Charles Wang, the computer salesman-turned-billionare-turned-NHL owner, has had an interesting tenure thus far with his team, the New York Islanders. He came in as a man without any hockey knowledge (literally carrying his ‘Hockey For Dummies’ book), and purchased a portion of the team in 2000. Wang didn’t come to the Islanders alone, however, since his business partner Sanjay Kumar bought a stake of the team with him.
In the early years, Wang and Kumar were able to help put together a team that made the playoffs in four-of-five seasons between 2001-02 and 2006-07. (The 2004-05 season is, of course, excluded due to lockout that cancelled the NHL calendar that year).
Amidst this Islanders run of regular-season success, Wang became the principal owner of the franchise after buying out his partner’s stake in 2004. (As a sidebar, Kumar would go on to be sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of fraud at the computer company Wang had previously owned).
Now, eight years removed from the season in which he became majority owner of the Islanders, Wang has seen the team collapse and fall to the depths of the league on a consistent basis. Despite all the coaches, assistant coaches, and GMs that have come and gone in the interim, the team has failed to regain their regular season success; they’ve only made the playoffs once since the 2006-07 season.
After all the losing this team has done, and all the money Wang has lost because of his team’s poor performance—and to his credit, he tried to muster up a crowd every game—he is now rumored to be trying to sell the Islanders to a new owner, despite the team moving to the state-of-the-art, money-making-machine Barclays Center after next season.
The news isn’t a major surprise, as it has been reported that Wang loses an estimated $20 million per year on the Isles. With this in mind, it makes sense that he would want to sell the team, as losing that much money on an investment can jeopardize someone’s financial situation to a significant degree, even if that person is as wealthy as Wang.
As for the potential buyers, the most notable name seems to be Andrew Barroway. Barroway, a Philadelphia lawyer, has had interest in owning sports teams before. Barroway tried to buy a large stake of the New Jersey Devils two seasons ago, and also heavily pursued his hometown basketball team, the Philadelphia 76ers to no avail.
There is speculation as to when Barroway would buy a large stake of the Islanders. Many believe that it wouldn’t be until the team is in Brooklyn, but there is a claim that the new owner of the team (whoever it may be) could buy the team as early as this summer. It’s not etched in stone that Barroway will be the new Islanders owner, but if anyone is going to spend the money to purchase this franchise, he appears to be the front runner.
There is another interesting candidate: Arnold Chase. The tycoon of tycoons, Chase is very well known for his personal gargantuan sum of money, and has even built a house that is larger than the richest man in America, Bill Gates.
While Chase does sound like an interesting candidate, there is is one drawback in what he offers. Whether or not it’s true, there has been a mass eruption in the hockey world over rumors that Chase would break the “iron-clad” Barclays Center lease and relocate the Islanders to Hartford, CT.
Now, there may be no truth to Chase’s potential purchase, but it has made quite a buzz. Chase has denied that he has interest in buying and moving the Islanders anytime soon. “This rumor is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard, ” Chase said when asked about the circulating rumors. “It’s total fantasy. With all due respect, sports is the last thing on my mind. I have no idea who the Islanders are.” Arnold Chase has made it apparent that he doesn’t have much interest in the team at all, but with the money he has, the rumor is worth mentioning.
If there is any other major prospective buyer, it would be Russian businessman and owner of the Brooklyn Nets, Mikhail Prokhorov. Prokhorov owns the Nets, a team that plays their home games in the Barclays Center; with that in mind, it’s logical to think why Prokhorov could be a buyer.
Prokhorov’s name hasn’t emerged in Isles ownership talks, but this wouldn’t be the first time Islanders fans have thought that Prokhorov might swoop in and buy the team. Although he denied it, there were reports that he had interest in buying the team last summer. Prokhorov would be a desirable owner for many Islanders fans, as he’s built a reputation for spending money to produce a winning team, something that the Islanders and their fans haven’t seen much of in recent years.
That’s about as much as we know for who’s allegedly in on the Islanders, although NHL commissioner (and fan-favorite) Gary Bettman has hinted at the idea that there may be multiple people in line to buy the team, saying “[Wang] is getting a number of expressions of interest.” Bettman also said that Wang is “listening to the expressions of interest that he’s getting, and he hasn’t decided whether or not he’s going to take them to the next step.”
Additionally, Bettman commented on the team possibly moving out-of-state. He believes that a move to anywhere other than Brooklyn is not probable. “I think their move to Brooklyn is regulated by their contractual commitment to Nassau County on Long Island,” Bettman said. Hopefully that calms the nerves of Isles fans who fear their team leaving the state, as it did for me when I first saw reports of a potential relocation.
So now, we await more news on this developing saga. If there is anything that breaks, be sure to keep it right here at Islanders Insight. We’ll be breaking down what happens, when it happens.