Frank D’Angelo eyeing bid for Penguins; Cuban also said to be interested

Frank D’Angelo, the colourful Toronto businessman behind Steelback beer whose bid for CFL franchise in Ottawa was recently turned down, said Sunday he and billionaire partner Dr. Barry Sherman were considering making an offer.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is also believed to have renewed interest in looking at the club and Balsillie, co-chief executive officer of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd (TSX:RIM), also remains in the picture despite pulling the plug Friday on a deal for the Pens reportedly worth US$175 million.

D’Angelo, Sherman and a team of their financial advisers spent the day developing models for a possible offer and the infrastructure of how they would operate the franchise.

They hope to secure a meeting with Penguins president Ken Sawyer next week.

“It’s hard to understand what you’re up against until you’ve seen all the numbers,” D’Angelo said in an interview with The Canadian Press on Sunday. “We just finished a meeting now, putting together a business plan.”

Best known to the public from the folksy Steelback beer commercials with NHL stars of the past and the tongue-in-cheek Cheetah sport drink ads with Ben Johnson, D’Angelo says he would keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

Isle of Capri Casinos Inc., has promised to build a $290-million arena to replace the 45-year-old Mellon Arena – at no cost to taxpayers or the team – if it obtains a slot machine licence from the state.

A decision on the licence is expected this week.

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“We have absolutely no intention of moving the team,” said D’Angelo. “We want to keep the team where it’s been for the past 40 years and that has produced players like the great Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and now has Sidney Crosby.”

Sources told The Canadian Press on Friday that part of the reason Balsillie’s deal fell through was his unhappiness with the NHL’s insistence that keeping the team in Pittsburgh be part of the deal.

D’Angelo says he and Sherman could build their own rink if Isle of Capri loses out on the slot machine licence, benefitting from the building’s naming rights and supplying the beverages there.

“First and foremost we want to be part of the NHL, which I think is going to flourish and prosper,” said D’Angelo. “We also want to be part of that as a producer of beverages, some of which are associated with sports and entertainment like beer.”

D’Angelo was among the three groups hoping to bring the CFL back to Ottawa for 2008, but was rejected by the league last month. The CFL remains in talks with a group led by Bill Palmer – father of quarterback Jesse Palmer.

D’Angelo says he remains interested in pursuing a CFL team in Ottawa as well and will pursue the matter once the league settles on a commissioner to replace Tom Wright.