Who benefits most from proposed $80 million Florida Panthers bailout?

Published On: Feb 19 2014 06:07:08 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 20 2014 12:37:52 AM EST

Local 10 investigative reporter Bob Norman says Broward County taxpayers don't stand to benefit in the proposed Florida Panthers bailout, but the team's majority owner sure will.


Broward County Auditor Evan Lukic is not a fan of the proposed $80 million bailout for the Florida Panthers hockey team, saying taxpayers get nothing out of the deal while providing “an immediate financial windfall to the owners of the team.”

So who is set to benefit the most from the bailout? His name is Vinnie Viola.

Viola is a mega-wealthy owner of a financial firm based in New York. He announced his $250 million purchase of the team as majority owner in September.

“We are firmly committed to South Florida,” Viola said at the time. “My wife has commanded that we move here, so we are moving here.”

Sure enough, Viola has put his extravagant New York mansion on the market for a record-$114 million.

Although he’s lobbied all the Broward County commissioners behind closed doors, he hasn't shown up at any of the public meetings related to the deal.

Instead, it’s been minority owner Doug Cifu, Viola’s right-hand man, who has attended meetings. But Viola, a West Point graduate and former part-owner of the New Jersey Nets, was featured in a 2011 book on high finance that describes him as a "tough guy from Brooklyn" who "dressed and acted like  a Mafioso don." It also describes him as an "astute businessman" and "extreme opportunist."

With what looks like the commission’s support for the bailout, Viola is certainly making the most of the opportunity.


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