Three bidders still in running

Group with Cuban alive; price may go up

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Although Hartford real estate developer Samuel Fingold still appears to be the front-runner, there are indications that the Penguins have given at least two other bidders a chance to get back into the race to buy the team.

At the end of last week, Fingold had the highest adjusted bid of around $175 million and seemed likely to sign a letter of intent early this week to begin exclusive negotiations.

Lawrence Gottesdiener, a developer who has extensive projects in Hartford, is believed to have matched or come close to Fingold's bid over the weekend.

Andrew Murstein, a New York businessman who garnered a lot of attention for lining up several local investors and promising to keep the Penguins in town, was left behind when his resubmitted bid was around $170 million.

Now he might have a chance to come up with something higher.

Penguins Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux, part-owner of the team, was at a golf tournament Tuesday and was asked about Murstein's group, which includes Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino.

"I think they still are in the running," Lemieux told the Toronto Sun.

Lemieux's comment, coupled with the fact that there is no letter of intent yet, could be an indication that team owners want to see if they can coax the price higher.

Or it could be a sign that they want to try to enhance the team's chances of remaining in Pittsburgh.

"[Moving] is always possible, but I think the priority is keeping it where it is," Lemieux told the Sun.

Business sense dictates that pushing the sale price closer to $200 million and working to keep the team here could be counter purposes.

It's thought that the Penguins are worth a lot more as a portable team. Forbes, for instance, most recently estimated the team's worth at $137 million. Several people close to the sale process have said anything significantly higher might reflect a value associated with a team coveted by another city.

Or perhaps the higher price is just what the market will bear at this time, regardless of where the team ends up, partly because the NHL's year-old collective bargaining agreement gives its teams a more sound financial footing.

Although Murstein has pledged all along to keep the team here, Fingold and Gottesdiener have indicated they could work with local officials to make the club viable here.

Initially, Fingold expressed an interest in moving the Penguins to Kansas City and its new arena. Gottesdiener has talked with Hartford officials about building a new arena there and bringing in an NHL club.

Any new owner will be bound to an agreement with the Isle of Capri gaming company that could keep the team here. If Isle of Capri gets the city's slots license later this year, it has vowed to donate $290 toward a new arena.

If not, state and local officials have assembled an alternative arena funding plan that calls for money from the team, the winning slots casino bidder and the state through a slots-backed fund, but that "Plan B" has not been finalized.


Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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