April 8, 2009
Are Habs on auction block?
By Dany Doucet, QMI AGENCY
It seems that Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett is ready and willing to sell the famed hockey franchise.
Sources have told the Journal de Montreal that preliminary offers to buy the team were to start coming in on Wednesday.
Though there has been no public confirmation that Gillett has decided to sell, it is believed that the parties interested in making an offer have been poring over the teamís books for the last two weeks, a process facilitated by a consulting firm hired by the hockey club.
The would-be buyers were all required to sign a confidentiality agreement, sources said, adding that the meetings were to provide the exclusive group with information and documentation to help them prepare their offers.
Sale by auction
The sale will reportedly take place using an auction-like format, and the highest bid would win the ownership of the franchise, which celebrated its 100th anniversary this year. The sale would be contingent on the NHL approving the business plan of the new ownership group.
If the team does change hands, it is believed that the league would like it to be for the last time, at least for the foreseeable future. The Journal de Montreal reported that the NHL wants to see a sound business plan from the new owners. The league also wants a clear indication that whoever does buy does so with the goal of seeing the team make money, not just to bask in the glory of owning one of the most storied franchises in professional sports.
It has been reported that prospective buyers who make it past the first round of offers will be provided with additional financial information on the hockey club.
Quebecor in the mix
Unsolicited offers likely wonít be entertained, while a group including former Canadiens player, businessman Serge Savard is also expected to be excluded. Groups relying on a large number of shareholders to operate the team arenít expected to get a kick at the can, either.
Quebecor Media is one of the parties expected to be involved and is expected to make its preliminary offer on Thursday. The Saputo family, Celine Dionís husband Rene Angelil and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte are also said to be interested. Research in Motion billionaire Jim Balsillieís name has also been in the mix for some time.
In addition, it is believed that an offer will be made by Roustan Capital, an Ontario company run by W. Graeme Roustan. A Montreal native, Roustan is also the chairman of skate company Bauer.
With a business plan based on content convergence, Quebecor would likely reap the benefits of owning the Habs.
The media organization currently owns the TVO television network, cable company Videotron, many newspapers and magazines and is involved in the world of 3G mobile phone technology, all of which would likely come in handy if the company was successful in their bid to buy the Canadiens.