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Cliff Viner Talks Florida Panthers: "We're a Sleeping Giant''

CliffThe Panthers made a minor change in their management structure on Friday as Cliff Viner took sole control of the organization.

In November, Viner and Stu Siegel were named co-general partners in the hockey club and arena management company, running its daily operations together.

Siegel will remain a partner in the franchise and run the team's charitable foundation as he has since 2008. Viner says no shares in the team nor money was exchanged between the two partners. Viner and Siegel took over the franchise from Alan Cohen last year – although, like Siegel, Cohen still owns part of the team.

Viner says he has been working on restructuring the team's finances as well as working on ticket and sponsorship packages of late. Siegel is said to be turning over his responsibilities with the team to re-focus his energies on his other businesses.

“There was strength in having the two heads together at the outset as we made a new strategic plan,'' said Viner, who becomes the CEO and NHL governor of the Panthers immediately.

“The two of us really worked together to change the plan for what we wanted to do. I'm happy we started the way we did, I'm happy with the outcome. We're a long was from where we were in November. We're in a better place.''

Viner is a season ticket holder from Boca Raton who first invested in the Panthers in 2003. He became more involved with the team in 2007, and began working with the front office last summer during the transition from the Cohen ownership group. Although Viner and Siegel weren't officially running the team at the time, they approved Randy Sexton becoming the team's full-time general manager on Oct. 2, 2009, and later had Bill Torrey lead a search for a new GM.

Former Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon was hired by Viner and Siegel in May. Viner and Siegel also approved a larger front office budget for Tallon, although the team will have a lower payroll than it did last season when it finished 14th in the 15-team Eastern Conference. The Panthers currently have a payroll around $50 million – about $10 million below the league's salary cap.

Viner says the Panthers are turning a new page and going in the right direction. He adds that South Florida is big enough to support not only Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and the Heat, but the hockey team as well.

“I'm very excited. I have a passion for the business and love the people I have met in the business,'' Viner said. “That's what drives me. We have such a terrific sleeping giant; a little success and people will see why we got involved in the first place.

"This is a big enough market for all of us. We need to show some success. Everyone knows our lack of success the past 10 years. But the place is ready for us, the fans are hungry. They like our brand, but they haven't had much to cheer about. Give them that and the perception of our franchise will change dramatically.''