Trump Taps Billionaire NHL Team Owner Viola As Army Secretary

Vincent J. Viola / AP

Donald Trump will select billionaire businessman Vincent Viola, an Army veteran and owner of the Florida Panthers professional men's ice hockey team, as secretary of the Army under his administration, the president-elect's transition team announced Monday morning.

"I am proud to have such an incredibly accomplished and selfless individual as Vincent Viola as our secretary of the Army," Trump said in a statement. "Whether it is his distinguished military service or highly impressive track record in the world of business, Vinnie has proved throughout his life that he knows how to be a leader and deliver major results in the face of any challenge."

Viola is a graduate of West Point and veteran of the U.S. Army. Viola was an Airborne Ranger infantry officer and served in the 101st Airborne Division, remaining in the U.S. Army Reserve after serving on active duty. Viola is the founder of high-frequency trading firm Virtu Financial and also chaired the New York Mercantile Exchange in the early 2000s.

He has owned the Florida Panthers NHL team since Sept. 2013.

Viola will be subject to confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee when the new Congress convenes next year.

"It is an honor to be nominated to serve our country as President-elect Trump's secretary of the Army," Viola said. "If confirmed, I will work tirelessly to provide our president with the land force he will need to accomplish any mission in support of his National Defense Strategy."

"A primary focus of my leadership will be ensuring that America's soldiers have the ways and means to fight and win across the full spectrum of conflict," Viola said. "This great honor comes with great responsibility, and I will fight for the American people and their right to live free every day."

The Florida Panthers said in a statement that the ownership of the team will remain in Viola's family. Viola has tapped Douglas Cifu, the current vice chair and alternate governor of the club, to assume his role as chairman and governor of Sunrise Sports and Entertainment.

"We are honored and humbled to see Mr. Viola nominated as the secretary of the Army. We could not be more proud for Vinnie and his dedication to our country," Matthew Caldwell, Panthers president and CEO, said in a statement Monday morning.

Trump cheered Viola as "a man of outstanding work ethic, integrity, and strategic vision, with an exceptional ability to motivate others."

"The American people, whether civilian or military, should have great confidence that Vinnie Viola has what it takes to keep America safe and oversee issues of concern to our troops in the Army," Trump said.

Viola is the first service secretary that Trump has nominated during the transition. He formally announced retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis as his choice for secretary of defense earlier this month.

If confirmed, Viola will replace Eric Fanning, President Obama's current Army secretary and the first openly gay individual to serve in the post.