PITTSBURGH -- Penguins owner Mario Lemieux called a deal to
sell the team to a Canadian billionaire "unequivocally" dead and
said Monday he is trying to reach a deal with a casino that
promises to build an arena for the financially struggling club.
Isle of Capri has said it will build a $290 million facility for
the Penguins to replace 45-year-old Mellon Arena -- at no cost to
taxpayers or the team -- if it obtains a slot-machine license from
But if Isle of Capri doesn't get a slot-machine license from
state gambling regulators Wednesday, Lemieux said the Penguins
would have to "consider all of our options."
"I've never heard of a government turning down $290 million in
private money to build a public facility," Lemieux said. "It's
Jim Balsillie last week withdrew his offer to buy the Penguins
for $175 million, but has said he might still try to purchase the
team. Lemieux said that won't happen and the club will try to make
Balsillie forfeit his deposit.
"We can say unequivocally that the deal with Mr. Balsillie is
dead," Lemieux said. "We were shocked and offended that Mr.
Balsillie would back out of such an important deal at the last
minute -- and less than a week before a decision on the funding of a
new arena that will have far-reaching implications on our
franchise, our city and our region." he said.
A call seeking comment from a representative of Balsillie's
company, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd., was not
immediately returned Monday.
Other suitors surfaced over the weekend.
Frank D'Angelo, a Toronto businessman who owns Steelback beer,
said he and billionaire partner Barry Sherman might bid on the
team. D'Angelo said he and Sherman might also pay for a new arena
because they could make money off the naming rights as well as
D'Angelo said he doesn't want to move the team from Pittsburgh,
a guarantee that Balsillie reportedly was not willing to make to
the NHL before withdrawing his bid Friday. Still, Balsillie said he
also hasn't ruled out efforts to buy the team.
Isle of Capri is one of three bidders competing for the sole
Pittsburgh slot-machine license that is expected to be awarded by
the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. The two other applicants are
Detroit casino magnate Don Barden and Forest City Enterprises Inc.
Lemieux didn't rule out the possibility that his ownership group
would keep the team, but spent most of the 10-minute news
conference repeating his support for the exclusive deal the
Penguins have with Isle of Capri.
"We're not talking to anybody until the license is awarded,"