Maximizing the Canadiens

Let the bidding begin.

MONTREAL — Let the bidding begin.

Some suitors have begun posturing for the right to buy the Montreal Canadiens while others are still anonymous.

The price tag is expected to be steep — with bids to exceed $400 million and reach as much as $500 million.

At least two groups have confirmed bids for the century-old hockey franchise — one from three Molson brothers and the other from a consortium spearheaded by Quebecor Media.

And according to reports, a few others with strong Quebec ties may also be in the mix to buy the club, which is currently owned 80 per cent by American George Gillett. Molson-Coors (TSX:TPR.B) owns the remaining 20 per cent.

Newspaper reports have identified a group led by millionaire Stephen Bronfman, chairman of Claridge SRB Investments Inc. and heir to the Seagram empire.

Another potential buyer could be Roustan Capital, an American company headed by Montreal native W. Graeme Roustan, who resides in Florida and also owns the Bauer Hockey equipment company.

Calls by The Canadian Press to spokespeople for Bronfman and Roustan went unreturned Thursday.

Sports economists say a bidding war is likely and that it isn’t clear if it will be wrapped up before a National Hockey League board of governors meeting at the end of the month.

“How fast it’ll go depends entirely on Mr. Gillett,” said Bruno Delorme, a marketing professor at Concordia University. “We don’t know for sure he wants to sell it at this point. The puck is in Mr. Gillett’s court and it depends on how indebted he is.”

Meanwhile, provincial Finance Minister Raymond Bachand reaffirmed a $100-million loan is available to a potential buyer of the club, with one proviso — they must be from Quebec.

Bachand, speaking to reporters at the legislature, said he hopes to keep the club out of the hands of a foreign billionaire who wouldn’t treat the club with the respect it deserves.

In 2001, the Caisse and two banks provided loans worth $140 million to help Gillett buy his majority stake in the franchise and 100 per cent of the arena, then known as the Molson Centre, for $181 million.

But Michel Poitevin, head of the economic sciences department at the Universite de Montreal, says having a Quebec owner is irrelevant.

He cites Gillett’s track record in the community and his immense success in rebuilding the Canadiens’ name in his time as owner.

“I think it’s not important at all and I don’t understand why the government is doing it,” Poitevin said.

“I don’t think the identity or the ethnicity of nationality of the owner is that important.”

Public funds are at play in the transaction. Quebecor Media is 45 per cent owned by the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, the province’s pension-fund manager.

All of those involved have signed confidentiality agreements keeping the terms under wraps.

Quebecor Media, a subsidiary of Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR. A, TSX:QBR.B), said Wednesday it is leading a consortium with the Solidarity Fund of the Quebec Federation of Labour and with a company owned by Rene Angelil, Celine Dion’s husband and manager.

The media giant owns the Sun Media chain of newspapers including Le Journal de Montreal, Quebec television network TVA and the Videotron cable company. Adding the Canadiens makes perfect sense but getting a consortium as diverse as the one Quebecor proposed could be difficult.

“You have different perceptions, different goals, different sets of values, different levels of finances, so yes, it can be complicated,” Delorme said, citing the current woes of the Atlanta Thrashers group as an example. “The less the better in my opinion.”

Geoff Molson said he and his brothers Andrew and Justin have assembled a “solid and credible” group of investors to bolster their bid.

The rumoured investors in the Molson bid include Quebecor arch-rival BCE Inc. (TSX: BCE), which already owns naming rights to the Habs home rink. The offer “has all the ingredients” needed to satisfy both the seller and the NHL, Geoff Molson said.

The Molson family is no stranger to the NHL — its has been associated with the franchise since 1957, when brothers Thomas and Hartland Molson acquired the team from Senator Donat Raymond.

During the period the family controlled the team, the Canadiens won 11 of their 24 Stanley Cups.

“From an emotional point of view, the glory days of the Montreal Canadiens was when the Molsons owned it,” said David Lank, director emeritus of the Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies at McGill University.

“So to come full circle for the next generation of the Molsons and the next generation of the Canadiens, there’s a certain poetic justice to it.”

The Molson family’s involvement prompted former Habs defenceman and GM Serge Savard, a Montreal real-estate developer, to pull his bid off the table.

Gillett said earlier this spring he had retained BMO Capital Markets to determine how he might maximize his holdings.

Even though it is aligned with the Quebecor bid, the Solidarity Fund is in discussion with various groups to invest in the Canadiens.

“It’s not exclusive and we’re in discussions with many groups,” said spokeswoman Josee Lagace.

Just Posted

NDP won’t stop until Trans Mountain is built, says minister

Deron Bilous speaks at Red Deer chamber luncheon

Red Deer officials will allow Calgary to trial alcohol in parks

The result could determine if local rules are relaxed

Red Deer city council could provide more clarity around closed-door meetings, says review

Confidential matters were found to be handled appropriately by city

Special lift improves Lacombe patients’ therapy

A new mobility lift is helping physical therapy patients at Lacombe Hospital… Continue reading

Red Deer group is pushing to create a local ‘international village’ to promote unity

A city made up of immigrants has no place for intolerance, say group members

Trudeau says politicians shouldn’t prey on Canadians’ fears

The Prime Minister was speaking at a townhall in Ontario

WestJet plane heading to Victoria slides off Edmonton runway, no injuries

EDMONTON — A WestJet plane has slid off an icy taxiway at… Continue reading

Sam Bennett scores twice, Flames beat Red Wings 6-4

Flames 6, Red Wings 4 CALGARY — Sam Bennett scored twice including… Continue reading

Rare ‘super blood wolf moon’ takes to the skies this Sunday

Celestial event happens only three times this century

Fashion Fridays: Inspirational gym outfits

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Company issues lifetime ban after man jumps from cruise ship

Nick Naydev posted the video last week showing him standing on the balcony of the Symphony of the Seas

Unruly passenger forces B.C.-bound flight to divert to Calgary

Police say charges are pending against a woman in her 40s

Inflation rises as higher airfares, veggie prices offset cheaper gas

Statistics Canada says inflation accelerated to two per cent in December

Canadian tattoo artist inks Toronto skyline on Blue Jays pitcher Stroman

Marcus Stroman found a way to show his appreciation for Toronto when… Continue reading

Most Read