I hope that you all had the chance to read the extensive and in-depth story about Penguins principal owner Ron Burkle in the Post-Gazette this morning. Burkle is an extremely wealthy businessman who, it can be stated with some accuracy, saved the Penguins franchise for Pittsburgh when he partnered with Mario Lemieux to purchase the team. He prefers to stay out of the spotlight, and this interview, the team said, would be the only such one that he will do.
Anyway, it was a most interesting story and well worth your time to read. However, one passage fairly jumped off the page and smacked me in the mouth when I read it. It talked about how Burkle reacted to Ken Sawyer, who was the CEO of the Pens at the time the Burkle/Lemieux group took ownership of the team. The two had, shall we say, philosophical differences.
“I thought we were headed in the wrong direction because Mario, like almost everybody who’s got an incredible talent – whether it’s in business and you’re a great operator or whether it’s as a great player – when they get in the top position, they tend to lean on the CFO a lot, and the CFO doesn’t have a commitment to win,” Burkle said.
“The CFO has a commitment to try to end up with the most amount of money in the bank. And most of the time, just due to their personality, they have the wrong strategy, so their idea of how to end up with the most money in the bank doesn’t build the most value. I’d rather build value than put money in the bank, because value is ultimately what you’re after.”
Further on in the story, Burkle also stated, and this was the Money Quote in the story, as far as I was concerned:
“I didn’t think we had the commitment to winning,” he said. “We had somebody saying, ‘This is the way to end up the year without having to write a check,’ or ‘This is the way to end the year with having a few dollars in the bank.’ I thought that was taking the wrong direction.”
The Penguins, under the ownership of Burkle/Lemieux, have reached the Stanley Cup finals four times in ten seasons, and have won it three times, and are, according to Burkle, "a profitable team, under almost any scenario..."
Compare and contrast this way of doing business to the way Bob Nutting runs the Pirates. And, yeah, I know that there is a salary cap in the NHL and none in baseball. Cry me a river. And just think, Pirates fans, the Burkle/Lemieux group did make an offer to buy the Pirates earlier in this decade but were quietly rebuffed by Nutting.
If you are interested, here is a link to the entire story from today's PG: