The National Hockey League‘s Ottawa Senators agreed to a deal to sell 90% of the team to a group led by Toronto billionaire Michael Andlauer, a transaction that could have significant development implications in Canada’s capital and ultimately lead to a downtown stadium.
The NHL team, which currently plays almost 25 kilometres west of Parliament Hill in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata, said Andlauer agreed to the deal and will assume control of the organization’s operations with Anna and Olivia Melnyk, through the Melnyk Estate, retaining a 10% interest in the club.
“My family and I are very excited to be a part of the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club. 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,” said the new owner, who is part owner of the Montreal Canadiens, in a statement.
“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.”
Pharmaceutical billionaire Eugene Melnyk bought the Senators out of bankruptcy in 2003, but he passed away in 2022, ahead of a plan agreed to with the National Capital Commission to build a stadium just west of downtown.
No price was disclosed in the release, but the Ottawa Citizen reported the purchase price as US$950 million, including the team’s stadium known as the Canadian Tire Centre. The stadium opened in 1996, and it is unclear what will happen to the facility if the team moves.
“We have entered into an agreement to sell the controlling interest of the Senators to Michael Andlauer. Michael represents everything we could have hoped to find coming into this process, a passionate owner who is committed to Ottawa,” said a statement from Sheldon Plener, chairman and governor of the Ottawa Senators.
Published reports indicate the winning bid was conditional on not moving the team. The NHL has long been reluctant to move franchises, with the last move being the Winnipeg Jets transferring from Atlanta for the 2011-12 season. The Jets were the first franchise to relocate since the Hartford Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997.
“We would also like to recognize the ongoing efforts of the National Hockey League and the outstanding work of Galatioto Sports Partners,” said Plener, referring to the group that handled the sale. “We believe it is a momentous day for the National Capital Region.”
The National Capital Region is an area that straddles two provinces in Ottawa, Ontario, and Gatineau, Quebec, with a population of almost 1.5 million. Statistics Canada said that in 2021 the region was Canada’s fourth-largest metro area.
The National Capital Commission, a federal body that has been behind a development plan to put an arena downtown, agreed almost a year ago to a memorandum of understanding for developing a significant event centre at LeBreton Flats with Capital Sports Development Inc., a group led by the Ottawa Senators NHL hockey team.
The groups proposed building an NHL hockey arena and events venue surrounded by mixed-use development, located on Albert Street between Preston Street and City Centre Avenue.
The Ottawa Citizen, which reported Andlauler’s partners to include Farm Boy grocery store partner Jeff York and the Claridge Homes‘ Malhotra family, said the new owner supports a downtown site but has yet to settle on a location.