Balsillie decides not to buy Penguins

Dec 16, 2006 - 12:22 AM PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- Jim Balsillie apparently will not be purchasing the Pittsburgh Penguins after all.

Balsillie, who reportedly agreed to buy the team for a reported $175 million in October, withdrew his proposal Friday.

The Penguins released a statement regarding the planned sale of the team, which is in danger of relocating unless a new revenue source is found.

"Jim Balsillie delivered a notice of termination today, and it is our understanding that he has stopped negotiating with the National Hockey League to get the necessary consent to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins," said Mario Lemieux, whose Lemieux Group Limited serves as the club's current owner.

The club is hopeful the City of Pittsburgh will be granted a gaming license in order to open a casino, whose profits will help pay for a new arena.

"While these developments create significant uncertainty, the Penguins organization will re-evaluate our situation after the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board makes the decision on the awarding of the Pittsburgh gaming license," Lemieux said. "What is clear is, the best way to assure that the team remains viable and in Pittsburgh is to award the gaming license to the Isle of Capri."

"Today's development was unfortunate," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "If the Isle of Capri is not granted the license on Wednesday, then an already difficult and volatile situation will be aggravated. It is imperative that the Penguins have a new arena on economic terms that make sense for the franchise for the team to remain in Pittsburgh."

The chairman of Research in Motion, the Canadian-based company behind the popular Blackberry products and services, the 45-year-old Balsillie signed a purchase agreement to buy the team on October 5. The proposed deal came three months after Sam Fingold, who runs a commercial real estate firm in Hartford, signed a letter of intent to buy the Penguins for $175 million.

Although his company is based in Hartford, which lost its NHL franchise when the Whalers moved to Carolina and became the Hurricanes in 1997, Fingold insisted he had no plans to relocate the Penguins.

But in the end, Lemieux decided to sell the team to Balsillie. In addition to his success in the business world, Balsillie is an amateur hockey player and a noted philanthropist. Time Magazine named him one of the most influential people in the world in 2005.

Balsillie joined Research in Motion in 1992 and is responsible for driving business development, marketing sales and finance for the leading manufacturer of wireless solutions for the mobile communications market.

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