Sox owners officially purchase Penguins
By Will Graves
The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH — Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle rescued the Pittsburgh Penguins out of bankruptcy more than 20 years ago, a decision that helped turn the team into one of the NHL’s marquee franchises.
The Penguins’ spot in Pittsburgh secure for years to come and with five Stanley Cup banners hanging from the rafters at PPG Paints Arena, Lemieux and Burkle are handing the keys over to the Fenway Sports Group.
The team officially announced Monday that FSG and Lemieux and Burkle have agreed to a deal that will give the massive conglomerate controlling interest in the Penguins, pending approval by the NHL’s Board of Governors, which is expected by the end of the year. FSG already owns several high-profile sports properties, including Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox and Liverpool of the Premier League.
Financial details were not released. Sportico valued the Penguins at $845 million last month.
As part of the deal, Lemieux and Burkle will remain part of the franchise’s ownership group. The two put the Penguins on the market back in 2015 before eventually — at least officially anyway — removing the “for sale” sign as the team won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.
“Over the years, we have been approached multiple times by various groups interested in purchasing the team but never found the right fit,” Lemieux said in a statement. “In FSG, however, we met an experienced group of leaders with a passion to win championships and a vision that aligns with ours.”
There will be no immediate changes to Pittsburgh’s management structure. CEO David Morehouse, general manager Ron Hextall, president of hockey operations Brian Burke and head coach Mike Sullivan will all remain in their current positions.
“The Pittsburgh Penguins are a premier National Hockey League franchise with a very strong organization, a terrific history and a vibrant, passionate fan base,” FSG Chairman Tom Werner said in a statement. “We will work diligently to continue building on the remarkable Penguins’ tradition of championships and exciting play.”
Pittsburgh has reached the playoffs in 15 consecutive years, the longest active streak in major North American professional sports. The streak includes three championships and another trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
“As 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 incoming partners at FSG,” Lemieux said. “They have an organizational philosophy that mirrors the approach that worked so well for Ron and me over the past 22 years.”
Burke and Hextall addressed the players about the sale being finalized before the team skated in Calgary on Monday morning.
Sullivan, a Massachusetts native who attended high school and college in Boston, had a brief conversation with the new ownership group and called the sale a “win-win” for all involved.
“These guys have a proven track record,” Sullivan said. “I think they’re fans first and foremost. They love sports and I think they’re in it for the long haul.”