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Report: Gillett considering selling Canadiens

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TSN.ca Staff
3/23/2009 10:14:04 PM
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The Montreal Canadiens could be going up for sale, reports La Presse in Montreal.

The newspaper, citing Canadiens president Pierre Boivin, reported on Monday owner George Gillett is considering options for many of his assets, including the legendary franchise.

"We're not hiding it; we're going through a very difficult economic period," Boivin told La Presse.

"The Gillett family has retained the services of financial advisers to assess various strategic alternatives to optimize the value of its corporate assets," said Boivin in a statement on Monday. "In Canada, the family has retained the services of BMO Capital Markets and the process is underway."

Boivin drew a crowd of reporters at a downtown hotel Monday, however he did not give them any substantial information.

"Today, many of you would have liked I would talk to you about the performance of the team or the news of the day in regards to the financial measures taken by our owner," Boivin said.

"But you will understand that I will abstain as it's not the time."

Forbes Magazine ranked the Canadiens as the NHL's third most valuable team back in October. The magazine estimated the club's worth to be $334 million.

There were reports the club would be placed up for sale late last year, but Gillett and the Canadiens denied their accuracy. 

Gillett purchased the Canadiens and the Bell Centre back in 2001 for $181 million. He also co-owns Liverpool soccer club along with interests in the Richard Petty Motorsports NASCAR team and Gillett Entertainment Group.

The CANADIAN PRESS is reporting that Research In Motion CEO Jim Balsillie is among the names being rumoured as the team's next owner. Others include billionaire Cirque du soleil owner Guy Laliberte, media giant Quebecor and Rene Angelil, manager and husband of singer Celine Dion.

The team does not expect the rumour of a potential sale to effect the team on the ice.

"I've heard vague rumours about what's happening," head coach and general manager Bob Gainey told reporters.

"I didn't hear that the hockey team was being sold. Have you? No. So it doesn't change.

"We're in March. Our budget's been set, our money's spent.....We have hockey games to play and it's about the competition."

The Canadiens are celebrating their 100th Season, but things have not gone as hoped for the storied orgaization. The team is in danger of missing the playoffs as they sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, one point up on the Florida Panthers in ninth. 

A steady stream of off-ice issues and on-ice struggles have hurt the Canadiens this season. General manager Bob Gainey fired head coach Guy Carbonneau earlier this month, but the club's fortunes have not changed. The Canadiens have only one win under Gainey over the six games he has been behind the bench.

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