Thu, Mar 04, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Lehman executive may buy NJ Devils

N AMERICAN HOCKEY Jeffrey Vanderbeek said he is stepping down so he can become the principal owner and chairman of the Stanley Cup champs

AP , EAST RUTHERFORD,NEW JERSEY AND WASHINGTON

Andrew Raycroft, left, of the Boston Bruins makes a save following a shot by Joe Nieuwendykof the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Tuesday.

PHOTO: AFP

A senior executive with the Lehman Brothers investment firm said he is in the process of becoming the principal owner of the Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils.

Jeffrey Vanderbeek, who works in the global investment company's office of the chairman and is a member of its executive committee, released a statement Tuesday announcing he was stepping down to become the principal owner and chairman of the Devils.

While the sale is expected to happen, a source close to the team said Vanderbeek's offer is being reviewed by lawyers for the current owners.

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the transaction was expected to be approved by the team's owners in the near future.

It was not immediately known how much Vanderbeek offered or what percentage of the team he would own.

A Lehman spokeswoman said Vanderbeek was not available for comment at 2200 GMT Tuesday.

Vanderbeek has been a minority owner of the Devils since 2000. On Monday, he announced his resignation from Lehman, effective June 15.

"Jeff is a quality individual who has a passion for the game of hockey," Devils president and chief executive Lou Lamoriello said. "I am excited about the opportunity of working with him. He loves the game."

Vanderbeek, 46, has been active in youth and junior hockey, Lamoriello said.

The Devils are jointly owned by YankeeNets and a group called Puck Holdings.

The breakup of YankeeNets, a sports conglomerate that owned the Yankees, Nets and Devils, has led the way to the recent sale of the Nets to Brooklyn, New York, developer Bruce Ratner and the purchase offer that could give Vanderbeek control of the Devils.

"The teams will be totally separate again," Lamoriello said. "It will be like when John McMullen owned the team."

McMullen sold the Devils to Puck Holdings, a group that included Ray Chambers, for US$175 million in 2000.

Buying the team does not come without risk.

The current labor agreement between NHL owners and players expires before next season. The league wants some form of salary cap, which the players' union opposes.

If there is no agreement, there could be no season.

The owners of the Devils recently agreed to relocate the team to a new arena in Newark that is slated for completion before the start of the 2007 season.

The Devils currently play at the Continental Airlines Arena at the Meadowlands Sports Complex.

The team and the City of Newark hope to have the 18,000-seat arena open by July 1, 2007. The arena would be part of a complex that would include an office building, a parking garage for 1,340 vehicles and a 300-room hotel.

Panthers 1, Capitals

Roberto Luongo stopped 29 saves for his fourth shutout in seven games and Olli Jokinen scored the only goal in the Florida Panthers' 1-0 victory over the Washington Capitals.

"Every game is important, but our last two against those guys we gave up a lead," said Luongo, who eclipsed the franchise record of six shutouts he set last season. "We talked about it in the second period and we played solid in the third."

Jokinen scored a power-play goal with 3:13 left in the first period with a one-timed shot over the left shoulder of Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig, who made 28 saves Tuesday.

"It wasn't pretty, but we got the point," Jokinen said. "It's always nice to score."

Andreas Lilja and Valeri Bure assisted on the 19th goal of the season for Jokinen, who has 12 points in 13 games.

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