Mario Lemieux, Ron Burkle, and the Future of the Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle are very different people.

Both go to great lengths to sidestep the media. Both have significant amounts of money. Neither has a college degree. And that’s about as far as the similarities go.

The two personalities seemingly couldn’t be more different.

I initially started to read about Lemieux and Burkle last May after the two men came out from the shadows to discuss the surprising firing of former Penguins GM Ray Shero.  In sitdown interviews with Pittsburgh media personalities, the pair presented themselves as a united front just as any PR playbook would recommend.

But who are these men?

What do the public breadcrumbs tell us about their personalities and business dealings?

Did they just stumble upon a Sidney Crosby lottery ball one day back in 2005 or did they have some kind of magic touch that took a franchise from the ashes of bankruptcy to the peak of the hockey mountain?

Much of the following was originally written in May as the second part of my series called ‘The Rise and Fall of Ray Shero’s Pittsburgh Penguins‘.  I wanted to try to piece together the role Lemieux and Burkle played in Shero’s demise, but soon realized the story was bigger than Shero.

It wasn’t about a General Manager’s rapid fall from untouchable status, or Sidney Crosby, or even bad bounces against the Boston Bruins.

The Penguins are limping into the 2015 playoffs with low expectations and a frustrated fanbase.  Another early playoff exit will probably mean more change in the form of lost jobs and reactionary player trades.

It might also mean the end of the Lemieux-Burkle era of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Part 1: The Cost of Loyalty

Part 2: Return on Investment

Part 3: The Future of the Pittsburgh Penguins