Team Frugal: Mario Lemieux

Being frugal is about more than being stingy with your money. It means being prudent, smart and economical with your finances and career decisions. Every Tuesday, we share profiles of athletes that exemplify what it means to be A Frugal Athlete.

Mario Lemieux is a current owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, one of the best hockey teams in the NHL. If you don’t know much about hockey like myself you may be asking how does Lemieux make the #teamfrugaltuesdays list.

Well, Mario Lemieux was a former hockey player for the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 80s and 90s. In fact, he is regarded as one of the best hockey players of all time. Some argue, he was right up there with Wayne Gretzky, if not for the injuries. 

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In the 1990s, the Penguins ownership was struggling with payments and filed for bankruptcy in 1998. The Penguins were even on the brink of folding at one point. 

Mario Lemieux was the highest paid player on the team at the time. He was owed money for his guaranteed contract that was continually being deferred. Penguins ownership eventually defaulted on his contract, and it wasn’t certain Lemieux would recoup close to the total amount of his remaining salary. Lemieux was owed over 30 million dollars from his remaining guaranteed contract. 

Instead of making matters worse for the Penguins, Lemieux decided to convert some of his remaining salary into equity within the organization. He used his relationships and formed a group of investors including billionaire Ronald Burkle to save the Penguins.

I really like this story because of Mario Lemieux’s forward thinking. He could have gone through the stress and drama of dealing with the back and forth negotiations with his beloved team by suing. Instead, Mario decided to use his business savviness to end up overcoming the adversity he was faced with to come out on top both financially and in the long term. 

A player can only play for a certain amount of time as Lemieux knew with the injuries he suffered, but being an owner is forever. 

Not everyone will fall into a situation where they can buy into a sports organization but athletes and individuals alike can start treating themselves as businesses. Whether it’s you loaning money out to your friends, trimming your entourage to keep your expenses reasonable, or insuring your body just incase you get injured you have think like a business person in order to have a strong business.