U.S. Steel chief invests in Penguins

John P. Surma puts $2 million in pot as part owner

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For years, U.S. Steel Chairman and CEO John P. Surma has played defenseman in a local recreational hockey league. Now he's taking a seat on the Penguins bench -- as a part owner.

Surma, a Penguins season ticket holder and longtime fan, has acquired a $2 million stake in the team, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Penguins CEO David Morehouse confirmed Wednesday that Surma had invested money in the franchise.

"We think he's the perfect fit. We think it's great to have another local investor. He's a pillar in the Pittsburgh community and a longtime supporter and a pretty good defenseman," he said.

Morehouse would not say how the investment came about, but added that the Penguins "receive periodic interest in investing in the team because of its success, popularity and business standing."

Up until now, the Penguins had not accepted new investors since 1999, when Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle bought the team. Surma, a friend of Lemieux, becomes one of 21 minority investors in the ownership group. Lemieux and Burkle are the majority owners.

Morehouse stressed that Surma's investment in the Penguins is not an indication the team is in any kind of financial trouble or for sale.

"There are no plans on selling the team. There is no need for capital. This is simply a prominent local friend of the team who is a perfect fit to add to our group of local investors, and we're very happy to have him," he said.

Surma, 57, became CEO at U.S. Steel in 2004 and added the chairman's title in '06. He was paid $12.2 million last year. He also likes hockey and plays once or twice a week in a morning recreational league in the South Hills.

He could not be reached for comment Wednesday. U.S. Steel spokesman Chuck Rice said that Surma is "proud to be involved in the [Penguins] organization."

The executive's investment in the team was disclosed in a filing Lemieux Group LP made with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In it, Lemieux Group reported that it was offering $29 million in stock for sale and that it had sold $2 million worth so far.

A source familiar with the situation indicated that the team decided to offer up to $29 million in stock in the event that it wanted to pursue other investors at some point.

Morehouse said, however, that the Penguins "are not looking for any additional investors."

Forbes magazine valued the franchise at $235 million in December, placing it ninth among the 30 NHL teams. The Penguins' worth has skyrocketed by more than $100 million since 2006, when Forbes valued it at $133 million, then third from last in the league.

Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262. Len Boselovic: lboselovic@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1941.


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