Vincent Viola, the billionaire owner of the Florida Panthers and President Trump’s nominee for secretary of the Army, withdrew his nomination Friday night citing difficulties in divesting himself from his businesses.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, said Defense Secretary James Mattis is “disappointed but understands and respects Mr. Viola’s decision” and believes Viola “will remain a stalwart supporter of America’s soldiers.” Mattis, Davis added, “will recommend to the president another candidate soon.”
Viola, a former West Point graduate who bought the NHL club in 2013, reportedly pulled his name from consideration after believing that his business ties would prove too great to navigate around the confirmation process. Viola’s decision to withdraw from the nomination was first reported by The Military Times.
In a statement released to The Military Times, Viola said he was “deeply honored” by Trump’s confidence to consider him for the post, adding, “I offer my continued support for President Trump and his administration, and look forward to redoubling my efforts to support the Army and its veterans as private citizens.”
Viola, who served in the 101st Airborne Division and then served for the U.S. Army Reserve after his active duty, is a graduate of New York Law School, the Associated Press reported. Viola has long been involved with philanthropic projects and is a former winner of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the Associated Press added.
During the time of his nomination, Trump described Viola as “an incredibly accomplished and selfless individual” saying that Viola’s “distinguished military service” and “highly impressive track record in the world of business” were qualities that made him stand out.