News Column

Time-share mogul David Siegel confirms purchase of Orlando Predators

July 14, 2014

By Alicia Delgallo, Orlando Sentinel



July 15--It's official. Time-share tycoon David Siegel is the new owner of the Orlando Predators -- and he's moving the team back to the Amway Center.

The Westgate Resorts CEO, whose family was featured in the film documentary "The Queen of Versailles," confirmed the purchase of the Arena Football League team Monday in an exclusive interview with the Orlando Sentinel. The deal will be formally announced today at 2:30 p.m. news conference at Amway.

"I found out the team was available and I've been a fan for 20-some-odd years," Siegel said. "I thought it would be a good business venture as well as a fun venture and a way that I could help the community."

Siegel, 79, said he wouldn't have bought the team if it stayed at UCF, where it currently plays home games. Terms of the contract with Amway have not yet been disclosed and still need approval from the city commission, said Westgate executive Jared Saft, the new team president.

"[The community] is used to going downtown for Magic games and the Citrus Bowl. That's where the team should be," Siegel said. "I'm not interested in what happened in the past. As far as I'm concerned, it's like a new day, a new team.

"We're going to fill that arena."

The Preds played home games at Amway Center from 2011-13 before defaulting on their lease due to low attendance figures, short of the 6,000 required. The Predators moved to UCF's CFE Arena this season and attendance has hovered around 5,000 at home games.

Entering a late game Monday, which Siegel attended with his wife, Jackie, and two sons, the Preds (8-7) were leading their division. Their final home game is at 7 p.m.July 26 against the Arizona Rattlers.

"I like to take things and make them better," Siegel said. "That's one of the challenges. I think if the team was running like a Swiss watch, I'd probably not be as interested."

Siegel joins a high-profile group of AFL team owners that includes Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of the rock band KISS, Vince Neil of Motley Crue and singer Jon Bon Jovi.

A lot of changes will be made to the team, Siegel said. Promotional strategies could include bussing guests of Westgate Resorts to games and offering free tickets to veterans, underprivileged children and students who make A's on report cards. There even will be a section for Westgate employees, all 8,000 of them.

"It's not just all business," Siegel said. "They can go there and raise hell and have fun. It'll be like them having nine company parties a year.

"We're going to just promote it, get some good sponsors and give people an entertaining form of football. Make it more of a party atmosphere. Football will be the main ingredient but there will be a lot of appetizers as well."

The team could even be seen on reality TV. The Siegels reportedly signed a deal with NBCUniversal's reality TV production company Wilshire Studios for a show featuring Jackie.

The last some may remember of the business tycoon is his financial struggles, chronicled in the 2012 documentary filmed during construction of the largest private house in the country, a 90,000-square-foot home dubbed "Versailles" on Lake Butler in Orange County.

Siegel, who Forbes estimated to be worth $1 billion in 2007, said his business has fully recovered and vowed to bring stability to a team that's seen three owners in the past year. The Preds have been without an owner since managing partner David Pearsall stepped down two months ago. Previous owner Brett Bouchy left in July 2013.

"One day my grandchildren will be running the team," Siegel said. "I have no plans to sell it or close it down. I think it will be stable for the rest of my lifetime."

Siegel also has purchased the Cocoa Beach Pier and opened Westgate Las Vegas in recent months. Are other Central Florida ventures on the horizon?

"I don't have any plans to announce as we're sitting here," Siegel said, "but the day is young yet."

ardelgallo@tribune.com

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(c)2014 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

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Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)


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