The Molson Family Buys the Montreal Canadiens: Over Fifty Years of History

Francois GendronSenior Writer IJune 22, 2009

George Gillett sold the Montreal Canadiens to the Molson family a few days ago. The legendary hockey club is once again the property of the famous Molsons from Montreal.

In 2001, the Molson brewery sold 80.1 percent of their shares of the Montreal Canadiens and the Molson centre to George Gillett for about $275 million.

At that time, the brewery's intention was to reorganize itself and concentrate on what they do best: Brewing and selling beer. Later on, the arena's name changed to the Bell Centre as Gillett and BCE agreed on a 20-year contract over naming rights.

Then, a simple request from Gillett launched a vast sale rumor during the month of April. Gillett asked the Bank of Montreal's financial advisers to evaluate the current value of the club and the Bell centre.

The rumor of the sale of the club made headlines all over the Province of Quebec. A race was on to buy the most famous hockey club on earth.

Many local groups were interested and were on the starting line. Pierre-Karl Peladeau of Quebecor, Serge Savard and his group, BCE, Joey Saputo, René Angélil, Stephen Bronfman, and later on, the Molsons. At the end of the process last week, many of those investors pulled back and only two offers were interesting enough for Gillett.

Gillett decided to take the offer of the Molson family a couple of days ago. An estimated $550 million represents a great value and great profit for the American businessman.

The Montreal Canadiens are once again tied to the Molson family. Since 1957, we can trace the ties between the Molsons and the Montreal Canadiens hockey club. That year, the famous Senator Hartland Molson and his brother Thomas bought the Montreal Canadiens and the Canadian Arena Company.

The senator has been seen on television for years in his seat, sitting and holding his cane, watching over just behind the Canadiens' bench.

In 1964, David, William and Peter Molson, who were cousins with the senator and his brother, bought the club for about $5 million.

The Molson brothers sold the club and the Canadian Arena Company in 1971 to the Bronfman family from Montreal for $15 million, and the Bronfman family sold the club to the Molson brewery this time, and only seven years later. The Molson family was once again tied to the club.

The brewery owned the Canadiens for 30 years—from 1971 to 2001. During that time, the club moved from the legendary Montreal Forum to the modern Molson Centre. Gillett bought 80.1 percent of the package in 2001.

I am delighted to see the Molsons back in control. Their passion for the sport and the club is genuine, and it can only translate into better results on the ice as time will go by.

As for head coach Jacques Martin, General Manager Bob Gainey, and the club President Pierre Boivin, they will keep their jobs for the 2009 NHL entry draft that will be hosted by Montreal at the end of this week. There is no reason in my opinion to name a new administration right now. But I expect changes with the Molsons back in control.

Will the club's winning tradition come back with the Molsons?