Penguins ownership disputes report about sale squabble
January 14, 2016 3:24 PM
Consol Energy Center is home to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Ron Burkle, left, and Mario Lemieux
By Jenn Menendez / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Penguins on Thursday disputed a New York Post report that claimed the sale of the team has been called off because of a disagreement between owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle on the sale price of the team.
The two put the franchise on the market in June, and have sought a sum widely reported to be as high as $750 million, which includes adjacent development rights.
Lemieux and Burkle released a joint statement Thursday afternoon in response to the article that disputes two things: That the sale is off, and that any established price has been set.
“Contrary to a media report regarding the potential sale of the Pittsburgh Penguins, there is no disagreement between us and we remain completely aligned in both approach and philosophy,” the statement read. “We continue to explore all of our strategic options, including a possible sale. There is not, and has never been, an established price for the team, and we are still in conversations with potential buyers. It is unfortunate that we even have to respond to a story based on anonymous quotes.”
The Post story claimed Lemieux was “miffed at billionaire investor Ron Burkle for messing up the sale” of the franchise.
The story also said Burkle turned down a recent bid — one Lemieux allegedly wanted to accept.
The Penguins had no further comment beyond the statement, which did not address an additional claim made by the Post: That the Penguins are just “marginally profitable” and will operate in the red if they miss the postseason.
The team fired coach Mike Johnston last month, and remains outside of the top eight of the Eastern Conference.
Lemieux and Burkle have both been largely silent on the matter since announcing in June that they had retained Morgan Stanley to “explore their options” regarding a sale of all or some of the franchise.
Several industry experts have opined that $750 million would be high for an American hockey franchise, but that if the development rights were included, the number would begin to make more sense.
No U.S.-based NHL team has ever sold for as much.
The city of Pittsburgh also has weighed in, saying the public deserves a return on its investment for the former Civic Arena site from the potentially lucrative development rights to the 28 acres in the Hill District.
One more complication: U.S. Steel announced in November it was pulling out of a deal with the Penguins to build their headquarters at the redevelopment site because of mounting financial troubles.
Two team executives reached Thursday said they had no intimate knowledge of the sale.
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez.
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