Quebecor and Molsons in fight for Canadiens

Wed Jun 10, 2009 9:01pm EDT
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canadian telecommunications company Quebecor Inc and the Molson brewing family squared off with competing offers on Wednesday to buy the National Hockey League's Montreal Canadiens.

Neither bidder released financial details of their offers to the team's current majority owner, U.S. entrepreneur George Gillett, but both said they were committed to keeping the 100-year-old team in Quebec.

"The team has been part and parcel of our history for a hundred years. We therefore regard this as a golden opportunity for a Quebec group to return this grand institution to local ownership," Quebecor chief executive Pierre Karl Peladeau said in a statement.

Quebecor Inc said its offer by subsidiary Quebecor Media had the backing of the media unit's co-owner, Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec.

Geoffrey Molson, a director of Molson Coors Brewing Co, said he and brothers Andrew and Justin had teamed up to make the offer for the team, in which the brewing company already has a 20 percent stake.

"We think the offer has all the ingredients to be well received by the potential seller and the National Hockey League," said Molson, who family previously owned the team when it won 11 of its 24 Stanley Cups.

Gillett, who owns 80 percent of the Montreal team, has been reportedly talking with financial advisors about what to do with his various sporting assets, which include English Premier soccer team Liverpool.

Quebecor said that while the Canadiens have a strong local following the team faced increased competition for consumer's entertainment dollars, and needed to be able to reach fans using new technology.

"Quebecor Media believes it can move the organization forward in this respect and make the Canadiens still more accessible to the mass audience, in keeping with the public's needs and expectations," the company said.

(Reporting Allan Dowd)

<p>Montreal Canadiens coach and general manager Bob Gainey (C) and his bench look on in the final moments of their loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal hockey game in Montreal, April 20, 2009. REUTERS/Shaun Best</p>