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|April 28, 2000|
Putting their money on ice
On April 25, two foreign-born Americans, Sanjay Kumar and Charles Wang, bought the New York Islanders, one of New York's most famous sports teams.
The two Asians head New York-based Computer Associates International Inc, the world's fourth-largest software company and leading provider of end-to-end eBusiness software solutions.
The young Long Island team, most famous for being the only NHL team to win four straight Stanley Cups, from 1980-83, was reportedly acquired for $ 175 million. The purchase price is $ 20 million less than the amount the Milstein brothers and Steve Gluckstein paid for the team and its cable rights in February 1998.
Kumar and Wang will become the fourth owners of the Islanders since 1997 -- pending league approval.
The new owners intend to keep the Islanders in Nassau County, considering that the Nassau Coliseum has been home to the Islanders since their entry into the NHL in 1972. However, Nassau County owns the Coliseum, which is leased till 2015 to SMG, a Philadelphia management company. Nassau County executive Tom Gulotta said he and the new owners have discussed a new arena to replace the Coliseum but no agreement has been reached.
"That's another topic for another day," Wang said regarding the issue.
Kumar's story is a dramatic rags-to-riches immigration tale. Born in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1962, he emigrated to the United States with his family when he was 14. In a recent documentary screened by PBS, 'Desi: South Asians in New York', he described how as a child growing up in Sri Lanka, he had to trek across town to catch a glimpse of a television by peeking into sci-fi author Arthur C Clarke's window.
Today, besides owning the Islanders, Sanjay Kumar is president and chief operating officer of Computer Associates. He had joined the company in 1987 when CA acquired UCCEL Corporation, where he was a director of software development. He held senior positions in development, strategic planning and operations before being promoted to president and chief operating officer in 1994.
Since then, the company's revenues have grown to $ 6.3 billion from $ 2.1 billion and its market capitalization has skyrocketed to $ 40 billion from $ 6 billion.
At a well-attended press conference at the Garden City Hotel in Long Island on Wednesday morning, Islander President John Sanders formally introduced Kumar and Wang as the new owners of the Islanders and presented them with Islander jerseys with their names on the back.
A spectacular video presentation showcasing the team's rise as an NHL dynasty (scripted to the Van Halen song Right Now ) was followed by Sanders' welcome speech.
"As we stand here today at the end of the season, I have to say for those of us in the organization and the many loyal Islander fans, that this is a time of very great expectation, promise and hope," Sanders told the gathering. "We're all very excited about what we saw on the ice at times this season and where the team is headed. It's only fitting that we turn over the reigns of this organization to two gentlemen who, I think, are ideally suited to carry us on to where we should be -- hich is on top of the hockey and sports world."
Proudly displaying their Islanders jerseys, Wang and Kumar embraced their first opportunity as the team's new owners.
"The waiting is over," said a very enthusiastic Wang. "We're announcing that Sanjay Kumar and I have agreed to purchase the New York Islanders franchise. We're very excited to be here. That's not to say we're just trying to fulfill some boyhood dream like winning the Stanley Cup in overtime, like the Islanders did back in the 1980s. I can assure you that where Sanjay and I were born and raised, an ice cube-not to say an ice rink, was a miracle and a luxury.
"Our vision is quite simple. It's to make the New York Islanders the world class and competitive, winning sports franchise our community wants, needs and deserves. The community has demonstrated that they want this team. The fans and families have been here in the glory years. They've also been here in the not-so-good years. The community needs this team."
Said Kumar: "We are buying this team with no commitments. We're not committed to building anything anywhere. All of those issues are for another day. We're buying this team essentially to build a tremendous franchise for the fans and the community of Long Island. Our priority is to focus on the fans and the team. As Charles had said, the community on Long Island needs an aggressive and very powerful sports franchise. Above all else, we're going to work on winning more hockey games. That's our goal.
"If you think this [past] year was not so good, don't forget that when the franchise first started, they lost 60 games, had only 30 points and gave up 347 goals. But what they did, unlike no other American team and just one Canadian team, was to win four consecutive Stanley Cup Championships. That is an incredible history to rest on and I believe it gives us the opportunity to go back and demonstrate that we can, using the talent that is here today and the support we'll have, build a very successful franchise all over again."
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