When Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion began freely spending on their player roster over the summer, many observers wondered what was behind it all. “The Summer of Pierre,” as many have billed it, was definitely out of character for this famously frugal franchise.
There were two popular theories. Perhaps this team, now owned by Eugene Melnyk’s daughters, Anna and Olivia, was merely making good on their late father’s earlier promise to eventually spend close to the cap and have “unparalleled success.”
The other theory? Maybe they’re just sprucing the place up, getting it ready for a sale.
According to a new report, it looks like they are making plans to sell the franchise. Sportico.com, the Business of Sports, says the Senators are “widely expected to be the next NHL team to sell.”
Sportico is also reporting the club recently retained professional sports banker Galatioto Sports Partners to explore a sale, according to multiple people familiar with the plans. TSN investigative journalist, Rick Westhead, took it a step further and suggested the Sens are already for sale.
It’s certainly possible the team’s sudden upgrades over the summer were in the works all along – the finishing touches on Eugene Melnyk’s rebuild. Regardless of the motivation, there’s nothing like a little home staging to help you get top dollar, with decluttering (player buyouts) and buying new stuff (trades and/or free agent signings).
According to the report, the value of the franchise has recently gone up 21% to $655 million. That’s some serious growth in value from 2003, when Melnyk bought the team for $92 million.
As they say, things are only worth what someone is willing to pay for them. If the going rate for an NHL expansion franchise like Seattle was $650 million, then it’s safe to assume the Sens will fetch considerably more than that on the open market. On the ice, they’re a team filled with exciting young talent. Off the ice, they’ve recently cleared the path to construction for a new arena in Lebreton Flats.
Any discussion of a sale of a pro sports franchise will inevitably bring unnecessary worries about relocation. It should be noted that league commissioner Gary Bettman has always had a fierce resistance to allowing the relocation of NHL franchises. If an existing team were to transfer to a new market, the league would lose future expansion money from that new market. That, combined with the plans for a new downtown Ottawa arena, makes the notion of relocation barely worth talking about.
According to Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch, the Senators had no comment on today’s report.
By Steve Warne