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Changing of the Guard

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
David Morehouse grew up in Pittsburgh as a Penguins fan, sneaking into games during the 1970s to watch Syl Apps, Jean Pronovost and Dave Burrows. And now the Beechview native finds himself as one of the top executives in the Penguins organization.


“I get to work with Mario Lemieux,” Morehouse joked. “It’s a pretty good deal.”

Morehouse, who has served as team president since April 2007, will now serve a dual role for the Penguins as president and chief executive officer in September with the announced retirement of current CEO Ken Sawyer.

“I’m excited. I feel very fortunate as a Pittsburgh boy to run this hockey team,” Morehouse said. “I’m very thankful to Ken Sawyer for everything that he’s done to lay the foundation that I’m going to be able to build on, and (co-owners) Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux for making the franchise the success that it is right now.”

“With Ken’s retirement, David is the ideal person to lead the Penguins forward into this exciting new era, symbolized by the Consol Energy Center,” Lemieux and Burkle said in a joint statement. “David came to us with a strong background in strategic planning, project development, branding, communications and political decision-making, as well as a native’s understanding of Pittsburgh and the surrounding region. For the past three years, he’s had the opportunity to work with and learn from Ken Sawyer at the top level of our organization, and now we believe he is the natural choice to assume the dual role of CEO and president.”

Morehouse – who attended South Hills Catholic High School, the Community College of Allegheny County and Duquesne University before receiving a master’s degree in public administration from the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1999 – originally joined the team as a senior consultant on the new arena project in 2004. In just five years he has gone from consultant to president and CEO.

“David has done extraordinary things the last couple of years helping maximize the revenue generation and commitment to fan and community relations,” Sawyer said. “It’ll be an easy transition. Where we go from here is well suited to his skills.”

Since being named president in 2007, Morehouse has overseen ticketing sales, marketing, corporate sales, communications and brand development, as well as representing the team in corporate relations, governmental affairs and redevelopment of the Mellon Arena site.

With his broad background and experience learning under Sawyer, Morehouse is ready to make a smooth transition into president and CEO.

“It’s one of the hallmarks of a successful franchise, there won’t be much of a transition,” Morehouse said. “The ownership group that we have is committed to winning, committed to the fans. I’ve been here for five years, and I know where they want us to go. I’ve learned a lot from the ownership group and from Ken. There shouldn’t be much of a transition. We have great employees. That’s another thing that makes it easy. The Penguins front office is just extraordinarily talented.”

The main goal is sustainability of championship teams. It’s hard enough to win a Stanley Cup. It’s even harder to remain on top. We have some good ideas on how to do that. We have some great leadership here on the hockey side and the ownership group. Like I said before, in the front office, we have a shot at it. We’ll do the best we can. - David Morehouse
With Morehouse’s help, the Penguins have been built into the model franchise for the NHL. The team boasts a sellout streak of more than 150 games, a season-ticket holder waiting list, back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances with a championship in 2009, and a brand new state-of-the-art arena set to open in August. The challenge now is to maintain the Penguins’ prestige and build on those accomplishments.

“The main goal is sustainability of championship teams,” said Morehouse, who resides in Bell Acres with his wife, Vanessa, and their three children. “It’s hard enough to win a Stanley Cup. It’s even harder to remain on top. We have some good ideas on how to do that. We have some great leadership here on the hockey side and the ownership group. Like I said before, in the front office, we have a shot at it. We’ll do the best we can.”

One thing is a certain, Morehouse will not have to sneak into the Consol Energy Center next season to see the Penguins play.

“This is a dream come true. I never even thought it would happen,” Morehouse said. “I feel very fortunate. It’s a great time to be a part of the Penguins organization, and we have so much to look forward to moving ahead: a new arena; great young talent; a few more Cups we need to win. It’s going to be a challenge.”
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