Others expected to join Cuban, Marino group bidding for the Penguins

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The group that has pledged to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh under any circumstances is expected to add to its local presence in the next few days.

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According to a source, at least one member of the group is to meet with Gov. Ed Rendell this week to discuss the details of Plan B, the proposal that could be used to finance a replacement for Mellon Arena if Isle of Capri is not awarded the license to operate a slots parlor here.

IOC has committed $290 million to that project if it receives the license.

The group in question, which is led by New York businessman Andrew Murstein, could be bolstered by the addition of a local executive and several others from the business community in coming days, the source said.

Those additions appear to be the byproduct of publicity generated last week when Murstein announced that Western Pennsylvania natives Dan Marino and Mark Cuban had joined his group. Although neither has a significant financial stake, both are prominent figures whose arrival generated headlines across North America.

At least five groups have publicly acknowledged an interest in buying the franchise, and several others are believed to have kept their intentions quiet.

While no timetable for completing the sale has been announced, a person with firsthand knowledge of the process said yesterday that it's likely Allen and Co., the New York firm brokering the deal, will narrow the field to a couple of contenders "within the next two weeks."

Most groups bidding for the Penguins have expressed a willingness, if not a preference, for moving the franchise to another market.

That won't be an option if Isle of Capri receives the slots license, because the Penguins are legally bound to play in the new arena if IOC pays for its construction, regardless of who owns the club.

Murstein and his partners, meanwhile, have steadfastly pledged to keep the team here, regardless who receives the slots license.

That unflinching stance surprised some observers -- especially when, in recent years, elected officials repeatedly balked at putting public funds into an arena -- but Murstein has expressed confidence that state and local political figures are committed to devising a satisfactory plan to finance a new facility.


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