Penguins fans file into the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle could be receiving a bid of more than $700 million for an ownership stake in the Pittsburgh Penguins by next week. Lemieux and Burkle announced last month they could be selling a portion of the Penguins. Forbes valued the Penguins at $565 million in November 2014.
In November 2014, Forbes ranked the Pittsburgh Penguins as the 10th most valuable NHL franchise, worth roughly $565 million. It appears a group of investors believes the Penguins to be worth much, much more, however.
According to Patty Tascarella of the Pittsburgh Business Times, the Penguins will receive a bid to purchase the franchise sometime within the next week. The bid could carry a value of between $700 and $850 million, according to, “some who have done deals in the National Hockey League.”
If purchased at the high end of that bid, $850 million, it would make the Penguins the fourth-most valuable franchise in the NHL, according to the Forbes valuations, ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks. In the valuations, the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs were all estimated to be worth $1 billion or more.
That said, the Forbes rankings are far from official and came before the Blackhawks captured their third Stanley Cup in six seasons, but for a group to dole out nearly $300 million more than what Forbes had estimated says there’s some serious interest from the investors with regards to purchasing the Penguins.
One reason for the huge disparity between Forbes’ valuation and the expected bid could be the Penguins, “equity in the real estate development at the former Civic Arena site,” writes Tascarella.
Another reason for the inflated price tag, Tascarella writes, could be the lack of teams currently on the market. At present, the NHL is looking into expansion and there aren’t many rumblings of teams for sale. Matter of fact, outside of the Penguins, it’d be hard to find a team up for sale at this time, and talks of relocation have quieted with the potential for expansion clubs in Las Vegas, Seattle, Quebec City and the Greater Toronto Area.
Penguins owners Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux announced on June 3 that, “they had retained investment banking firm Morgan Stanley to oversee a review of strategic options that included each selling a portion of their stakes in the team,” writes Tascarella. Any sale of the team, however, would likely take nearly six months. According to an interview with David Lowe in the Pittsburgh Business Times, “a typical sports franchise sale takes six months and the shortest time frame would be three months.” Lowe aided in the sales of both the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes.
In order for a sale of the Penguins to go through, the NHL’s board of governors would have to approve.
Lemieux, alongside Burkle, bought the Penguins out of bankruptcy in late-1999 and the pair have been owners for the past sixteen years. Lemieux had previously expressed interest in selling the team in early-2006, leading to an agreement with Jim Balsillie. However, the deal fell through in late-2006 when Balsillie withdrew his bid.
Shortly thereafter, in hopes of landing a new arena, Lemieux put pressure on the city and eventually landed an arena deal, which became the present-day Consol Energy Center. As part of the arena deal, the Penguins were to remain in Pittsburgh for 30 seasons, which concludes in 2037.