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Monday, November 7, 2005
Pirates tell Mavs' owner Cuban team not for sale

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is interested in buying his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates, but the ownership told him the team isn't for sale despite its ongoing streak of 13 consecutive losing seasons.

In an e-mail response to The Associated Press, Cuban said Monday he looked into buying the team recently, but "they told me they have no interest in selling."

Cuban's interest in the team he grew up rooting for is well known, but this is the first time he has acknowledged wanting to buy the Pirates. Previously, he said he would look into acquiring a stake only if the Pirates were put up for sale or if acquiring a lesser share of the team would help keep it in Pittsburgh.

"The Pirates are not for sale," club vice president Patty Paytas said, responding to Cuban's comment.

The Pirates were bought 10 years ago by a group assembled by newspaper heir Kevin McClatchy, the managing general partner. The largest investor is Wheeling, W.Va., newspaper publisher G. Ogden Nutting and his two sons, who were initially brought into the group by McClatchy in 1996 and have since acquired at least a 25 percent stake of the 119-year-old franchise.

While McClatchy's group probably prevented the franchise from moving elsewhere and was successful in persuading lawmakers to build PNC Park, the team has had 10 consecutive losing seasons since the purchase and has only once finished within five games of .500.

The Pirates had the third-lowest payroll in the majors last season and have declined to pursue upper-tier free agents actively, attempting instead to build with lower-priced prospects.

That probably wouldn't be the case under Cuban, a billionaire who has spent millions building the Mavericks into one of the NBA's top franchises, though they have yet to win an NBA title since he acquired them in 2000.

Cuban also attempted to buy into a Pittsburgh sports team before purchasing the Mavericks, talking with Mario Lemieux's ownership group as it was buying the NHL's then-bankrupt Pittsburgh Penguins in 1999. But the group wanted Lemieux to be the face and voice of the organization and was unwilling to allow Cuban to play an active role in the team's day-to-day operations.