Aaron Ward, a former Hurricanes defenseman and current analyst at TSN-Canada, confirmed in a tweet that a possible new owner has “signed a letter of intent to purchase and that it’s been in the works for a while BUT it’s not closed.”
In a statement, Hurricanes spokesman Mike Sundheim said Karmanos is deciding whether to accept an offer for the franchise or remain the owner, but he declined to say who made the offer.
According to Bloomberg, the offer could have come from former Texas Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg, with a potential offer to buy the team at roughly $500 million – more than twice the Hurricanes’ last valuation by economists at Forbes.
Karmanos bought the Hartford Whalers franchise in 1994 and moved it to North Carolina three years later, changing everything from its name to team colors.
Reports about possible relocation have plagued the Hurricanes even as team officials and even commissioner Gary Bettman have been steadfast in their denial.
Bettman said at the All-Star Game in January that “the club is not moving” and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly echoed that sentiment by saying the league is committed to Raleigh in the same manner it has stuck with Phoenix during years of struggles for the Coyotes.
Karmanos in 2015 said, “We’d have to be idiots to move from here,” largely because of the team’s PNC Arena lease, which extends through 2024 and is considered one of the most team-friendly in the league.
Greenberg is the Rangers’ former managing partner who spent seven months as their CEO before leaving in 2011. He also owns several minor league baseball teams, including one in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Greenberg did not return a phone call and a text message seeking comment. Seven of the team’s 12 publicly identified minority investors contacted by The Associated Press either declined to comment or did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.
In its most recent franchise valuations, Forbes magazine ranked the Hurricanes last in the NHL at $230 million. In contrast, Bill Foley paid a $500 million expansion fee to the league to bring the Golden Knights to Las Vegas.
For Karmanos or any new owner, the Hurricanes desperately need to galvanize the dormant fan base for support.
The team ranked last in the NHL in attendance for the second year in a row in 2016-17, drawing an average of just 11,776 fans to their 18,680-seat home arena and filling it to just 63 percent capacity – their lowest per-game average since they moved into the building for the 1999-2000 season. They’re also in the basement when it comes to total attendance over a full home season of 41 games.
The best way to improve those numbers, of course, is with a winning team – and it has been a while since Carolina had one.
The Hurricanes hoisted the 2006 Stanley Cup, but they’ve struggled ever since, only making the postseason once (2009) in the 10 season since. They have the longest playoff drought in the NHL at eight years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.