No, the title is not a joke. On Monday, the Fenway Sports Group inked a deal to purchase a controlling stake in the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team. This came as a bit of a shock as there were rumblings early on, and then there was serious talk of the team being bought. Now, the Penguins are a part of a massive family of sports teams that extend to more than just hockey.
Financial History Of The Penguins
The financial history of the Pittsburgh Penguins is beyond tumultuous. In 1975, the team faced debts that simply couldn’t be paid. The organization nearly disbanded, but was bought by Edward J. DeBartolo, who made his fortune from constructing shopping malls. However, in 1984, the team was nearly either relocated or disbanded again. That’s when one of the greatest player to ever play hockey came in.
In 1984 NHL entry draft, Pittsburgh drafted Mario Lemieux with the first overall pick. The interesting part is that the Penguins had to tank even harder to ensure they were able to draft him. The head coach at the time, Lou Angotti, said that the team would’ve likely folded had they been unable to draft Lemieux. Already, there was a ton of pressure on Lemieux.
That draft pick saved the franchise. The Penguins built a team around Lemieux, trading for players like Paul Coffey and Ulf Samuelsson, as well as drafting another generational talent in Jaromir Jagr. The team would win back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. In 1998, the Penguins had to file for bankruptcy yet again, but this time, Lemieux bought the team and saved them yet again.
Who Is The Fenway Sports Group?
That’s why it was so shocking when the team announced that Fenway Sports Group (FSG) had entered an agreement to buy a controlling stake in the organization. However, FSG is arguably one of the most prestigious sports companies in the world as they also own Liverpool F.C. of the Premier League and the Boston Red Sox of the MLB.
What’s even better about this deal is that FSG wants Lemieux and co-owner Ron Burkle to remain a part of the ownership group. FSG Chairman Tom Werner said that he highly respects what Lemieux and Burkle have done for the organization. They recognize how valuable the current ownership tandem was, and they opted to keep them on board.
Werner only had the highest of praises for the Penguins. He said, “The Pittsburgh Penguins are a premier National Hockey League franchise with a very strong organization, a terrific history and a vibrant, passionate fan base. We will work diligently to continue building on the remarkable Penguins’ tradition of championships and exciting play.”
Will Anything Change?
Judging from what Werner has had to say about the organization, it doesn’t look like much is going to change at all. If anything, the Fenway Sports Group sees limitless potential with the Pittsburgh Penguins. After all, this is all just business. FSG certainly wouldn’t buy stock in a team that they didn’t think would win and generate the group income.
Also, if they plan on keeping Lemieux and Burkle on the ownership team, which they do, there’s little chance of massive changes. The tandem successfully led the team since 1999, leading them to three Stanley Cup victories. With a track record like that, it’s no shock that FSG wanted to keep them. It looks like this transaction won’t have too much of an impact on the team.
Lemieux also came out with a statement Monday. He said how various groups had approached the organization with interest in buying. However, they waited for the right group to come by. Most importantly, Lemieux eased any fans’ unease with a near-unforgettable quote: “This is a new beginning, not the end of an era.”
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