Ohio man exploring purchase of Penguins
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He's a Steelers season ticket holder, mayor of a small Ohio town, a successful businessman and managing partner of an arena football team.
These days, Jim Renacci has his eye on another title: owner of the Penguins.Emily Rasinski, Akron Beacon Journal
James Renacci, businessman and mayor of Wadsworth, Ohio, is exploring a possible purchase of the Penguins, with the hope of keeping the franchise here.
Click photo for larger image.
Mr. Renacci, a Pittsburgh native who attended his first hockey game in eighth grade, is exploring a possible purchase of the team, perhaps with the help of local investors, with the goal to keep it in town.
He has had discussions with Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and Mayor Bob O'Connor about buying the team. He also has talked to Allen & Co., the New York firm assisting in the sale for the Penguins.
"I would be very interested in trying to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh if at all possible," he said yesterday from Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron, where he serves as mayor.
During the interview, he stressed several times that he had not made an offer to buy the team. "I'm at this point just looking," he said. "I'm going through the process [set up by the team] is a better way of putting it."
Mr. Renacci, a certified public accountant who owns a number of businesses in Ohio, is the latest potential buyer to emerge for the team, which was put up for sale by owner Mario Lemieux and his partners in January.
Lawrence Gottesdiener, chief executive officer of a Massachusetts real estate development company, also has expressed an interest in the team, either to keep it in Pittsburgh or move it to Hartford, Conn. The Penguins have had no discussions with him.
Kansas City, Houston and Las Vegas also have been eyeing the team, particularly if it fails in its bid for a new arena.
Isle of Capri Casinos Inc., in partnership with the Penguins, is pledging $290 million to build an arena if it wins the city casino license. If that happens, the Penguins are bound by contract to stay in Pittsburgh.
Gov. Ed Rendell has developed an alternative funding proposal for an arena, commonly known as "Plan B," but the Penguins have not committed to it. The plan would require the Penguins to contribute about $4 million a year to the construction, while the Isle of Capri proposal calls for no team funding.
Mr. Rendell is asking the two other casino bidders -- PITG Gaming LLC and Forest City Enterprises -- to contribute $7.5 million a year toward an arena, but so far only PITG Gaming has committed to that amount. Penguins CEO Ken Sawyer complained last week that local politicians were lulling people into a false sense of security about the team's future in Pittsburgh under Plan B.
Mr. Renacci would not comment on Plan B. Nor would he discuss other possible local investors, although he acknowledged he has "talked to a number of people. I always had ties in Pittsburgh and continue to work with people in Pittsburgh.
"At this point, at this time, everything is open for discussion," he added. "My primary purpose would be to help the Penguins stay in Pittsburgh."
Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan said the team would not comment on anything related to the sales process.
Mr. Renacci is managing general partner and acting general manager of the Columbus Destroyers of the Arena Football League. He became part of a group of investors when the team relocated from Buffalo in 1993. Another of the partners is John H. McConnell, majority owner of the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey team.
He also is owner of LTC Companies, which serves as an umbrella for a number of business ventures, including Lifestyle Communities Pavilion and a bar and restaurant in the Columbus Arena District. In all, Mr. Renacci lists 16 firms in which he has some ownership stake on his state financial disclosure form.
LTC Companies grew out of LTC Business Management Services, a company Mr. Renacci formed to own and operate nursing homes. While many of the facilities have been sold, the company continues to do consulting.
Among the sources of income Mr. Renacci listed on this year's financial disclosure form were his $32,916 salary as Wadsworth mayor, a job he has held 21/2 years, and $285,000 in interest and stock dividends.
Mr. Renacci grew up in the Monongahela and Donora area, where his parents still live. He graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in business management in 1980.
He moved to Ohio in 1984 after several years with a Pittsburgh accounting firm -- the same one that employed Mr. Onorato at the time. He has remained in Ohio since, though he describes himself as a "very big fan of all Pittsburgh sports."
On fall Sundays, he drives about an hour and 45 minutes from Wadsworth to Steelers home games at Heinz Field. He said he has attended many Penguins games and watched the Penguins-Blue Jackets game in Columbus this past season.
"Being a native of Pittsburgh, I would hate to see the Penguins leave," he said.
First Published May 5, 2006 12:00 am