Gillett reaches agreement in principle for sale of Canadiens Staff

6/21/2009 12:24:45 AM

An agreement in principle has been reached on the sale of the Gillett family's interests in the Montreal Canadiens, the Bell Centre and Gillett Entertainment Group.

Geoff Molson and his brothers Andrew and Justin will take over ownership of the century-old hockey franchise, with the announcement to come once the agreement is finalized.

But the approval of the sale is going to take some time. The National Hockey League will have to review the application and conduct an interview with the executive committee before the Board of Governors will be in a position to vote.  It's expected that the approval may not come until late August.

The three brothers were one of at least two groups to have placed bids on the Canadiens franchise with one of the other bids coming from a consortium spearheaded by Quebecor Media. According to reports, a few others with strong Quebec ties were also in the mix to buy the club.

''I think to the extent that they have 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 of Montreal,'' NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in Las Vegas.

Paul Kelly, head of the NHL Players' Association, echoed Bettman's sentiment.

''I know we had two or three very prominent and impressive groups that were bidding for the team,'' said Kelly. ''I know that the purchase price got up there in numbers that are well above all of our pay grades. That's a great franchise and a great city.

''Mr. Gillett was really a fine owner,'' Kelly added. ''We will miss him in the National Hockey League. I thought he brought a lot of creativity and ingenuity and colour to the sport.''

The Molson family is no stranger to the NHL - it has been associated with the franchise since 1957, when brothers Thomas and Hartland Molson acquired the team from Senator Donat Raymond.

During the period the family controlled the team, the Canadiens won 11 of their 24 Stanley Cups.

''This is a very exciting time for our family and we are grateful to the many people and organizations who came forward to offer their collaboration in the development of our proposal,'' Mr. Molson said in a statement.