NBA star LeBron James has played for three NBA teams and has had $1 billion in career earnings including salary and endorsements. He can now add another title to his resume: National Hockey League (NHL) team owner.
What Happened: A rumored deal between the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL and Fenway Sports Group was announced this week.
Fenway Sports Group is acquiring a controlling interest in the Penguins, subject to NHL approval.
Current Penguins owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle will remain part of the ownership group. Lemieux, who played for the Penguins, will continue in his role “guiding hockey operations” for the team, according to the press release.
“The Pittsburgh Penguins are a premier National Hockey League franchise with a very strong organization, a terrific history and a vibrant, passionate fan base. We will work diligently to continue building on the remarkable Penguins’ tradition of championships and exciting play,” Fenway Sports Group Chairman Tom Werner said.
A purchase price was not listed but The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported the price tag at $900 million. Forbes valued the team at $650 million in December 2020, ranking as the 11th most valuable NHL team. The premium paid could be good news for NHL team owners such as Madison Square Garden Sports Corp (NASDAQ: MSGS), which owns the New York Rangers.
The Penguins were purchased by Lemieux and Burkle in 1999 and led the team to three Stanley Cup wins and strong television ratings and attendance ranks.
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About Fenway Sports Group, LeBron James: James joined the ownership team behind Fenway Sports Group earlier this year and now finds himself as the partial owner of an NHL team (Penguins), MLB team (Boston Red Sox), English Premier League soccer club (Liverpool) and NASCAR racing team (Roush Fenway Racing).
Along with team ownership, Fenway Sports Group owns Fenway Park and Anfield Stadium. The group also owns the New England Sports Network media company and a sports marketing and consulting firm Fenway Sports Management.
James and business partner Maverick Carter joined RedBird Capital in an investment round of Fenway Sports Group earlier this year. The deal valued Fenway Sports Group at $7.35 billion.
“Working with Fenway Sports Group for the past decade has taught LeBron and me so much about the business on a global scale and we’ve always believed it would lead to something bigger,” Carter said at the time.
James became the first active NBA player to hit $1 billion in earnings earlier this year with over $330 million in salary and $700 million in endorsements.
James’ endorsements include Blaze Pizza, AT&T Inc (NYSE: T) Apple Inc (NASDAQ: AAPL)-owned Beats by Dre, Nike Inc (NYSE: NKE) and PepsiCo, Inc. (NYSE: PEP).
SpringHill Media, a media company owned by James and Carter also saw a rise in valuation this year after the release of “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”
James is a prominent figure in the sports world and his ownership of sports teams could increase the fan bases and bring new partnership opportunities.
Once James retires, perhaps Fenway Sports Group will acquire an NBA team.
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