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 Thursday that Haslam, whose brother Jimmy owns the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, was close to reaching a deal to buy the Predators. The franchise’s current ownership group is led by Herbert Fritch but includes no less than 17 other people.
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 the final say on any potential sale.
The Predators are expected to offer more details as early as Friday afternoon.
According to an NHL source, Haslam won’t be taking over the team anytime soon. Instead, he will gradually buy shares in Fritch over the next three years to become the group’s main owner. There are currently no plans for the 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. An attractive aspect of the franchise: the team operates the Bridgestone Arena and shares the revenue generated from other events. Sportico reports that Bridgestone was the sixth highest-grossing arena in the United States in 2019.
The Predators’ fan base has grown over the past decade as the team has enjoyed more success on the ice. Nashville has played at 95.4% capacity at home this season, second only to the Vegas Golden Knights. Their “Smashville” marketing hook created a generation of new fans, while the team attempted to position itself as a southern regional franchise, marketing to places like Alabama to cultivate new fans.
Nashville entered the League in 1998 under founding owner Craig Leipold. He sold the team to a consortium of different owners in 2007.