Molson to appeal ruling shunning NHL deal

STEFANIA MORETTI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:25 PM ET

TORONTO - Molson Coors will appeal a recent Ontario Supreme Court ruling that sided with rival Labatt over the rights to be the official beer of the National Hockey League.

On Friday, the judge called for an injunction to block Molson Coors Canada's estimated $375-million sponsorship deal with the NHL, one of the fattest in league history.

Labatt Breweries of Canada said in February that Molson's seven-year sponsorship deal with the NHL was not made in good faith since Labatt had been ironing out the details to renew its long-standing agreement with the league to 2014.

"In my view the NHL should not be entitled to profit from its breach of its agreement with Labatt. Labatt should be entitled to its bargain and to its unique marketing position resulting from the agreement to be the Canadian sponsor of the NHL for the next three years," the judge said.

"In my view, there should be an injunction preventing the NHL and Molson from proceeding with their agreement so far as the Canadian rights are concerned."

Molson fought back on Monday, saying it plans to appeal the ruling.

"While Friday's ruling was an unfortunate surprise, we remain committed to doing all we can to keep this sponsorship agreement in place with the NHL," said Dave Perkins, president and chief executive of Molson Coors Canada.

The stakes are high. The NHL, founded in 1917, is the second oldest of the four major professional team sports leagues in North America with 30 member clubs and millions of devoted fans.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement that the league "disagree[s] with the court's reasoning and its holdings" and would pursue an expedited appeal.

Labatt and its parent company, Anheuser-Busch, sponsor 22 of the 24 U.S.-based NHL teams.


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