- Associated Press - Thursday, February 17, 2011

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Pennsylvania billionaire Terry Pegula is scheduled to take control as owner of the Buffalo Sabres next week, a person familiar with the franchise’s sale told The Associated Press on Thursday.

NHL approval of the sale could come as early as Friday, and Pegula would then close on the $189 million transaction by Tuesday or Wednesday, the person said speaking on the condition of anonymity because the NHL has not announced a timetable on the sale process.

Outgoing Sabres owner Tom Golisano agreed to sell the sell the franchise to Pegula _ pending league approval _ earlier this month, ending about three months of negotiations.

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Pegula has ties to western New York as his wife, Kim, is from Rochester, and they previously lived in Orchard Park, a Buffalo suburb, and Olean, a 90-minute drive south of the city. As part of the deal, Pegula has committed to keeping the franchise in Buffalo.

He is the founder and former president of the energy company East Resources Inc., a major player in Pennsylvania’s burgeoning natural gas industry that was sold to Royal Dutch Shell PLC for $4.7 billion last year.

Pegula has declined comment until the sale is completed. He has been described as a fan of the team and also has a deep interest in hockey.

In September, the Pegulas made the largest private gift in Penn State history, donating $88 million to fund a new multipurpose arena and help upgrade the men’s hockey program. The Nittany Lions will make the move to Division I hockey in the 2012-13 season.

Pegula, 59, is a Penn State graduate and has an estimated worth of $3 billion. He was most recently ranked 110th on Forbes magazine’s list of wealthiest Americans.

The sale should be completed in time for Pegula to oversee the Sabres plans in leading up to the NHL trading deadline on Feb. 28. Pegula has already played a role in those plans. In announcing the sale, Golisano said he and Pegula agreed on a short list of players who wouldn’t be traded.

After a slow start to the season, the Sabres have rallied back into the playoff picture by going 13-5-2 in their past 20 games following a 2-1 loss to Toronto on Wednesday. Buffalo is ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, two points behind Carolina, which holds the eighth and final playoff spot with a little under two months left in the season.

Pegula also will have to determine whether to retain general manager Darcy Regier, who signed a two-year contract extension earlier this season, and whether to re-sign coach Lindy Ruff, who is in the final year of his contract.

Ruff has maintained he wants to stay, though he did not accept a contract extension offered to him last fall. He is the NHL’s only coach to win 500 games with the same team.

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