Former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to gradually buy NHL's Nashville Predators

Former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will become the new owner of the NHL's Nashville Predators "through a multi-phased purchase transaction," the team announced on Friday.

Haslam, whose brother, Jimmy, co-owns the NFL's Cleveland Browns with his wife, Dee, has agreed to a deal with the franchise's current ownership group, which is led by Herbert Fritch and includes at least 17 others.

The Predators said on Friday that Haslam will become a minority owner of the team in the next few months and will become the majority owner within "the next few years."

"From the time our ownership group, made up of day one season ticket holders, gathered together in 2007 to purchase and guarantee the franchise's future in Nashville, the goal has been to ensure that stewardship of the team is in strong local hands," said Sean Henry, president and chief executive officer of the Predators, in a statement. "The pending addition of Governor Haslam to the ownership group solidifies that local stewardship for years to come, with the shared philosophy for making SMASHVILLE the most unique sports market in our league and country as our players and coaches compete for the Stanley Cup each season. We are excited and appreciative that he has agreed to join the ownership team."

According to an NHL source, Haslam will gradually purchase shares from Fritch over the next three years to become the group's lead owner. There are no current plans for 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. One alluring aspect of the franchise: The team operates Bridgestone Arena and shares in the revenues generated by other events. Sportico reports that Bridgestone was the sixth-highest-grossing arena in the U.S. in 2019.

The Predators' fan base has expanded in the past decade as the team has found greater success on the ice. Nashville played to 95.4% capacity at home this season, second only to the Vegas Golden Knights. Their Smashville marketing hook has created a generation of new fans, while the team has attempted to position itself as a regional southern franchise, marketing to places like Alabama to cultivate new supporters.

Nashville entered the league in 1998 under founding owner Craig Leipold. He sold the team to a consortium of owners in 2007.