Reports: Red Sox Owners in Talks to Buy NHL Penguins | Athletic Business

Reports: Red Sox Owners in Talks to Buy NHL Penguins

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The owners of the Boston Red Sox are in “advanced talks” to buy the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins, according to a report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Tuesday.

Talks with Fenway Sports Group have been taking place for at least a couple of months, according to reports. The team was not officially on the market for sale, according to a Post-Gazette source, and it was Fen­way Sports Group that initiated the discussion. 

Ron Burkle, who teamed with franchise icon Mario Lemieux to purchase the team out of bankruptcy in 1999, intends to sell his controlling stake in the franchise to Fenway Sports Group; he could also stay in for a small percentage, according to Post-Gazette sources.

Lemieux is expected to be part of the ownership group in some capacity, likely a minority ownership role, as well as be involved on the hockey side. The club’s senior management is also expected to remain intact.

The Wall Street Journal and Sportico were the first to report the possible sale. Fenway Sports Group could vote on the deal as soon as Thursday.

The agreement will also need approval from the NHL and the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority, which owns PPG Paints Arena and leases it to the team.

Terms of the deal, including how much Fen­way Sports Group will pay for its stake, have not been revealed.

“We are aware of the reports but have no comment on the speculation,” a Fenway Sports Group spokesperson told the Post-Gazette in an email.

The NHL has a standard agreement that prevents new owners from applying for relocation for seven years, so even if the Penguins are sold, they’ll stay in Pittsburgh. 

The team’s lease at the arena keeps the Penguins in Pittsburgh until at least June 30, 2040. 

The sale is not expected to have any affect on the community benefits and other agreements related to the redevelopment of the 28-acre former Civic Arena site, where the Penguins control the development rights.

Fenway Sports Group, backed by billionaire John Henry, has built a sports-centric portfolio that includes the Boston Red Sox of MLB, Liverpool of the English Premier League and Roush Fenway Racing of NASCAR, the Post-Gazette reported. The NBA’s LeBron James also has a stake in the company.

Fen­way Sports Group, which also owns real es­tate like Fen­way Park, has re­cently ex­pressed an in­ter­est in ex­pand­ing fur­ther.

Lemieux and Bur­kle ini­tially ac­quired the Pen­guins in 1999 out of bank­ruptcy dur­ing a cross­roads mo­ment in the fran­chise’s his­tory, when the team was floun­der­ing on the ice and at­ten­dance was hurt­ing.

Seven years later, the Pen­guins and state and lo­cal po­lit­i­cal lead­ers battled over con­struc­tion of a new arena, even ex­plor­ing re­lo­ca­tion op­tions, be­fore reach­ing a deal that kept the fran­chise in Pittsburgh. PPG Paints Arena opened in 2010.

The Pen­guins won three more Stan­ley Cup ti­tles, bring­ing their to­tal to five, and have be­come one of the NHL’s mar­quee fran­chises under Lemieux and Bur­kle’s ownership. The team was val­ued at $845 mil­lion by Spor­tico, rank­ing 15th in the league.

The Associated Press reported that Fen­way Sports Group received a reported $750 million investment from RedBird Capital Partners in March that valued the sports conglomerate at $7.35 billion.

The Pen­guins, like most pro­fes­sional sports teams, have taken a hit dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­demic, but the club re­mains one of the most pop­u­lar NHL fran­chises by many met­rics.

The Pen­guins’ have 1.9 mil­lion fol­low­ers In­sta­gram, the most of any NHL club, plus a following of 1.8 mil­lion on Twit­ter. Last sea­son, the team had the high­est lo­cal rat­ings share of any NHL team. An av­er­age of 7.8% of Pitts­burgh TV homes tuned in for Pen­guins games on AT&T Sports­Net.

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