Takeover deal agreed for NHL’s Senators

Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Canada

Featured image credit: Jfvoll/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size

Toronto billionaire Michael Andlauer is poised to secure control of the Ottawa Senators after reaching an agreement to acquire the NHL ice hockey franchise, which has been engaged in talks over a new arena.

The board of directors of Senators Sports & Entertainment announced that an entity controlled by Andlauer has entered into an agreement to purchase 90% and operational control of the club. Anna and Olivia Melnyk, through the Melnyk Estate, will retain a 10% interest in the club should the sale proceed and gain approval from the NHL.

Andlauer’s bid is worth $950m (£752.1m/€879.9m), according to the Ottawa Sun, with his partners in the deal including local businessman Jeff York, a partner in food retailer Farm Boy, and his 20-plus investors. The Malhotra family, owners of Ottawa home builder Claridge Homes, are also said to have partnered with Andlauer.

The Senators were placed up for sale in November with Galatioto Sports Partners, a New York-based investment bank, retained by the Melnyk family to sell the team. The Senators are part of the estate Eugene Melnyk left to his daughters, Anna and Olivia, following his death in March 2022.

Melnyk acquired the Senators and its Canadian Tire Centre arena in 2003 for $130m. Andlauer, Toronto billionaire Steve Apostolopoulos, Jeffrey and Michael Kimel of Harlo Capital and Los Angeles producer Neko Sparks, were the four initial parties who submitted binding bids ranging between a reported $850m and $1bn by a deadline of May 15.

Andlauer has a long history in ice hockey and love of the game, having been involved with the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Hamilton Bulldogs since 2003, first as a co-owner, then as majority owner in 2004.

In March 2015, when he sold the Bulldogs to the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens, he purchased the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Belleville Bulls and relocated the team to Hamilton, where they won both the 2018 and 2022 OHL Championship.

In 2009, Andlauer purchased a share of the Canadiens, the Bell Centre and Gillett Entertainment Group (now evenko) as part of a group headed by Geoff Molson. Andlauer has served as alternate governor for the Canadiens since the purchase, but will be required to divest his interest in the franchise should his takeover of the Senators proceed.

Andlauer has more than 35 years of experience in the transportation and logistics industry. He is the founder and CEO of Andlauer Healthcare Group, a supply chain management company offering third party logistics and specialised transportation solutions for the healthcare sector. He is also the founder of Bulldog Capital Partners, a Toronto-based merchant bank focused on private equity investments and advisory services.

Andlauer said yesterday (Tuesday): “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.

“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.”

Sheldon Plener, chairman and governor of the Ottawa Senators, added: “Michael represents everything we could have hoped to find coming into this process – a passionate owner who is committed to Ottawa.

“I want to thank Anna and Olivia Melnyk for their dedication and support to the board of directors and executors of the estate during this process. We would also like to recognise the ongoing efforts of the National Hockey League and the outstanding work of Galatioto Sports Partners. We believe it is a momentous day for the National Capital Region.”

The Sun said Andlauer supports the idea of a new downtown arena, but hasn’t decided whether that should be at LeBreton Flats. In June 2022, the development of a new arena for the Senators returned to the table years after the collapse of a previous proposal in acrimonious circumstances, after Capital Sports Development Inc. (CSDI), a group led by the team, was chosen to develop land at the LeBreton Flats area of the Canadian city.

CSDI signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Capital Commission (NCC), the Crown corporation responsible for development, urban planning, and conservation in Canada’s Capital Region, which will focus on the development of a major event centre at LeBreton Flats.

While detailed timelines and financial plans were not revealed during last year’s announcement, CSDI is proposing to build an NHL hockey arena and events venue surrounded by mixed-use development.