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Pittsburgh Penguins confirm sale to Fenway Sports Group

Deal now only subject to approval of NHL’s board of governors.

30 November 2021 Sam Carp

Getty Images

  • Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, who bought the Penguins in 1999, to remain part of team’s ownership group
  • Penguins most recently valued at US$845m by Sportico
  • FSG also owns MLB’s Boston Red Sox and Premier League giants Liverpool

John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group (FSG) has agreed a deal to buy the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Pittsburgh Penguins.

Reports of the deal first emerged earlier in November, but the pair have now announced that FSG has entered into an agreement to acquire a controlling interest in the North American ice hockey franchise.

Financial terms of the arrangement were not made public, although the Penguins were most recently valued at US$845 million in October, ranking 15th in sports business outlet Sportico’s NHL franchise valuations.

The Penguins did confirm that the transaction will see former player Mario Lemieux and US businessman Ron Burkle remain part of the team’s ownership group. The pair purchased the Penguins in 1999 for a reported US$107 million, rescuing the franchise from potential bankruptcy, and have overseen a period that included three Stanley Cup triumphs and the construction of the team’s PPG Paints Arena.

In addition, chief executive David Morehouse, chief operating officer Kevin Acklin and Brian Burke, the team’s president of hockey operations, will all continue in their roles with the Penguins, as will general manager Ron Hextall and head coach Mike Sullivan.

“As the Penguins enter a new chapter, I will continue to be as active and engaged with the team as I always have been and look forward to continuing to build on our success with our incoming partners at FSG,” Lemieux said. “They have an organisational philosophy that mirrors the approach that worked so well for Ron and me over the past 22 years.”

Burkle said: “Mario and I came in together, and we are excited to become a part of the new ownership group,” Burkle said. “The Pittsburgh Penguins will be in good hands with FSG, and Mario and I are here to support them, committed as much as we’ve always been to the success of the franchise.”

FSG, which earlier this year was valued at US$7 billion after receiving investment from US private equity firm RedBird Capital Partners and basketball star LeBron James, already owns several of the world’s most renowned sports teams, including Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Boston Red Sox and Premier League soccer giants Liverpool. The group also holds a 50 per cent interest in the Roush Fenway Racing Nascar team.

The Penguins, who have made the playoffs in each of the last 15 seasons, led the NHL’s local TV ratings during the 2020/21 season, according to Sports Business Journal (SBJ), which reported that the team’s games on AT&T SportsNet averaged a 7.79 rating, up 36 per cent on the previous year.

FSG chairman Tom Werner added: “The Pittsburgh Penguins are a premier National Hockey League franchise with a very strong organisation, a terrific history and a vibrant, passionate fanbase. We will work diligently to continue building on the remarkable Penguins’ tradition of championships and exciting play.

“We are particularly excited to welcome Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle to FSG and have the utmost respect for all they have done to build the Penguins into the perennially successful franchise we know today.”

FSG’s financial advisor on the transaction was Bank of America, while the Penguins were advised by Citi.

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