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Trump Taps Vincent Viola, Billionaire Businessman, as Army Secretary

Vincent Viola is a Brooklyn native, West Point graduate and billionaire businessman who paid $250 million for an NHL hockey team.

by The Associated Press /
Chief Executive Officer and Owner of the Florida Panthers Vincent Viola on June 26, 2015 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.Eliot J. Schechter / NHLI via Getty Images

Vincent Viola is a Brooklyn native, West Point graduate and billionaire businessman who paid $250 million for an NHL hockey team. And if the Senate agrees, he'll become the next Army secretary.

Viola is founder of several businesses, including Virtu Financial, an electronic trading firm. He also owns the National Hockey League's Florida Panthers and is a past chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

 Chief Executive Officer and Owner of the Florida Panthers Vincent Viola on June 26, 2015 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Eliot J. Schechter / NHLI via Getty Images

In a statement Monday, President-elect Donald Trump praised Viola, the son of Italian immigrants, as "living proof of the American dream" who has "long been engaged with national security issues."

Related: Eric Fanning, First Openly Gay Army Secretary, Gets Sworn In

Viola, whose father worked as a truck driver, was the first member of his family to attend college by graduating from West Point in 1977.

He trained as an Airborne Ranger infantry officer and served in the 101st Airborne Division. He is a 1983 graduate of New York Law School.

In 2003, he founded and helped fund the creation of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

Viola bought the Panthers in 2013. Forbes estimates his net worth to be $1.8 billion.

Earlier this year, Eric Fanning was sworn in as secretary of the Army, the highest ranking openly gay leader of any U.S. military service. The Obama administration, which made a concerted pushed for gay and lesbian rights, and advocacy groups's applauded Fanning's confirmation.