A private equity firm specializing in providing liquidity solutions to major sports franchises will be the new minority investor for the Tampa Bay Lightning, owner Jeff Vinik announced Tuesday.
Arctos Sports Partners has made a minority investment into Vinik Sports Group, which the National Hockey League approved last month. The minority sale takes effect immediately, but details of the transaction are private, VSG said in a news release.
Vinik will retain control as majority owner and there will be no change in day-to-day operations of either the Lightning or VSG. General Manager Julien BriseBois and Lightning CEO Steve Griggs will both remain alternative governors with the NHL.
“I will continue to provide all the resources to make the Lightning successful on and off the ice. We will continue to be able to spend at the cap, we will continue to support our Community Hero program, we will continue to be active in the community,” Vinik told Florida Politics. “There aren’t going to be any changes.”
Vinik told Florida Politics he decided to partner with Arctos after getting to know the firm’s founders, Ian Charles and Doc O’Connor, who Vinik called leaders in the emerging professional sports investment industry. He has grown to know the pair for the past three years, he said.
“I’ve been really impressed by the way they’ve gone about putting their company together,” Vinik said. “I think we just really liked each other, decided I wanted to be a little part of what they’re doing, and they wanted to be a little part of what I’m doing, and next thing you know, we just closed on a minority transaction and I’m thrilled to have them as partners.”
Arctos Sports Partners works with franchises and ownership groups across the professional sports world with an emphasis on creating value through sport-specific operational expertise, the Lightning organization said.
“We believe the Lightning is a best-in-class organization and that Jeff Vinik and his management team are exceptional leaders and operators,” Charles said. “We are excited to be partnering with Jeff and the Lightning as they continue executing on their vision of providing a world-class fan experience, pursuing growth opportunities that expand the business, and serving as stewards of the community asset that is the Lightning.”
The NHL Board of Governors approved the minority sale Dec. 9. At the time, Lightning Insider said the deal was believed to be a 20% stake, but the Lightning did not confirm details of the sale.
The move comes as sports teams across the country face economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vinik told Florida Politics that although all sports teams, including the Lightning, have lost quite a bit of money from the pandemic, they are still financially strong in terms of overall resources.
“Really, when you have virtually no revenues and many of your expenses, it’s not a sustainable business model. But in terms of the overall financial wherewithal or resources of the organization, that was never in question. We’re financially extremely strong,” Vinik said. “We were extremely strong a year ago during COVID and we’re extremely strong after this transaction.”
Vinik purchased the team in 2010. Since then, the team has won two Stanley Cup championships, including back-to-back wins in 2020 and 2021. The team is currently 21-8 and leads the NHL Atlantic Division, barely edging out the nearby Florida Panthers.
The team has granted more than $30 million to local nonprofits and causes through the Vinik Family Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program since Vinik purchased the team. Vinik said he plans to continue that community stewardship.