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GARRIOCH: Prospective buyers prepare their bids for Ottawa Senators

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The sale of the Ottawa Senators could be nearing its crucial final stage.

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League sources told this newspaper on Thursday that groups will do their best to buy the franchise by making an offer sometime before mid-February, and those offers will separate contenders from contenders in the process of selling the Senators.

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Bids are submitted to Galatioto Sports Partners (GSP), the New York-based bankers hired by the Melnyk family to handle the sale, and then the process is handed over to NHL headquarters to complete the purchase senators.

As always, we’ve been told to be careful with schedules as the situation is fluid, but we believe that if all goes as planned, we could know as early as March 1st which group emerged as the front runner in purchasing the franchise and has signed an agreement in principle.

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The groups involved have signed a non-disclosure agreement and cannot comment publicly on where the process is or be barred from bidding by the league.

We think Hamilton businessman Michael Andlauer and Toronto billionaires Jeffrey and Michael Kimel remain the front runners. There are also rumors that the Melnyk family would like to keep up to 10% of the shares or at least a small part of the team.

Andlauer is believed to have attended the club’s dramatic 5-4 win over the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Center on Tuesday night. Andlauer has a minority stake in the group that owns the Habs and is an assistant governor for the club. He has the backing of Montreal Gov. Geoff Molson.

Do not dismiss the Kimel family, and nothing prevents them from working with Andlauer as well.

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They were co-owners of the Pittsburgh Penguins before they were sold to Fenway Sports Group for $900 million. The owners of Harlo Financial Group, which invests in real estate, wealth management and the entertainment industry, have also been aggressive in their pursuit.

A source told this newspaper that Vancouver-born actor Ryan Reynolds will be in the middle of buying that team.

The signs are that Reynolds and his Los Angeles-based company, Maximum Effort, have stepped up their efforts to try and buy the franchise, joining a group they believe can succeed.

Whether that means Reynolds has teamed up with one of the frontrunners to buy the team or brought in partners to create his own group, we’re not sure, but he’s optimistic about becoming part of the club’s next ownership group being.

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One way or another, Reynolds is expected to play a key role in buying the Senators. That’s because NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Bill Daly want to include him because of the actor’s ability to help grow the game.

One need only look at the tremendous success Reynolds and Rob McIlhenney have had since purchasing Wrexham FC two years ago. They have done a great job of bringing the team to the community, growing the brand and the Wales football team is now receiving international attention.

The data room was opened two weeks ago, in which the potential groups could take a look at the club books. Since then, the possible groups have been flocking over finance to see what kind of offer makes sense.

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The website for potential buyers also contains information about the club’s letter of intent for a new arena at the LeBreton Flats. The NHL has told anyone interested that they would like to see a lease deal with the National Capital Commission.

Along with Andlauer and Kimell. Postmedia has linked the following names to Senators ownership offerings:

• Rocco Tullio, a Windsor-based developer who offered the team $650 million last November before Melnyk passed away. The belief is that Tullio is working with Andlauer to look into a joint offer.

• Paul and Michael Paletta of Alinea Group Holdings have confirmed their involvement to this newspaper.

• Jeff York, Farmboy’s Chief Executive Officer, has assembled a group of local investors to work with the new owner.

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• Paul Rivett, co-owner of the Toronto Star, is said to have assembled a group.

• We are also told Patrick Dovigi, 43, CEO of waste management company GFL and former OHL goalkeeper, will be there. Dovigi signed an NDA.

• Ottawa-based Claridge Homes’ Neil Malhotra has stepped up his bidding efforts on the property development opportunity.

• Discussions were held by Power Corp’s André Desmarais, who was involved in a failed bid for the LeBreton Flats project five years ago. There were rumors that he pitched a few years ago, but Melnyk didn’t want to sell. This newspaper has reported that Andlauer may be trying to sell his stake in the Habs to the Desmarais family. We’re told Desmarais remains optimistic about making a bid for the senators.

• We have also been told there is a ‘mystery group’ run by a Canada-based organization that has spoken to Reynolds and is seriously interested in buying the club. We don’t have details, but we’ve been told that this group shouldn’t be written off because of their ability to close a deal.

[email protected]

Twitter: @sungarrioch

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