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Report: Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle exploring selling the Pittsburgh Penguins

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Could the Pittsburgh Penguins be for sale?

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Big news from TSN's Bob McKenzie:

Pittsburgh Penguin owners Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux have hired Morgan Stanley to explore the possibility of selling some or all of the NHL franchise.

It doesn't mean Burkle and Lemieux are necessarily getting out but they are looking at various options. It's believed Lemieux, perhaps more than Burkle, may have an interest in getting his equity share out of the ‎franchise.

Even if Lemieux and/or Burkle decide to sell, it's believed they have some interest in retaining some involvement or connection with the team.

Morgan Stanley is the same company that facilitated the sale of the Buffalo Sabres to Terry Pegula.

Before we all flip out and cry, the key words are "possibility" and "options". We may know more later, but for now, who knows if the Pens ownership are looking to get out.

And, though jarring to see a big source like McKenzie give this report, it's really not out of the blue. From Mike Colligan's excellent piece about Penguins leadership earlier this spring, Colligan laid out a really comprehensive view of Lemieux and Burkle in the past, present and even predicted selling the team was in the future.

Burkle was traveling from London to California on his private jet and stopped in Palm Beach, Florida for breakfast with Lemieux and his advisers.  Burkle agreed to invest his millions, Lemieux agreed to roll over the salary he was owed into equity, and the two have been linked for over 15 years since.

By my calculations, Lemieux and Burkle have already cashed out their initial stakes in the franchise through refinancing and restructuring.  That means the combined majority stake the pair still possess — in a team most recently valued by Forbes at $565 million — is effectively ‘house money’.

Will Burkle simply let his investment ride or cash out at the top like he did with his grocery chains in the late-90’s?

I’m tempted to think the latter.

The whole Colligan piece is worth reading up on again, especially with today's developments.

Hockey, while a sport, is also a business and it probably makes sense for Lemieux and Burkle to know where they stand now that they have Consol Energy Center up and running, and soon the almost completed UPMC Lemieux facility in Cranberry will add more value to the club.

Will they sell? I don't know at this point, could be exploratory, but there could be something to it. As Colligan pointed out, the Lemieux's have an empty nest now with their youngest kid leaving and have built a $20 million mansion in Montreal. It might be time for Mario to skate off into the sunset and start a new chapter of his life.

Luckily, before he went he saved and stabilized the team countless times in the past 30 years, so if it is in fact that time, one can't say it isn't deserved.

Also, on an unrelated note, does anyone want to loan me $600 million dollars, I need to call Morgan Stanley.