Lemieux friend heads group looking at team

PITTSBURGH -- A group of West Coast investors led by a friend of Mario Lemieux is set to become the majority owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

William "Boots" Del Biaggio, a San Jose, Calif., businessman and friend of the Pittsburgh player-owner, and other unidentified investors have negotiated a letter of intent to buy the team. Lemieux, who has owned the team since it emerged from bankruptcy in
1999, would retain a smaller share of the Penguins.

"In buying any kind of professional sports franchise, it's a long way to go," said Del Biaggio, president and chief executive officer of Sand Hill Capital in Menlo Park, Calif.

"We are committed to Pittsburgh long term if we can pull this off," he said.

Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan declined to discuss Del Biaggio's group, but said Lemieux would remain a fixture with the team.

"Even if there is a substantial new investment in the team, Mario Lemieux will continue to be involved in all aspects of the operation," McMillan said.

Del Biaggio is one of Lemieux's co-owners of the Omaha Lancers of the U.S. Hockey League and also owns part of San Jose's American Hockey League affiliate, the Cleveland Barons.