Former Nymex Chairman Viola Purchases Hockey’s Florida Panthers

Vincent Viola, former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange and founder of Virtu Financial Inc., bought the Florida Panthers, the National Hockey League team with the fewest wins last season.

The sale to Viola and Douglas Cifu was approved by the NHL’s board of governors, the league said today in an e-mailed release. Terms of the sale weren’t announced. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel said the deal was for $250 million.

Viola was a minority owner in the National Basketball Association’s New Jersey Nets before the franchise moved to Brooklyn last year. Now principal owner of the Panthers, he will become the NHL team’s chairman and governor.

A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, Viola began his financial career on the floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange and became chairman from 2001 to 2004. He is the chairman of Virtu Financial, an electronic trading firm.

Viola’s agreement includes operation of the Panthers’ BB&T Center, located in Sunrise, Florida, about 12 miles (20 kilometer) west of Fort Lauderdale, according to the Sun-Sentinel. The team is worth $170 million, 24th in the 30-team league, Forbes magazine said last October in its annual franchise valuation.

The Panthers joined the NHL for the 1993-94 season. The team lost to the Colorado Avalanche in the 1996 Stanley Cup Final and hasn’t won a playoff series since, reaching the postseason once in the past 12 years. Florida had 15 wins in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

The team also has struggled at the box office, finishing in the bottom third of league attendance each of the past seven years, according to ESPN.

Cifu, a graduate of Columbia University, is president of Virtu Financial. He and Viola purchased the Panthers from a group led by Cliff Viner, which assumed control of the team in 2009.

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