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12/22/2006
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RIM Chief Can Sign Up New BlackBerry Subscribers, But He Really Wants A Hockey Team

In a letter to the Pittsburgh Penguins, RIM chairman Jim Balsillie said he is still "very interested" in the team. Previously, Balsillie had signed an agreement to purchase the Penguins for $175 million.

For Jim Balsillie, chairman of Research in Motion, signing up 875,000 new BlackBerry subscribers in the last quarter was the easy task; what's really, really hard is buying a hockey team.

A little more than a week ago, Balsillie was about to close on a deal to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins, but then he backed away from the deal last week. Now he wants to get the deal back on track.

In a letter Thursday to Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, a contrite Balsillie said he is still "very interested" in the team. Previously, Balsillie had signed an agreement to purchase the Penguins for $175 million.

However, Lemieux, citing what he called "the recent termination of the purchase agreement by Jim Balsillie," has prompted the owners of the Penguins to explore relocating the National Hockey League franchise in another city.

" it is time to take control of our own destiny," Lemieux said in a statement Thursday. "Accordingly, starting today, the team is off the market, and we will begin to explore relocation options in cities outside Pennsylvania."

A prime candidate for relocating the team is the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

Lemieux, an NHL Hall of Fame former player, complained in his statement that he had been working for seven years attempting to obtain a new arena for the Penguins. The negotiations have been complicated by Byzantine political and business maneuverings to build an arena that might or might not have gambling facilities.

In renewing his interest in the team, Balsillie said he is interested "in working towards an arena deal that is a benefit to the team and to the City of Pittsburgh. It would be a tragedy if delay narrowed the options and resulted in a sale to someone who would immediately seek to relocated the team."

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