Penguins' New Owner Could Be Named Soon

July 21, 2006 -- Andy Sheehan -- KDKA-TV

It's still a horse race to determine who will be the next owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But one or two potential bidders appear to be pulling ahead of the pack and an announcement could come as early as next week.

KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan has been handicapping those potential buyers.

Sheehan says four bidders are still in the running but one or two seem to have fallen off the pace.

That means a new owner could be named in the next week

The "for sale" sign up at Mellon Arena has generated more buyers than many had anticipated and a higher price tag.

Sources say the Penguins are trying to get the lower bidders to up their ante to a cool $170 million but that may be just a little too steep for some of them.

Sources say Pittsburgh native Jim Renacci, the only bidder with a 100 percent guarantee to keep the Pens here, appears to be the lowest bidder and is not likely to bid higher.

That would leave New York taxicab financier Andrew Murstein still in the running with Boston real estate developer Larry Gottesdiener, and Canadian-born, Connecticut-based real estate developer, Sam Fingold.

But sources say it's becoming a contest between Fingold and Gottesdiener -- with Fingold being the man to beat.

The good news for Penguin fans is that while none of these three buyers is absolutely committed to keeping the team here, all three have expressed their preference to do so especially if they can work out an arena funding plan with local and state government officials -- the so-called "Plan B."

Under "Plan A", the Penguins gaming partner Isle of Capri has agreed to build an arena for free if they are successful in winning a slots license.

Gottesdiener had an interest in moving the team to Hartford but the league would probably not allow it, and there is no deal in place to build an arena there.

Similarly, Fingold has had talks with Kansas City where they are building a new arena but he would also have opposition from the league and in a recent phone conversation Fingold told KDKA that he would only move the pens as a last resort.

"I think that would have to would have to be after Plan B was exhausted and everything was talked about with Plan B," said Fingold.

The first stage of this sale would be the signing of a letter of intent to buy the team.

That means that buyer would have exclusive rights to try to consummate an actual sale.

The Pens would like to have the sale complete as soon as possible so that the new owner can take over before the season starts.