PITTSBURGH (AP) – Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle saved the Pittsburgh Penguins from bankruptcy over 20 years ago, a move that helped make the team one of the NHL’s flagship franchises.
The Penguins’ place in Pittsburgh is assured for years to come and with five Stanley Cup banners hanging from the rafters of PPG Paints Arena, Lemieux and Burkle hand over the keys to the Fenway Sports Group.
The team announced Monday that FSG, Lemieux and Burkle have reached a deal that will give the massive conglomerate a controlling stake in the Penguins, pending approval from the NHL board of governors, which is expected by the end of the year. The FSG already owns several top sports properties, including the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball and Liverpool of the Premier League.
Financial details were not disclosed. Sportico valued the Penguins at $ 845 million last month.
As part of the deal, Lemieux and Burkle will continue to be part of the franchise ownership group. The two put the Penguins back on the market in 2015 before finally – at least officially anyway – removing the “for sale” sign as the team won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.
âOver the years, we have been approached on several occasions by various groups interested in buying the team, but we have never found the right fit,â Lemieux said in a statement. “In FSG, however, we have met a group of experienced leaders with a passion for winning championships and a vision that matches our own.”
There will be no immediate change to the management structure of Pittsburgh. CEO David Morehouse, General Manager Ron Hextall, President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke and Head Coach Mike Sullivan will retain all of their current positions.
âThe Pittsburgh Penguins are a premier National Hockey League franchise with a very strong organization, a great history and a vibrant and passionate fan base,â FSG President Tom Werner said in a statement. . âWe will work diligently to continue to build on the Penguins’ remarkable tradition of championships and exciting play. “
Pittsburgh has reached the playoffs in 15 straight years, the longest active streak in major North American professional sports. The streak includes three championships and another trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
âAs the Penguins enter a new chapter, I will continue to be as active and engaged with the team as I always have been and look forward to continuing to build on our success with our new partners at the FSG. Said Lemieux. âThey have an organizational philosophy that reflects the approach that has worked so well for Ron and I over the past 22 years.
The Penguins have stabilized after a chaotic start to the 2021-22 season. Pittsburgh has won five of six games before a four-game road trip that begins Monday in Calgary, Alta.
Burke and Hextall spoke to the players about the finalization of the sale before the team skates in Calgary on Monday morning.
Sullivan, a Massachusetts native who attended high school and Boston University, had a brief conversation with the new group of owners and called the sale a “win-win” for everyone involved.
âThese guys have a proven track record,â Sullivan said. âI think they are first and foremost fans. They love the sport and I think they are here for the long haul.
The Penguins were on the verge of collapse when Lemieux – one of the greatest players in NHL history over a 17-year career – teamed up with Burkle to keep the franchise afloat. Their rebuilding was greatly facilitated by the selection of goaltender Marc-AndrÃ© Fleury and centers Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby in successive 2003-2005 drafts, the core that helped Pittsburgh return to center stage and eventually a Cup. Stanley in 2009.
The Penguins moved across the street from Mellon (Civic) Arena to PPG Paints Arena in 2010 while becoming one of the NHL’s most sought-after tickets. Pittsburgh has sold 633 straight games from Feb. 14, 2007 to Oct. 16, 2021. The streak ended Oct. 19 when Dallas visited, with Crosby and Malkin out of the roster.
The FSG was looking to add another major sports franchise to its portfolio. This spring, he brought in Los Angeles Lakers star, investor, LeBron James, who said he ultimately wanted to own an NBA team. FSG received a $ 750 million investment from RedBird Capital Partners in March, which valued the sports conglomerate at $ 7.35 billion.
AP Sports writer Jimmy Golen in Boston contributed to this report.
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