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Jeff Vanderbeek takes total ownership of New Jersey Devils; now, about that debt

Greg Wyshynski
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The New Jersey Devils released some intriguing news on Thursday about their at times perilous financial picture: The team “completed a refinancing of its credit facilities”, and owner Jeff Vanderbeek has purchased total control of the team from his estranged co-owners, Brick City Hockey.

Said Vanderbeek in a statement:

“Today’s announcement is good news for Devils fans though I fully recognize fans' frustration with the work stoppage. Our future is now secure and we can be confident of continued on-ice success. Our team has gone to the Stanley Cup Final 5 times in the last 17 years and following the most recent run to the Stanley Cup Final last year, we are excited about our future -- for Jersey's team and Prudential Center, home to the 2013 NHL Draft.

“I am grateful to Mike Gilfillan and Brick City Hockey for our former partnership. Together we shared a passion that led to the building of the Prudential Center – truly a shining jewel of a facility and in my view one of the best arenas in the entire world. The Rock is a great legacy for which we will always be proud.”

Vanderbeek had been nearing a deal to settle the team’s debt last summer, with news that the Devils needed about $18 million to fulfill obligations to their lenders. (The Devils’ Stanley Cup Final run generated significant revenue to help pay down the overall debt facing the franchise.)

Does this put the Devils on strong financial footing?

From Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record:

With the team’s long run to the Stanley Cup Finals last June. the success of Prudential Center in booking big act concerts such as The Who and The Rolling Stones, in combination with record-low interest rates, the Devils have already been able to pay down a significant portion of their debt.

While working through the refinancing and ownership transfer, the team received an advance of league distributions in January, 2012. That was money the team would have normally received at the end of the season, but several teams apply for and receive the advance.

… Vanderbeek is now the sole owner of the team,  but a source said he might seek to bring in other partners at a later date.

More, from the NY Times:

Vanderbeek had been negotiating simultaneously with his lenders, who were owed about $77 million in overdue debt, and the team’s two other owners, Michael Gilfillan who, like Vanderbeek, owned 47 percent of the team, and Peter Simon, who owned the remaining 6 percent.

With the backing of Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the N.H.L., Vanderbeek kept the banks at bay and worked out a deal to refinance part of the team’s debt, which overall is about $178 million.

And hey: Maybe that shiny new Collective Bargaining Agreement will entice someone to invest in the Devils. Maybe ...

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