get it from the trib board
Torontonian may move Penguins
Fingold might take club to Kansas City
Team's `great investment,' says magnate
May 8, 2006. 06:15 AM
SPORTS BUSINESS COLUMNIST
A Toronto commercial real estate magnate who once tried to bring an NBA team to the city has surfaced as a potential bidder for the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins, and plans to move the franchise to Kansas City if an agreement for a new hockey rink in Pittsburgh isn't completed.
David Fingold and his son Sam have already reviewed the Penguins' financial books and are poised to make a bid to buy the struggling team, the Star has learned.
The elder Fingold, who has spearheaded a tony real estate development called The Chedington on Bayview Ave., was part of a group alongside basketball hall of famer Wilt Chamberlain that mounted a failed attempt in 1988 to bring an expansion basketball team to Toronto.
As the NHL moves into the playoff mode, after the first season following the league's season-long lockout, investment bankers who specialize in the pro sports business say that, strong attendance figures and TV ratings aside, at least a half-dozen franchises are up for sale.
While the owners of teams such as the Atlanta Thrashers, Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes would certainly entertain buyout offers, the Penguins may present the most compelling package for interested parties.
The Penguins joined the NHL as an expansion franchise in 1967 and, thanks to the emergence of Mario Lemieux as a star player in the mid-1980s, won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1990-91 and 1991-92. Even though the team struggled in subsequent seasons Ã¢â‚¬â€ in October, 1998, the Penguins franchise declared bankruptcy for the second time Ã¢â‚¬â€ the club has a promising future thanks to Sidney Crosby and other coveted young prospects.
"What we would get with the Penguins would be an affordable franchise and a portable one," Sam Fingold said in an interview. "We think this could be a great investment."
Neither Fingold would say whether their family has other financial partners.
"We'd be doing this mostly with family money," Sam Fingold said.
One sports investment banker said that prospective bidders like the Fingolds are vexed about what to offer for the Penguins, who are now owned by Lemieux. The former star player acquired the team because he was one of its biggest creditors when it filed for bankruptcy protection.
"If you're buying the team to keep it in Pittsburgh, you're probably looking at paying $120-$130 million (all figures U.S.)," the banker said. "But if you're buying them to move them to a different city, where you're definitely going to be in a better building with a better lease, maybe you're looking at closer to $150 million."
The Penguins' future in Pittsburgh hinges on which company is awarded a slot-gaming licence by the state government.
The Penguins have partnered with Isle of Capri Casinos Inc., one of the world's biggest operators of riverboat and dockside casinos that's one of the companies pursuing a licence. The Biloxi, Miss., gaming company wants to build a $250 million casino replete with 3,000 slot machines and has also pledged to pay $290 million toward a new arena for the Penguins, who currently play in the NHL's oldest rink, 45-year-old Mellon Arena.
The Penguins can leave Pittsburgh in June, 2007, when their current lease expires.
Isle of Capri has already secured financing for the arena and casino from Toronto's CIBC World Markets, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has reported. But several other groups are also pursuing the slots licence and don't have pacts with the Penguins. The state Gaming Control Board is expected to issue the licence later this year or in early 2007.
If one of the Isle of Capri's competitors wins the license, that may free up the team to move to a more attractive market such as Kansas City, Sam Fingold said.
Fingold confirmed that he and his father would consider moving the club to Kansas City.
Kansas City hasn't had an NHL team since the Scouts, an expansion franchise, moved to Denver in 1976 to become the Colorado Rockies.
But Kansas City has recently completed construction on the new 18,500-seat Sprint Center, a $276 million arena that needs a tenant like an NHL team to pay down its debt.
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