Report: Fenway Sports Group in advanced talks to buy Pittsburgh Penguins

PPG Paints Arena, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Fenway Sports Group LLC, the parent company of the Boston Red Sox, is in advanced talks to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins, according to a report published by the Wall Street Journal.

The deal could be finalized this week, according to the WSJ, but the terms of the deal are not yet known. As of Oct. 14, the Penguins are the 15th most valuable NHL franchise at $845 million, according to Sportico, the NHL's average franchise value is $930 million.

The Penguins boast one of the NHL's biggest names in Sidney Crosby and three Stanley Cups since 2009.

Fenway Sports Group is controlled by American businessman and investor John Henry, and also owns Liverpool F.C., New England Sports Network and half of Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing of Nascar.

The Penguins have been owned by NHL legend Mario Lemieux, who won two Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh as a player, and American businessman Ron Burkle since 1999, when the pair purchased the team 10 months after it filed for bankruptcy. Lemieux famously made his proposal to buy the Penguins after retiring in 1997 due to health issues, before returning in 2000 to become the first player-owner in NHL history.

Dejan Kovacevic of DK Pittsburgh reports that Lemieux will retain a minority stake in the franchise but Burkle will not. Kovacevic adds that upper-management, including President and CEO David Morehouse, will remain in their positions.

The agreement still needs approval from the Fenway Sports Group board, according to ESPN's Emily Kaplan. The deal also requires the NHL's Board of Governors' approval.

According to Forbes, the NHL saw a drop in the average team value for the first time since 2001 in 2020, down two per cent to $653 million. Revenue also saw a significant drop – down 14 per cent, totalling $4.4 billion in 2019-20 – as did operating income, which was down to $250 million (a 68 per cent drop), largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kaplan reports the Penguins accepted a $4.8 million Paycheck Protection Program loan in 2020.

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