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View From The US: Ottawa Senators sold to Andlauer for nearly $1 billion

June 22, 2023

In this View From piece Sportico’s, Kurt Badenhausen, Scott Soshnick and Eben Novy-Williams, look into the recent sale of the Ottawa Senators for almost $1 billion.

Michael Andlauer has reached an agreement to acquire the NHL’s Ottawa Senators. The team sold for almost $1 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. 

The group is acquiring the team from the estate of Eugene Melnyk, who died in March 2022 (the Melnyk estate will retain a 10 percent interest in the club). The pharmaceuticals billionaire had acquired the team out of bankruptcy two decades ago for $92 million, and last fall, the Melnyk family retained Galatioto Sports Partners (GSP) to explore a possible sale. The deal is still subject to league approval.

“I believe that the Senators’ fanbase is one of the most passionate in the league, and I’m excited to take the franchise’s success both on and off the ice to the next level,” Andlauer said in a statement released by the team. “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.”

Representatives for GSP declined to comment on the sale.

Last year, Sportico valued the Senators at $655 million, 27th in the 32-team league. The Senators have missed the playoffs in six straight seasons, generate the NHL’s third lowest revenue and consistently lose money.

Nonetheless, bidding for the club was robust. Nine different groups submitted offers ahead of the first March deadline, including one from actor Ryan Reynolds and real estate developer Remington Group. Four groups made follow-up bids ahead of the final deadline; along with Andlauer, those included former Pittsburgh Penguins minority owners Jeffrey and Michael Kimel, Canadian billionaire Steve Apostolopoulos, and film producer Neko Sparks, whose group also included Snoop Dogg.

Andlauer is a minority owner in the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens and the owner/chairman of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs (he previously owned an AHL team with the same name, but sold it to the Canadiens in 2015 and then bought an OHL club that he renamed and moved to Hamilton). He was born in France and raised in Canada, and is now the president and CEO of Andlauer Management Group, which oversees a number of transportation and logistics companies.

The Senators are the first Canadian hockey team to hit the market since the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2012, and one of the new owner’s biggest early priorities will be a new arena location. The Senators currently play at the Canadian Tire Centre, an arena about 16 miles (26 kilometers) from the capital city’s downtown center. Many believe the location has limited the team’s attendance; the team averaged 16,757 fans at home this season, which ranked 25th in the league. The Senators also haven’t made the playoffs since 2017.

In June 2022, the Senators signed a memorandum of understanding for a new downtown arena at the LeBreton Flats site. And while a new arena would obviously add to the costs associated with owning the team, many incoming buyers are attracted to the proposition of being able to plan, design and control a new venue (a similar dynamic exists in the sale of the NFL’s Washington Commanders).

Other recent NHL sales include Fenway Sports Group’s 2021 acquisition of the Pittsburgh Penguins for about $900 million, and former Tennessee governor Bill Haslam’s recent purchase of the Nashville Predators, a deal that includes tiered payments that began at a $725 million valuation and will eventually jump to more than $1 billion.

(This story has been updated with Andlauer’s statement released by the Senators.)

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