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Fenway Sports Group agrees to purchase Penguins, leaving just NHL owners’ approval before deal is official

Penguins co-owners Ron Burkle (left) and Mario Lemieux (right), who enjoyed a Stanley Cup parade in 2017, will retain an ownership stake in the franchise if the team is sold to Fenway Sports Group.Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Fenway Sports Group signed the purchase agreement Sunday for a controlling stake of the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League.

The NHL still has to approve the deal before it can become official. The league’s Board of Governors, chaired by Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, still has to grant its approval. The 32 owners will meet in December.

News of the negotiation broke this month. Current owner and Penguins Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux will retain an ownership stake and leadership role in the franchise, FSG said in a statement Monday.

Co-owner Ron Burkle will retain a stake in ownership as well, and senior management — CEO David Morehouse, COO Kevin Acklin, president of hockey operations Brian Burke, general manager Ron Hextall, and head coach Mike Sullivan — will stay in place.


“The Pittsburgh Penguins are a premier National Hockey League franchise with a very strong organization, a terrific history and a vibrant, passionate fan base,” said FSG chairman Tom Werner in a statement. “We will work diligently to continue building on the remarkable Penguins’ tradition of championships and exciting play.

“We are particularly excited to welcome Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle to FSG and have the utmost respect for all they have done to build the Penguins into the perennially successful franchise we know today. We look forward to working with Mario, Ron and the entire Penguins front office team.”

A purchase price in the deal has yet to be disclosed, although the franchise was valued at $845 million this year by Sportico.

The Bruins own 20 percent of NESN, with FSG owning the rest. The Bruins were kept abreast of FSG’s talks with the Penguins.

“As the Penguins enter a new chapter, I will continue to be as active and engaged with the team as I always have been and look forward to continuing to build on our success with our incoming partners at FSG,” said Lemieux, who along with Burkle bought the franchise in 1999. “They have an organizational philosophy that mirrors the approach that worked so well for Ron and me over the past 22 years.”


Said Burkle: “Mario and I came in together, and we are excited to become a part of the new ownership group. The Pittsburgh Penguins will be in good hands with FSG, and Mario and I are here to support them, committed as much as we’ve always been to the success of the franchise.”

FSG has its eyes on further expansion, with interest in NBA, NFL, WNBA, MLS, NWSL, and European soccer teams, as well as sports-associated industries.

The pending deal would represent the first evidence that FSG — owners of the Red Sox, Liverpool Football Club, half of RFK Racing (NASCAR), NESN, Fenway Sports Management, and Fenway Real Estate —has been able to implement the growth strategy it embarked upon after it received a capital injection of $750 million from RedBird Capital Partners in March.

John Henry, principal owner of FSG, owns the Boston Globe.

At the MLB owners meetings in Chicago, FSG chairman Tom Werner, the second-largest shareholder at FSG, said, “We’re interested in expanding, and it doesn’t have to be that the only expansion is by acquiring a professional franchise.”

Last month, FSG, in a consortium with RedBird, Nike, and Epic Games, made a significant investment in SpringHill Company, the entertainment, marketing, and content company founded by NBA superstar LeBron James and Maverick Carter. Both James and Carter became partners at FSG in March, when RedBird also joined the partners’ list as the third-largest shareholder.


Michael Silverman can be reached at michael.silverman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeSilvermanBB.