September 10, 2009 / 3:14 PM / in 8 years

Molson family nears completion of Canadiens deal

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Molson family is close to completing its takeover of the National Hockey League’s Montreal Canadiens for about $575 million, with most legal documents completed, financing lined up and closing expected in the next few weeks.

<p>Montreal Canadiens coach and general manger Bob Gainey and the bench watch the final moments of their loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 4 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal hockey game in Montreal, April 22, 2009. REUTERS/Shaun Best</p>

The family said on Thursday that its acquisition partners include BCE Inc, Canada’s biggest telecom company; the Woodbridge Co Ltd, the investment vehicle of Canada’s billionaire Thomson family; Quebec’s QFL Solidarity Fund; and investors Michael Andlauer and Luc Bertrand.

Beer brewing powerhouse Molson Coors Brewing Co will remain a key Canadiens sponsor. As well, the Molson family group plans to take over Molson Coors’ 19.9 percent stake in the team as part of their bid.

That part of the deal is still subject to an agreement on final terms and Molson Coors board approval.

The Molson group is buying the team, and Montreal’s Bell Centre arena, from businessman George Gillett, whose holdings include a part of English Premier League soccer club Liverpool.

The Molsons have a long history with the Canadiens, having owned the team in its glory years from 1957 to 1971, when it won many Stanley Cup championships.

National Bank Financial is leading the debt financing and is forming a banking syndicate with Desjardins Group and Bank of Nova Scotia.

In July, a spokesman for Montreal’s Molson family said that earlier financing agreements with CIT Group Inc had fallen through while CIT fought to avoid bankruptcy.

Reporting by Wojtek Dabrowski; editing by Rob Wilson

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