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Report: Penguins “in talks to be sold” to Fenway Sports Group, Lemieux to retain small portion?

Giant sports consortium to buy Pittsburgh Penguins?

New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Two Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Ownership of the Pittsburgh Penguins could reportedly be about to change, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday afternoon.

The Fenway Sports Group is apparently in “advanced” talk to buy the Pens. Rick Westhead from TSN said a finalized deal could be completed as soon as this week.

There has occasionally been reports that the Penguins were, if not actively on the market, at least available — including in January 2016 when the team had to issue a statement saying there was no rift between Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle over an alleged proposed sale that fell apart at that time.

Lemieux and Burkle have been the principal owners of the Penguins since 1999, following bankruptcy procedures. Under their stewardship the franchise has taken off on the ice with three Stanley Cups and off the ice by securing a new arena. As such, the franchise value has soared to an estimated $650 million by Forbes.

The Fenway Sports Group, as the name suggests, is the parent company of the Boston Red Sox. The value of the group was pegged in March 2021 at $7.35 billion dollars, when Lebron James and some partners invested in the group. So, yeah, in a way, Lebron James would have a very small stake in the Penguins if this went through, what a world huh?

The Fenway Sports Group also controls the massive English soccer team Liverpool FC, as well as a 50% share in the Roush Fenway Keselowski NASCAR racing team and has real estate holdings including the group’s namesake of Fenway Park.

As the Boston Globe noted:

The Wall Street Journal reported the news of advanced talks which have not been completed and could still fail to materialize.

The Globe also recalled recent interest by the group in acquiring another franchise:

In April, Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy said the organization was open to purchasing an NBA or NHL team.

“We’re a huge admirer of the National Basketball Association and obviously the National Hockey League, it represents a natural place for Fenway Sports Group to look,” Kennedy said in a Sportico webinar

The Pens have not released a comment about this news, for obvious reasons. Talks and negotiations about franchise sales can be frequent and don’t always get completed as noted above.

UPDATE: From the KDKA news desk:

A source close the Penguins confirms active negotiations between the Lemeiux Group and Fenway for the sale of the team. The source tells KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan, if negotiations are successful Mario Lemieux with stay in the management of the team with a smaller ownership stake. CEO David Morehouse, COO Kevin Acklin, GM Ron Hextall and Coach Mike Sullivan are also expected to stay. The source says Fenway approached the Penguins about the sale and wants to stay the course —impressed with the team’s fan base and its success on and off the ice.

Lemieux retaining a small portion makes sense to keep ties strong in the local market and keep Lemieux’s unique presence around the organization further. It would also make a lot of sense that this won’t see very many sweeping changes, with one money group/entity (Burkle) more or less replaced by a new group (Fenway) that places the Penguins as an asset within their portfolio of several other big time franchises like the Red Sox and Liverpool FC.