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Islanders Get New Minority Owners to Take Control in Two Years

New York Islanders Fans
New York Islanders fans celebrate a goal in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 7, 2013 in Uniondale, New York. Photographer: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Former Washington Capitals co-owner Jon Ledecky and London-based investor Scott Malkin reached an agreement to buy a minority interest in the New York Islanders and will replace Charles Wang as majority owner in two years.

The deal requires National Hockey League approval, the Islanders said yesterday in a news release. Terms weren’t disclosed.

Wang this year decided to entertain offers for the Islanders, who haven’t won an NHL playoff series since he bought the team in 2000. The Islanders rank 26th among the NHL’s 30 teams with a value of $195 million, according to Forbes. The team in 2015 will move into Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the $1 billion home of the National Basketball Association’s Nets.

“I’m thrilled that Jon and Scott have agreed to join me as we start the Islanders’ final year at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum,” Wang said in a statement. “I look forward to a long and successful partnership.”

Ledecky, who formed U.S. Office Products in 1994, was a co-owner of Lincoln Holdings LLC, the company that owned the Capitals and a stake in the National Basketball Association’s Washington Wizards. He sold his interest in 2001. Ledecky in 2005 was part of a group that unsuccessfully tried to buy Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals.

Malkin is the founder and chairman of Value Retail Plc in London and is chairman of S.D. Malkin Properties Inc., which develops retail, residential and hotel projects in the U.S.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to become partners in the New York Islanders with Charles, and to pursue our shared dream of winning a fifth Stanley Cup for the greatest fans in the NHL,” Ledecky said.

Ownership Transfer

Wang will continue as majority shareholder and governor of the Islanders until the Ledecky/Malkin group transitions to majority owner. The team said there will be no further comment until the NHL completes its franchise ownership transfer process.

Thomas Wassel, a partner with the Long Island-based law firm of Cullen and Dykman that specializes in commercial litigation and mergers and acquisitions, said it is not unusual for a transition period to exist in the sale of a private business.

“It’s fairly common to keep the old team in place for a period until the new owners sort out the operation,” Wassel said in an e-mail. “Throwing out the old team and starting fresh, especially considering the change in location about to take place, may be less prudent.”

A software entrepreneur from China, Wang bought a share of the Islanders in 2000 and assumed principal ownership in 2004. He signed the 25-year lease with the Barclays Center after trying to secure a new arena for the Islanders on the site of the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, the team’s home since 1972.

Investors’ Lawsuit

Last week, Wang was sued by a group called NY Ice LLC led by attorney Andrew Barroway over claims he reneged on a deal to sell them the Islanders. The investors said in the lawsuit that they want a New York state judge to order Wang to sell them the team or pay a $10 million breakup fee.

Wang agreed in March to sell the team to NY Ice LLC for $420 million, according to the complaint filed Aug. 12 in Manhattan, and then demanded $548 million four months later in a meeting with Barroway. Wang’s request came after the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers were sold to former Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, according to the suit. Wang on Aug. 1 told Barroway that he had decided to sell the Islanders to a different, unidentified investment group, according to the complaint. The Islanders have said there is “no merit” to the claims in the lawsuit.

The Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cup titles from 1980-83, led by future Hall of Famers Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith and Bryan Trottier. The team has made the playoffs twice in the past eight seasons without advancing past the conference quarterfinals.

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