x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Liverpool co-owner sells Canadiens

The Molson brewing family in principle buys back the Montreal Canadiens from team owner George Gillett.

Montreal Canadiens Guillaume Latendresse (left) celebrates his first period goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with team mates Maxim Lapierre (centre) and Josh Gorges.
Montreal Canadiens Guillaume Latendresse (left) celebrates his first period goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with team mates Maxim Lapierre (centre) and Josh Gorges.

MONTREAL // The Molson brewing family is poised to buy back the Montreal Canadiens. Team owner George Gillett - who is also co-owner of English Premier League football club Liverpool - and Geoff Molson issued a joint statement yesterday saying they have an agreement in principle for three Molson brothers to purchase the club. The deal needs approval from the NHL's board of governors, which they expect to occur by late August. A team spokesman said no time frame has been set for the announcement. The two sides did not reveal the sale price or any other details. Mr Gillett owned 80.1 per cent of the team, its arena and its event promotion company. Brothers Geoff, Andrew and Justin Molson, whose family first bought into the Canadiens in the 1950s, were up against a handful of bidders for the team, including Quebecor Media.

Mr Gillett said he was "pleased to return the ownership of the Canadiens to the Molson family, a family that has been associated with the club for over three generations and committed to the Montreal community for seven generations over a 223-year period". Mr Gillett purchased his majority share in the team in 2001 for US$275 million (Dh1bn). The remaining 19.9 per cent remains with the Molson Coors company. Geoff Molson is on the team's board of directors, but he withdrew from its activities during the sale process. Mr Gillett has built the Canadiens into one of the NHL's most profitable clubs. He is also co-owner of Liverpool with Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks.

"I am fully confident that the Molson brothers, who have been a great part of the heritage of the club, will ensure the preservation and development of this great sports institution," Mr Gillett said. "This is a very exciting time for our family," Geoff Molson said in the statement. Provincial finance minister Raymond Bachand has made a $100m loan available to any new owners, as long as they're from Quebec.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said ownership by the Molson family will be good for the team's fans. "To the extent that they've been able to find people who are obviously passionate about the game and structure a transaction that makes sense for everybody, that's a real plus for the franchise and the fans in Montreal," he said. Despite mixed results on the ice, the Canadiens have consistently sold out the Bell Centre, the league's largest venue with 21,273 seats, since the 2004-05 lockout season.

* AP