Ken Sawyer, the senior executive who led the Pittsburgh Penguins out of bankruptcy to become one of the premier franchises in the NHL, and who oversaw the construction of the new Consol Energy Center, will retire on August 31, the team announced today.
Sawyer joined the Penguins as executive vice president when co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle bought the team in 1999, was named president in 2003 and has led the organization as CEO since 2006. During his tenure the Penguins emerged from the depths of bankruptcy to become one of the hottest tickets in the NHL, with a sellout streak of more than 150 games, while reaching back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals and winning the Cup in 2009. His crowning achievement was the development and construction of Pittsburgh’s spectacular new arena, expected to open in August.
Lemieux and Burkle announced that David Morehouse, who has served the team as president since 2007, will now lead the Penguins in the dual role of CEO and president.
“Ken Sawyer has done a phenomenal job for this city and this organization, and even in retirement he always will be a Pittsburgh Penguin,” Lemieux and Burkle said in a joint statement. “Ken guided us through the early years of our ownership, provided strong and steady leadership during the uncertainty of the NHL lockout and laid the financial groundwork for our success on the ice as well as the new Consol Energy Center. The fact that this remarkable new arena will be completed on time and on budget is a testament to his vision and management skills.”
Previously, Sawyer was Chief Financial Officer of the National Hockey League for 14 years. He also has experience as a consultant, and will continue to be available to the Penguins in a consulting role.
“When you think of Ken Sawyer, you think of stability, of success, of commitment to the community,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “When you think of the Pittsburgh Penguins, you think of the same things. It’s no coincidence. The National Hockey League thanks Ken for his decades of distinguished service and sends its best wishes for a long, happy and healthy retirement.”
Morehouse, a Pittsburgh native, has been president of the Penguins since April, 2007, overseeing ticket 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. He originally joined the team as a senior consultant on the new arena project in 2004.
“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. “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 grew up in the Beechview section of Pittsburgh and often used to sneak into Penguins games in the 1970s to watch Syl Apps, Jean Pronovost and Dave Burrows. He attended South Hills Catholic High School, the Community College of Allegheny County and Duquesne University. He received a master’s degree in public administration from the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1999.
Morehouse and his wife, Vanessa, reside in Bell Acres with their three children.