Steelback owner pursues Penguins

Frank D'Angelo, who owns the Ontario-based Steelback Breweries, says he wants to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins — days after Canadian tech billionaire Jim Balsillie withdrew his bid.

Frank D'Angelo says he'll keep the team in Pittsburgh

The irrepressible owner of Ontario-based Steelback Breweries is thirsting for a new acquisition— the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins.

Frank D'Angelo, made famous by cheesy television commercials hawking Steelback beer and Cheetah power drinks, is interested in buying the Penguins, a team once again in limbo after the planned purchase of the club by Canadian tech billionaire Jim Balsillie fell apart Friday.

"We are going to be pursuing every avenue to get into the sports business, and what better way then to invest in a great franchise like the Pittsburgh Penguins," D'Angelo told the Ottawa Citizen on Saturday.

"We want to go in there, buy the team, and make sure it has a proper home. The City of Pittsburgh deserves to keep its team."

The decision to pursue the Penguins was made after a six-hour meeting on Friday betweenD'Angelo and his business partner, Dr. Barry Sherman, the chief executive officer of pharmaceutical giant Apotex.

The Penguins went back on the market late Friday after Balsillie surprised the hockey world by pulling out of the $175-million US deal to purchase the team. Balsillie, co-chief executive officer of Canada's Research in Motion Ltd.— the maker of the BlackBerry— agreed to buy the Penguins in October, pending approval by the league.

Reports suggest part of the reason Balsillie walked away from the sale was his displeasure with league's mandate to keep the team in Pittsburgh as part of the agreement.

There had been speculation that he could try to move the franchise to Hamilton, which is close to his home and RIM's head office in Waterloo, Ont., if a new arena in Pittsburgh isn't built.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, D'Angelo intends to keep the team in Pittsburgh.

"Steelback beer in Steeltown, what an incredible fit," D'Angelo told the Citizen.

Viewers of the Steelback and Cheetah commercials will be familiar with some of the names involved in D'Angelo's bid for the Penguins. Aside from D'Angelo— front and centre in many of the TV spots— NHL Hall of Famer Phil Esposito has been acting as a go-between for Steelback and Penguins CEO Ken Sawyer, according to the Ottawa Citizen. Esposito has been a staple of the Steelback TV ads.

D'Angelo said he wouldcall a news conference during the week ahead if initial meetings with Penguins brass were fruitful.

Steelback Breweries, based in Tiverton, Ont., is a subsidiary of D'Angelo's privately-heldlarger empire, the Mississauga-based D'Angelo Brands, which also makes fruit juices and Cheetah Power Surge Energy Drink.