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Wildcats sold to Craig Hutchison group

The Perth Wildcats will have new owners next NBL season after being sold for close to $9 million. Photo: Twitter/@SportsEntNet

Craig Hutchison will step down as chairman of Melbourne United after his company Sports Entertainment Group signed an agreement to buy NBL powerhouse Perth for $8.5 million.

SEG confirmed on Thursday that it would purchase a 100 per cent stake in the Wildcats, subject to final approval from the NBL on July 30.

The company already owns 25 per cent of newly-crowned champions Melbourne United, who beat the Wildcats 3-0 in the recent grand final series.

Hutchison, the chief executive of Sports Entertainment Network, will step down as Melbourne United chairman ahead of the acquisition of the Wildcats.

He said the business intends to retain a “revised stake” in Melbourne United.

Long-time Wildcats owner Jack Bendat, who acquired the club in 2007, has been looking to sell for the past year.

During the 14-year reign of the 96-year-old philanthropist, Perth have been able to further cement their status as an NBL powerhouse.

The Wildcats have qualified for a world record 35 consecutive finals series.

Injuries cruelled their chances of snaring a historic three-peat of titles this season, but they are the most successful team in the NBL with 10 championships.

Since moving to Perth Arena in 2012, the Wildcats have regularly attracted crowds in excess of 10,000 fans, making them the envy of the league.

Hutchison says the purchase of the Wildcats will further complement his company’s growing influence in Australian basketball.

This includes a stake in Melbourne United, WNBL production rights, production of NBL show Overtime and various radio rights.

“I’d like to also add my respect to the wonderful basketball and business legacy of Jack Bendat and thank him for the opportunity,” Hutchison said.

The Wildcats won six titles under Bendat.

“Through hard work, we’ve created a community-first culture and a winning-culture, which has shown in our success both on and off the court,” Bendat said.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time as chairman of the Perth Wildcats, but the time is right to move on.

“I have full confidence in the new owners to continue and build on the outstanding legacy of this iconic organisation.”

The Wildcats received a boost on Thursday when vice-captain Mitch Norton signed a three-year contract extension with the club.

This season, the 28-year-old averaged 8.2 points, 3.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game, all while locking down some of the league’s most damaging players on the defensive end.

Justin Chadwick – AAP

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