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Lemieux, Burkle refute claim of rift, say Penguins still up for sale

| Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, 1:45 p.m.
Penguins owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle ride past fans along the Boulevard of the Allies in downtown Pittsburgh on June 15, 2009, during the team's Stanley Cup victory parade.

Exploration of a potential Penguins sale continues for co-owners Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux, who issued a joint statement Thursday to refute a report of a sale-crippling rift between them.

“There is no disagreement between us, and we remain completely aligned in both approach and philosophy,” they said in the statement released by the team. “We continue to explore all of our strategic options, including a possible sale.

“There is not, and has never been, an established price for the team, and we are still in conversations with potential buyers.”

Their statement deviated from their plan, one followed for months, to not publicly address the potential sale until the completion of the exploratory process, which began in June when they announced the hiring of financial firm Morgan Stanley.

According to a New York Post report, disagreement emerged between Burkle and Lemieux over a potential sale price, and complications led the men to take the Penguins off the market. The report cited only anonymous sources.

Through a spokesperson, the NHL declined to comment on the report or its assertions, which included a suggestion that the league does not want any team's sale to fall below $700 million, lest the sale jeopardize the $500 million fee for expansion teams.

The spokesperson said unless a team requests assistance with a sale, the league's involvement with the process does not begin until the Board of Governors meets to approve a team's new owner.

The initial price tag for the Penguins was $750 million, which, if agreed upon with a buyer, would set a record for a U.S.-based NHL team.

Purchased for $107 million in 1999, the Penguins were valuated at $560 million by Forbes in November.

Forbes appraised the organization at $565 million in 2014.

Much of the debate about the Penguins' value centers on the worth of the development rights the organization holds to the 28-acre property where the Civic Arena once stood and whether those rights can be included in the sale.

The city granted the team's ownership exclusive development rights to that site in 2007 to keep the Penguins from relocating.

Bill West is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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