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An agreement is in place for Fenway Sports Group to purchase Pittsburgh Penguins

Keith Srakocic

On today’s episode of The Confluence: Post-Gazette reporter Mike DeFabo shares the latest details on the agreement to sell the Penguins to the Fenway Sports Group; marketing and consumer behavior expert Audrey Guskey explains what we know so far about Black Friday shopping trends; and former Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier talks about his career-ending injury and recovery in his new book, “Walking Miracle.”

Penguins sale is moving forward, but still needs approval from the NHL Board of Governors
(0:00 - 8:03)

Fenway Sports Group, the owners of the Boston Red Sox, has entered an agreement to acquire ownership of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The deal still needs to be approved by the NHL Board of Governors, the owners of the other teams.

Former player Mario Lemieux and billionaire Ron Burkle, who bought the team out of bankruptcy in 1999, will sell their controlling stakes and stay on as minority owners, controlling a small percentage.

“I think even more importantly than the financial aspect is Mario Lemieux’s name, that being attached. That holds considerable weight, both within the NHL world and also here in Pittsburgh,” says Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Mike DeFabo, who covers the Penguins.

DeFabo says Lemieux will still be “active and engaged” with the team, but Lemieux has largely been hands off, weighing in on the long-term vision of the team rather than day-to-day details.

Senior management including CEO David Morehouse, COO Kevin Acklin, President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke, and General Manager Ron Hextall will all remain in their positions.

Mario wrote a letter to fans on the Penguins website that Fenway Sports Group shares his values, saying in the past he had been approached multiple times to consider selling the franchise but it wasn’t the right fit.

He wrote, “In FSG, however, we met an experienced group of leaders with a passion to win championships and a vision that aligns with ours. Just as importantly, they have at their core a stewardship philosophy rooted in local community impact and investment. It is a winning combination.”

DeFabo says Fenway Sports Group is a strong buyer, and while its teams have gone on to win big, the group is also financially powerful.

The sale still has to be approved by the NHL board of governors, which could vote on this at its next meeting on December 9 and 10.

Black shopping sales significantly topped last year, but still down compared to pre-pandemic years 
(8:07 - 17:29)

Ready or not, holiday shopping has begun. Even though we are still in a pandemic, and facing material shortages that experts have been warning for months could affect our shopping.

So how did Black Friday go this year?

“Experts were shocked how well we did on Black Friday,” says marketing expert and associate professor at Duquesne University, Audrey Guskey. “According to Mastercard, sales increased 29.8% over last year.”

Guskey says although that statistic is impressive, it has a lot to do with the return of an in-person shopping experience that was largely dampened last year.

Online shopping has continued to take a larger and larger chunk out of the overall retail sales.

“Last year, online shopping almost became king. It wasn’t more money spent [than in brick-and-mortar stores] but it's getting close,” says Guskey. “This year it’s going to be really a toss up because consumers love the convenience of online shopping, the sales are great, however, everybody’s afraid of the supply-chain issues.”

Guskey adds that nearly 50% of consumers did shop earlier than Black Friday, heeding the advice to buy gifts early and avoid supply-chain issues.

Retailers also had the lowest amount of clearance, sales and discounts than in recent years, says Guskey. They’re also struggling to attract and hire enough employees, which she says may affect the consumer experience.

“I think that post-pandemic, it’s a new world out there for shoppers, and we’re growing accustomed to it,” says Guskey. “This year, I am predicting about an 8% increase [in sales over last year]. Now keep in mind the average is 4%, and so an 8% increase would be huge.”

Ryan Shazier’s book chronicles his recovery from a severe injury, and later philanthropic work
(14:52 - 22:30)

Former Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Shazier is out with a new book today. “Walking Miracle” is about his recovery from an on-field spinal cord injury in 2017 that left him paralyzed and ended his football career.

Shazier tells 90.5 WESA’s Maria Scapellato that he dealt with his paralysis as if it were an opponent on the football field. He writes about his recovery as a series of first downs rather than touchdowns.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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