RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes will officially have a new majority owner Thursday, according to reports.
Both the Raleigh News & Observer and WRAL reported early Thursday that sources said the deal to transfer more than half of the team’s ownership from Peter Karmanos Jr. to Texas businessman Tom Dundon would be completed by the end of the day and that a press conference with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announcing the sale is expected tomorrow.
Dundon has quietly pursued the team leading up to December’s revelation that he had an agreement in place to buy a majority stake from Karmanos with the option to purchase the remainder of the team in three years for a total of more than $500 million. The team will remain in Raleigh.
“I think he’s been in this area a lot, likes the market, likes the Triangle, the region,” Don Waddell, president of the team’s parent company Gale Force Sports & Entertainment, said of Dundon back in later November when word of the Texas billionaire’s advanced interest in the team went public. “He has spent time here and certainly has liked his visits here and believes in what we have going on here.”
Karmanos, two months shy of his 75th birthday, bought the Hartford Whalers in 1994 and relocated the team to North Carolina in 1997, rebranding them as the Carolina Hurricanes.
A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Karmanos joined the team on the ice when they won the Stanley Cup nine years later in 2006. The team, however, has reached the playoffs just once since its championship season and has been near the bottom of the league in player payroll and close to the CBA-mandated salary cap floor. Karmanos will remain a minority owner of the team.
Dundon’s acquisition of the team should put to rest rumors — often fueled by speculation from the French Canadian media — that the Hurricanes were a prime candidate to be relocated, specifically to Quebec.
The team’s eight-year playoff drought has taken it from Sunbelt success story to the bottom of NHL attendance. Carolina currently ranks 30th out of 31 teams at the gate with 12,494 fans per game. It ranked last the previous two seasons after climbing as high as 15th (17,386) in 2006-07 coming off of its championship season.
The Hurricanes are tied with the Flyers in the Eastern Conference standings, one point behind the two-time defending champion Penguins for the final playoff spot. Both Carolina and Philadelphia have two games in hand on Pittsburgh.
If speculation is to be believed, Dundon plans to revamp the entire Hurricanes experience, evaluating the organization from top to bottom.
Dundon, however, has not spoken publicly about the Hurricanes, refusing to answer questions when interviewed by media outlets about his other ventures. Even his age —reported as 44 by WRAL, 47 by the News & Observer, and 46 based on a September 2015 Dallas Morning News story that said he had turned 44 that month — is up for debate.
Answers from the former Santander Consumer USA founder and current Topgolf investor should start flowing in tomorrow. That’s when the dream of new, stable ownership for the Hurricanes should become a reality.