MONTREAL (AP) – The Molson family is poised to buy back the
Montreal Canadiens.

Team owner George Gillett and Geoff Molson issued a
joint statement Saturday saying they have an agreement in principle for three
Molson brothers to purchase the club.

The deal needs approval from the
NHL’s board of governors, which they expect to occur by late August.

A
team spokesman said no time frame has been set for the announcement.

The
two sides did not reveal the sale price or any other details.

Gillett
owned 80.1 percent of the team, its arena and its event promotion
company.

Brothers Geoff, Andrew and Justin Molson, whose family first
bought into the Canadiens in the 1950s, were up against a handful of bidders for
the team, including Quebecor Media.

Gillett said he was “pleased to
return the ownership of the Canadiens to the Molson family, a family that has
been associated with the club for over three generations and committed to the
Montreal community for seven generations over a 223-year period.”

Gillett
purchased his majority share in the team in 2001 for $275 million. The remaining
19.9 percent remains with the Molson Coors company. Geoff Molson is on the
team’s board of directors, but he withdrew from its activities during the sale
process.

Gillett has built the Canadiens into one of the NHL’s most
profitable clubs. He is also co-owner of soccer giant Liverpool with Dallas
Stars owner Tom Hicks.

“I am fully confident that the Molson brothers,
who have been a great part of the heritage of the club, will ensure the
preservation and development of this great sports institution,” Gillett
said.

“This is a very exciting time for our family,” Geoff Molson
said in the statement.

Provincial finance minister Raymond Bachand has
made a $100 million loan available to any new owners, as long as they’re from
Quebec.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said ownership by the Molson family
will be good for the team’s fans.

“I think to the extent that they’ve
been able to find people who are obviously passionate about the game and
structure a transaction that makes sense for everybody, that’s a real plus for
the franchise and the fans in Montreal,” he said.

Despite mixed results
on the ice, the Canadiens have consistently sold out the Bell Centre, the
league’s largest venue with 21,273 seats, since the 2004-05 lockout
season.

The agreement came as the Canadiens were preparing to play host
to the NHL draft this week.


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