- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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The man in discussions with New York Islanders owner Charles Wang to purchase a majority stake in the team is hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway, ESPN.com has confirmed.
And while the former Philadelphia attorney -- whose identity was first reported by the New York Post on Monday -- was known only as a mystery suitor for several days after news broke that the Islanders were up for sale, Barroway is no stranger to Wang.
Barroway was the lead plaintiff in a consolidated class-action suit against Wang's company, Computer Associates, that originated in 1998. The suit, which was settled in 2003, alleged that Computer Associates violated several sections of the Securities Exchange Act, including artificially inflating revenues and concealing the business' deterioration.
As the lead plaintiff in the case, Barroway would have had to qualify as a member of the class, which was certified by the court as anyone who "purchased or transacted in common stake of CA or common stock options during the period of January 20, 1998 through and including February 25, 2002."
Computer Associates was investigated separately by the Securities and Exchange Commission, after which some of the company's top executives were charged with securities fraud in 2004 and went to prison.
When the class-action suit was originally settled in 2003, Computer Associates promised to distribute up to 5.7 million shares of stock to the shareholders involved in the suit, including attorney fees, according to court documents obtained by ESPN.com. Some of those shareholders later objected to the settlement, accusing the class counsel, including Barroway and Barroway's then-legal firm, for settling prematurely. Those efforts were unsuccessful.
Several of the litigants involved in the suit declined comment for this story. Others declined to revisit the issue.
"I'm so far removed, it's just not relevant to me anymore," former Computer Associates chief financial officer Ira Zar, a co-defendant in the original suit, said when reached by phone Monday evening.
What does all this mean for the potential sale of the Islanders? Six legal analysts contacted by ESPN.com agreed that while it appeared odd, there was nothing to suggest that it was more than a bizarre coincidence.
"On the face of it all, it seems a little strange," said one person involved in the litigation. "But Charles is an interesting, complicated man."
Several sources told ESPN.com that Barroway is viewed favorably by the NHL. The 48-year-old was in discussions to buy the New Jersey Devils last year, and though he later backed out, most believe he decided to after further inspection of the team's finances -- leaving him in good standing with the league.
According to one source, the league is not believed to be concerned about any prior litigation between Wang and Barroway and has not found any reason to believe he would not be a suitable NHL owner. Previous efforts by the NHL to look into his background have not raised any red flags.
How serious the talks between Wang and Barroway have become, or whether a deal is imminent, is unknown -- but Wang did issue the following statement last Friday: "In recent months, there have been numerous expressions of interest in the purchase of the New York Islanders. As I have consistently stated, I have been and remain willing to listen. However, potential buyers' expression of interest in the team or even my listening to them does not mean a deal will be reached."
Whether Wang is planning to retain a stake in ownership in the event of the sale is not known.
The Islanders could not be reached for comment, and Barroway refused to comment when reached by telephone. The league also declined to comment.
Wang's Islanders have struggled mightily since he took over the team in 2000 and assumed principal ownership in 2004. They are headed for yet another bottom-five finish this season and have made only one playoff appearance in the previous six seasons.
Financially, the Islanders are hemorrhaging money, with Wang losing what has been reported to be tens of millions of dollars every year.
There appears to be some hope on the horizon, however, and not just because of a potential change in ownership. The team currently plays in the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which was built in 1972 and seats a little over 16,000 for hockey. The team is slated to move to Brooklyn's Barclays Center beginning with the 2015-16 season. Wang brokered a 25-year lease for the team in 2012.
Barroway could also help stabilize the Islanders with a steady hand and a deep wallet. Barroway runs the successful Radnor, Pa.-based Merion Investment Management group. He reportedly loaned the Devils $30 million when the team was in dire financial straits, before Josh Harris took over principal ownership of the team.
ESPN investigative reporter Paula Lavigne contributed to this report.
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