By: Patrick Damp & John P. Wise/KDKA-TV
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - A limited partner in the ownership of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins has filed a lawsuit trying to block the sale of the team to the same group that owns baseball's Boston Red Sox.
Wildfire Productions filed the complaint Dec. 15 in Delaware, accusing Penguins majority owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle of "clandestine back-room maneuvering," in accelerating the sale to Boston-based Fenway Sports Group, without input from minority owners.
"Mr. Burkle and Mr. Lemieux are orchestrating an unlawful cash-out for themselves, while steamrolling and freezing out their Limited Partners, including Wildfire," according to the complaint.
KDKA first reported news of the rumored sale on Nov. 16. Several days later, the boards of both FSG and the Penguins approved the reported $900 million purchase, allowing Lemieux and Burkle to make a bundle off their $107 million investment when they saved the team from bankruptcy in 1999.
Finally, the NHL this month approved the sale of the Penguins to FSG for the reported $900 million.
Lemieux -- a Penguins legend who won two Stanley Cups as a player and three more as an owner -- will remain with the franchise in a limited ownership role, as will Burkle.
The Penguins issued a statement Thursday in response to the lawsuit, which the team called "regrettable."
"Because of the 22 years of successful leadership provided by Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, this limited partner has been returned almost five times their original investment, and the valuation of their ownership interest increased over twelve times as a result of this transaction. While some general partners have received millions of dollars in priority payments to run a professional sports franchise, Ron and Mario have never taken any additional compensation. Instead, they have shared returns equally with their limited partners, and together they have made a substantial and positive impact on the City of Pittsburgh and the game of ice hockey. This is a regrettable situation where a single limited partner is claiming rights to which they are not entitled, and it has no impact on our transaction with the Fenway Sports Group, who are fully committed to the Penguins winning in Pittsburgh for decades to come."
The lawsuit is seeking to declare the sale of the team to Fenway Sports Group "null and void."
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