- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
Former Tennessee governor Bill Haslam will become the new owner of the NHL’s Nashville Predators “over a period of years,” an NHL source told ESPN on Friday.
Sportico reported on Thursday that Haslam, whose brother Jimmy owns the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, was nearing a deal to purchase the Predators. The franchise’s current ownership group is led by Herbert Fritch but includes no fewer than 17 others.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the sale was “discussed generally but not specifically” at Thursday’s Board of Governors meeting in New York. The league would have final say in any potential sale.
The Predators are expected to offer more details as early as Friday afternoon.
According to an NHL source, Haslam is not taking over the team anytime soon. Instead, he will gradually purchase shares from Fritch over the next three years to become the group’s lead owner. There are no current plans for minority owners to sell shares to Haslam.
Talks between Haslam and Fritch began several months ago. Haslam, a Republican, served as governor of Tennessee from 2011 to 2019.
According to Forbes, Haslam is worth $2.3 billion while the Predators are valued at $600 million. One alluring aspect of the franchise: The team operates Bridgestone Arena and shares in the revenues generated by other events. Sportico reports that Bridgestone was the sixth-highest grossing arena in the U.S. in 2019.
The Predators’ fan base has expanded in the last decade as the team found greater success on the ice. Nashville played to 95.4% capacity at home this season, second only to the Vegas Golden Knights. Their “Smashville” marketing hook has created a generation of new fans, while the team has attempted to position itself as a regional southern franchise, marketing to places like Alabama to cultivate new supporters.
Nashville entered the League in 1998 under founding owner Craig Leipold. He sold the team to a consortium of different owners in 2007.
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