Florida Panthers owner Vinnie Viola to pay staff in full through COVID-19 crisis

Canada

Vinnie Viola, owner of the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers, has committed to paying the team’s entire staff in full throughout the coronavirus crisis, a team executive said.

Viola informed the staff of the commitment on Friday, said Matt Caldwell, the Panthers’ president and chief executive officer. The Panthers, who play at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, employ about 230 people.

“The specific directive from ownership was that no employee of the Florida Panthers will suffer economically from the coronavirus,” Caldwell said.

Viola, executive chairman of market-making firm Virtu Financial Inc., declined to comment.

The NHL suspended its season March 12, joining a flurry of other sports leagues and tournaments that rushed to shut down as the virus spread. There’s no word on when play might resume.

Other team owners have struggled with how to respond to the loss of revenue from the stoppage. Josh Harris, the Apollo Global Management co-founder who owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, retreated this week from a plan to cut the pay of the teams’ salaried workers by 20 per cent through June. The NHL itself said this week that it’s cutting league-office employees’ pay by 25 per cent.

Viola bought the Panthers in 2013. His net worth is $3 billion (U.S.), according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. A U.S. Army veteran, he was President Donald Trump’s first nominee for secretary of the Army but withdrew from consideration in early 2017.

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