Atlanta Gladiators sold to Virginia-based businessman P. Daniel Orlich

Atlanta Gladiators majority owner Toby Jeffreys, left, and the rest of the franchise's ownership group, which includes former team president Steve Chapman, right, sold the organization to Virginia-based businessman P. Daniel Orlich on Tuesday. (Photo: Dale Zanine)

DULUTH — Controlling interest of the Atlanta Gladiators hockey franchise has been sold to Virginia-based real estate developer P. Daniel Orlich. The news was announced Tuesday.

Toby Jeffreys, who relocated the team from Mobile, Ala., to Gwinnett in 2003, transferred his majority stake in the team to Danor Vienna LLC, an entity owned by Orlich. The ECHL Board of Governors has approved the sale.

“Toby has poured his heart and pocket book into the Gladiators to bring wholesome family evenings and a nationally competitive team to this community and arena,” Orlich said in a statement. “It is my objective to see the Gladiators grow well beyond the foundation that has been built by Toby and his partners.”

It’s a 100 percent sale. A number of local minority owners also were bought out in the deal.

There have been offers for the team in the past and Jeffreys said the group wasn’t looking to sell.

“But when the right person comes along and has interest and is someone who can take it to a different level, you listen,” Jeffreys said. “Orlich is the right person.

“I’ve been doing this for 19 years and a fan of the ECHL for 23 years, so this will be quite an adjustment. But with grandkids and health issues, you start to recognize that there’s an opportunity and it’s really time to think about (turning over the reins).”

Orlich has owned a minor-league sports franchise before, founding the Edmonton Cracker-Cats of the Northern Baseball league in 2005. Orlich held interest until 2009 when he sold the team to Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz. The team has been dormant since 2011.

“We’ve had interest in the past, but after a while you figure out they don’t have the wherewithal — because it is a financial and emotional commitment,” Jeffreys said. “We kind of hit it off. He’s a gentleman and he has a ton of business experience.”

Orlich reached out through a sports advisory group.

“He’s been looking for a team for quite a few years and was very interested in the Atlanta market,” Jeffreys said.

The first question on a lot of fans' minds will be whether Orlich plans to keep the team here. Jeffreys said they can take something from the fact that all the owners, many of whom are locals with an interest in what happens in this market, agreed to this sale.

“I can’t say enough about the ownership group that took this ride in minor-league sports — and did it for the right reasons,” Jeffreys said. “You definitely don’t get into this business to get rich. It’s for the love of the game and for the community.

“I’m really looking forward to being a fan in the stands and screaming at the refs.”

Jeffreys said he plans to be at the last three home games of the regular season, but with a pregnant daughter due soon, that might change. His son is in college at Auburn and his youngest daughter is 19.

“I would like to thank Toby Jeffreys for his efforts on behalf of the Gladiators and the ECHL over the past 20-plus years,” outgoing ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna said. “He was a great owner and will be missed by all.”

The Gladiators, who have one year remaining on their lease with the Infinite Energy Arena, sit in the division’s final playoff spot with six games left in the regular season.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Please log in, or sign up for a new, free account to read or post comments.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.