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Vinik agrees to purchase Lightning

The Sports Network

2/5/2010 2:43:23 PM

Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - The Tampa Bay Lightning announced on Friday that a group headed by Boston businessman Jeff Vinik has agreed to purchase the hockey club as well as additional holdings, pending approval by the National Hockey League.

Vinik will act as chairman and sole operator of Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment, LLC. The local entity will maintain control of the Lightning franchise, the company which operates the St. Pete Times Forum, as well as two parcels of land adjacent to the property.

"Buying the Lightning and joining the Tampa Bay community is a dream come true," said Vinik in a statement. "I've been an avid hockey fan my whole life and I pledge to our fans that I will work my hardest to build the Lightning into a world class organization both on and off the ice."

The 50-year-old Vinik is a Boston resident and former hedge fund manager who is also a minority owner of the Red Sox.

Once the sale is approved by the league, Vinik will take over for current owners OK Hockey, LLC, which includes Hollywood producer Oren Koules -- a company that had just taken control of the team prior to the 2008-09 season and revamped the entire front office and roster in hopes of building a winner.

Amidst the upheaval, Tampa Bay finished 24-40-18 last season and missed the playoffs for the second straight year. However, this season the Bolts are in the thick of the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference with a 24-21-11 mark entering Friday's play.

"The day is a bittersweet one for us, as I believe we have established a strong foundation on the ice and begun to point things in a positive direction for the Lightning," said Koules. "We look forward to seeing Jeff take the team from here and move it forward. I believe we are leaving him with some great pieces in place and hopefully he can build upon them to deliver a consistent winner in the future."

Since entering the league for the 1992-93 campaign, the Lightning have suffered through misfortune on the ice and constantly-shifting ownerships.

The franchise's best years came under the control of Palace Sports and Entertainment, whose nine-year run included four playoff appearances, a Southeast Division title and a Stanley Cup in 2004.