked up one of those key assets, re-signing Jaccob Slavin to a seven-year, $37.1 million extension that kicks in for the 2018-19 season and will keep him in Raleigh for at least the next eight seasons.
Greenberg certainly signed off on that deal if he was this close to acquiring the team, and a source with knowledge of his management style called him competitive and someone who would want to win. Greenberg is also reportedly committed to the fan experience, making it a priority in his previous ventures. He turned around struggling franchises in both Myrtle Beach and Frisco, boosting attendance in growing markets. The Hurricanes provide a similar challenge: a team in a booming area that has untapped potential. Combined with Francis’ commitment to building the team from the ground up, Carolina could be on its way to returning to its glory days.