Balsillie still interested in buying Pens

PITTSBURGH -- Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie says he continues to be interested in buying the Pittsburgh Penguins, a week after he unexpectedly withdrew his reported bid to buy the team.

Balsillie on Friday shared with The Associated Press a letter he sent to Penguins owner Mario Lemieux.

Balsillie withdrew his bid last Friday after he couldn't agree to terms of the deal with the NHL, which reportedly pushed for contract language that would prevent Balsillie from moving the team out of Pittsburgh.

The Penguins did not immediately return a call for comment on Balsillie's letter.

But since Balsillie withdrew his initial offer, Lemieux has said the team is off the market and his group will explore moving the team to another city, among other options.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reprinted the letter from Balsillie to Lemieux on its Web site Friday:

Dear Mario:

I watched your recent news conference and I deeply regret that you have interpreted our inability to reach an agreement as an offence to you or the team. That was certainly never my intent and I apologize. Despite recent difficulties, I continue to be very interested in the team and in working towards an arena deal that is a benefit to the team and to the City of Pittsburgh.

You have fought with the local politicians for many years to get an economically viable arena deal which would insure the future of Penguins hockey in Pittsburgh. It is a city with a great hockey tradition and a solid fan base.

Incredibly, the government chose to ignore a brilliant plan and rejected $290 million in private money in favor of spending hundreds of millions of hard-earned taxpayer money.

I have a team ready to immediately start negotiating Plan B. On our side all of the papers have been signed and everything is in place to close our transaction immediately but for the NHL Consent Agreement. However, we must move quickly. Every day that is lost is a day which can be used to negotiate an economically viable Plan B. It would be a tragedy if delay narrowed the options and resulted in a sale to someone who would immediately seek to relocate the team.

Given all that has happened this week, I was hoping you would agree to go arm and arm with me to the commissioner and make one last effort to get our deal done.

You are a hero to the people of Pittsburgh. They are looking to you to do everything possible to save their team. I will respect whatever decision you make in this regard.

Sincerely, Jim Balsillie

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.