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Penguins Not Looking To Move Yet

January 25, 1999

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ The Pittsburgh Penguins, at least temporarily, have withdrawn their request that a federal bankruptcy judge reconsider a ban that prohibits management from shopping the team to another city.

Harry Manion, the latest lawyer to oversee the Penguins’ bankruptcy, said any public fight with Civic Arena management firm SMG would be counterproductive while negotiations to restructure the team’s lease continue.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman calls the Penguins’ lease at the 37-year-old Civic Arena ``probably the least favorable in the league.″

The Penguins argue the lease was a major reason why they sought bankruptcy protection in October, and they are hoping that U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Bernard Markovitz will order it to be rewritten.

Bettman said at the NHL all-star game in Tampa that the league wants to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh, but that a new arena needs to be built.

Bettman said two groups have contacted the NHL with an interest in buying the Penguins and keeping them in Pittsburgh, but he did not identify the groups. He also would not say if retired Penguins star Mario Lemieux is involved in either group.

Lemieux, the Penguins’ largest unsecured creditor, is owed $28.7 million in deferred compensation as part of the $42 million, seven-year contract he signed in 1993. The contract was renegotiated several times before Lemieux retired in 1997.

Manion said his next step is to work on the Civic Arena lease with SMG but, if efforts to end the Penguins’ financial troubles aren’t solved in bankruptcy court, then relocation may be the only option.

``We’ll see if there’s some city that wants to put out a lot of money to take over the team,″ Manion said. ``If they’re not there, then we’re at the end of the line.″

The Penguins apparently are about $125 million in debt, or more than the franchise’s total value.

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