Canada

Ottawa Senators sold to Toronto-based businessman

A group led by Michael Andlauer has emerged from a long and public bidding process with an agreement in principle to be the new owner of the Ottawa Senators.

The team announced the deal in a news release, saying he would purchase 90 per cent of the team. It did not list a purchase price.

“Subject to approval by both the National Hockey League and finalization of the sale process, Andlauer will assume control of the organization’s operations,” the Senators said.

The 57-year-old based in Toronto has been a minority owner of the Montreal Canadiens since 2009 and owns the Brantford Bulldogs junior hockey team, which he bought and moved from Belleville to Hamilton in 2015.

Before that, he had an ownership stake in an American Hockey League team in Hamilton dating back to 2003.

He has founded and led transportation and health-care companies, along with the Bulldog Capital Partners merchant bank.

“My family and I are very excited to be a part of the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club … The short and long-term future of the team is incredibly bright, and I look forward to getting to know the team, the fanbase and the community,” Andlauer said in a statement from the team’s news release.

The Malhotra family of Ottawa-based developer Claridge Homes and Jeff York, former CEO and current partner of the Farm Boy grocery chain, are also part of the ownership group, according to sources with knowledge of the bid.

Four hockey executives and coaches at a news conference. Two are holding up team sweaters.
Michael Andlauer, right, during a 2016 news conference for the Hamilton Bulldogs junior hockey team. Andlauer owns that team, which is moving to Brantford, Ont., next season. (Chris Seto/CBC)

Andlauer ‘everything we could have hoped to find’

The board of directors of Senators Sports & Entertainment began the process to sell the team last November after the death of owner Eugene Melnyk in March 2022.

Melnyk, who purchased the team and Canadian Tire Centre in 2003 for $130 million US, left the franchise to his daughters Anna and Olivia. The sisters would keep 10 per cent of the team.

A condition of the sale would be that it stays in Ottawa, the franchise announced when putting up the for sale sign.

“Michael represents everything we could have hoped to find coming into this process — a passionate owner who is committed to Ottawa,” said Senators governor Sheldon Plener in Tuesday’s news release.

Two women in hockey sweaters walk on a carpet to centre ice.
Olivia Melnyk, left, and her sister Anna, daughters of late Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, walk to centre ice for a ceremonial puck drop at the Canadian Tire Centre April 28, 2022. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Along with Andlauer, three other groups had submitted final bids by the May 15 deadline, according to Sportsnet and Postmedia: 

  • Los Angeles-based businessman Neko Sparks.
  • Former Pittsburgh Penguins minority owners Jeffrey and Michael Kimel.
  • Toronto-area billionaire Steve Apostolopoulos.

The process garnered a lot of press due in large part to the number of celebrities believed to be involved in the process.

Multiple media outlets reported in May that real estate developers Remington Group dropped out of the race, following months of Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds being reportedly attached to that group.

Rapper Snoop Dogg, who was part of Sparks’ star-studded bid, alluded to reports that a First Nations group would have an equity stake, without giving specifics.

The chief of Kitigan Zibi Anishinābeg north of Ottawa said last month he met with that team and planned to meet with at least one other bidder. The area is unceded Algonquin territory and Kitigan Zibi is part of a land claim in central Ottawa.

A hockey player hustles to skate the puck out of his end of the ice.
Tim Stützle led the Senators in scoring last season with one of the best offensive seasons in its recent history. The team has missed the playoffs for six straight seasons. (Marc DesRosiers/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters)

Where will they play?

The Senators have missed the playoffs for six straight seasons, finishing five points out of a playoff spot this time. General manager Pierre Dorion has been in that role for seven seasons and head coach D.J. Smith, for four.

They didn’t finish among the bottom 10 teams in the NHL for the first time since 2016-17. Forward Tim Stützle, 21, just had the most points and goals by any Senator since the Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza era about 15 years ago.

For the second straight year, they’ve traded away their first-round draft pick.

The team has also been working on a replacement for the 27-year-old Canadian Tire Centre in the west Ottawa suburb of Kanata.

It reached a deal about a year ago to take another crack at a new arena on LeBreton Flats at the edge of downtown — while NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe have mused about a different central location.

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