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Cuban offers to invest in Penguins

Penguins/NHL Videos

Saturday, Oct. 14, 2006

Mark Cuban still wants a piece of the Penguins.

Cuban, who owns the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, has offered to join forces with new team owner Jim Balsillie as an investor.

Cuban, a Mt. Lebanon native, contacted Balsillie last week, after the Canadian billionaire signed a purchase agreement for the Penguins.

"I sent him an e-mail offering any support I could to help him with the team in Pittsburgh," Cuban wrote Friday in an e-mail to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "He sent me a nice reply. Hopefully, we can do something together."

Cuban said Balsillie has not yet indicated whether he will accept the offer. According to outgoing owner Mario Lemieux, Balsillie did not have any partners in his bid for the team.

Balsillie was unavailable for comment yesterday.

During the bidding process for the Penguins, Cuban was part of a group of investors that included New York businessman Andrew Murstein and Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino.

At the time, Cuban said he joined Murstein's group to try to ensure the Penguins remained in Pittsburgh. The franchise's future is in limbo, pending the resolution of a funding plan for a new arena.

However, Cuban revealed yesterday that he dropped out of the Murstein group before the sale process reached its final stage.

"They were nice and professional, but they were investors first and fans second," Cuban wrote. "The further we got in, the more concerned I got of what would happen if we won the bidding. I told them I didn't want to be part of a group where winning wasn't ahead of IRR (individual rate of return)

"As the season got closer, there was no urgency or excitement about the season. It was about negotiating tactics."

Cuban bought the Mavericks in 2000 for $280 million. Since then, the franchise's worth has grown to $400 million.

Cuban has a reputation as a fiery, outspoken owner who is animated in the stands, behind the team bench and, occasionally, on the court during games. He has been fined $1.5 million by the NBA for making critical comments about the league.

Last season, the Mavericks lost to the Miami Heat in six games in the best-of-seven NBA Finals. It was Dallas' first trip to the championship round since joining the league as an expansion team in 1980.

Although he lives in Dallas, Cuban still has deep ties to Pittsburgh and has been a Penguins season-ticket holder for three years. Although he admits his hockey knowledge is limited, Cuban is eager to take on some sort of role with his hometown team.

"Unfortunately, I don't know the sport of hockey as well as I do basketball or baseball, which meant I wasn't qualified to do the job at the same level of commitment as I have for the Mavs," Cuban wrote. "I'm not the hands-off type, so I felt better as an investor than owner."

Cuban has previously expressed interest in buying the Pirates. Yesterday, he said he still would like to become a minority investor in the Pirates, but he doubted the current ownership group would bring him in.




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