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NHL’s Devils set to announce sale to new owner

NHL’s Devils set to announce sale to new owner

Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris has agreed to purchase a controlling interest in the New Jersey Devils franchise. Photo: Reuters

NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) – The New Jersey Devils hockey team was expected to announce on Thursday that Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris has agreed to purchase a controlling interest in the franchise and its arena, pending league approval, media reports said on Wednesday.

The Devils announced late Wednesday that the team would hold a major news conference at 11 a.m. eastern time on Thursday. Sources told Reuters that there have been negotiations to sell the team in recent weeks.

The Record newspaper of New Jersey reported in a story on its website that Harris has agreed to buy a majority stake in the team and Prudential Center for $320 million, following a vote from the National Hockey League’s Board of Governors.

ESPN also reported that the team will announce the sale on Thursday.

A spokesman for the Devils could be reached for comment on Wednesday night. A spokesman for the 76ers said he could not comment on the matter.

Harris, a billionaire managing director at Apollo Global management and David Blitzer, a senior managing director at Blackstone, led a group that acquired the 76ers in 2011 for about $280 million.

The Devils have played out of the Newark-based Prudential Center since 2007, when they relocated from East Rutherford, N.J.

The arena, championed by former Newark mayor Sharpe James, has struggled to turn a profit due at least in part to a large number of competing sports and entertainment venues in the New York area.

Forbes magazine reported that the Devils have accumulated $230 million in debt and that team owner Jeff Vanderbeek missed the first payment on a recently restructured bank loan.

Billboard magazine rated the arena as the eighth highest grossing worldwide for the first half of 2013, however the venue, known as ‘The Rock’ has struggled to generate enough revenue since the departure of the Nets to Brooklyn and amid heavy competition for concerts at New York area venues.

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