Canadian business executive Jim Balsillie, whose company makes the BlackBerry wireless messaging device, signed an agreement to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The announcement Thursday came hours before the Penguins were to open their season against the Philadelphia Flyers. The team did not disclose terms of the purchase agreement but said Balsillie was to be available Thursday night at Mellon Arena.
The Penguins, two-time Stanley Cup champions in the 1990s, were purchased in federal bankruptcy court in 1999 by a group that was led by Hall of Fame Penguins forward Mario Lemieux. Lemieux retired as a player last season and later put the team up for sale.
"Jim is a tremendous businessman and a passionate hockey fan, and I think he is going to be a great owner for the Pittsburgh Penguins," Lemieux said. "I know his hope is to get a new arena deal and keep the team here in Pittsburgh for the long-term."
The 45-year-old Balsillie, co-chief executive officer of Research in Motion Ltd., stepped in and began negotiating after the Penguins and Toronto businessman Sam Fingold could not complete a deal. The team said on July 28 that Fingold had reached a preliminary deal for approximately $175 million.
Balsillie's company is based in Waterloo, Ontario, not far from Hamilton _ a city that has been seeking an NHL team. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday night the league is intent on keeping the Penguins in Pittsburgh as long as a new arena is built.
Negotiations to replace the 45-year-old Mellon Arena have been held up because Lemieux's group has a deal with the Isle of Capri casino chain to build the arena at no cost to the team or city. But that deal is contingent on Isle of Capri being granted the license for a new slot machine parlor in downtown Pittsburgh.
The license is not expected to be awarded until at least the end of the year.
City and Allegheny County officials, along with Gov. Ed Rendell, have urged the team to agree to another deal to build the arena if Isle of Capri does not get the casino. Land for the project has been acquired across the street from Mellon Arena.
However, Lemieux's group has declined to accept the alternative plan, saying it is bound to the Isle of Capri deal.