Winning a Stanley Cup primary goal of Ottawa Senators new owners

Ottawa Senators crowd cheering Stanley Cup

About this time last year, Michael Andlauer walked off his plane and into the car of Ottawa business mogul Jeff York. They drove to a nearby hotel-lobby steakhouse where the men spoke for four hours.

What came from that conversation set the course for this September’s big announcement, with Andlauer becoming the majority owner of the Ottawa Senators and York’s group of a dozen local businesspeople on board.

The Senators entire ownership pyramid is bonded by a singular goal.

OBJ360 (Sponsored)

“The second thing out of his mouth was that he wanted to win the Stanley Cup,” York said of his introductory dinner with Andlauer.

Andlauer spent US$950-million on the Senators and jokingly thanked his children for allowing him to spend their inheritance to chase his dream.

But Andlauer was quick to address how important being involved with the Ottawa-Gatineau community would be for the success of the team. There’s momentum with the on-ice product, he said, but the Montreal native who runs a billion-dollar business in Toronto was both literally and figuratively the new guy in town.

“Together we’ll make this city proud,” Andlauer said.

That community connection is where York and his group, dubbed ‘Team Ottawa-Gatineau’ come in.

Having this many local owners is unique to Canadian NHL franchises. The Toronto Maple Leafs are owned by Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, the Montreal Canadiens are owned by the Molson family, the Edmonton Oilers are owned by the Oilers Entertainment Group, the Calgary Flames are owned by the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, the Vancouver Canucks are owned by Canucks Sports and Entertainment, and the Winnipeg Jets are owned by True North Sports and Entertainment.

York, who has a long history in hockey including attending Princeton University on a hockey scholarship and whose brother Jason played more than 10 years in the NHL, said the Jets are a model franchise for the Senators as they move forward.

“One thing you want to develop is a community ownership mentality. Like, ‘that’s my team,'” York said.

“I think we were instrumental in getting a really good group of people that could help the person who was going to (become the new owner).”

The group of local owners is led by York and Ottawa businessman and consultant Ted Wagstaff. After two decades climbing the ladder at retailer Giant Tiger, York, as partner, led the sale of Farm Boy to Empire Company (Sobey’s) in 2018 for $800 million and retained a five per cent ownership stake in the grocery chain.

York joked that getting the local group together was “like herding cats” but Wagstaff knows the team in place is a solid one in terms of city and business experts. The ownership group had its first board meeting of the season Friday before the home opener Saturday.

The group also includes Kyle Braatz, the chief executive officer of Fullscript, an Ottawa-based online supplement dispensary. and are aged between 32 and 70. The rest of the ownership group — who are between the ages of 32 and 70 — will be unveiled in the coming weeks.

“This was a generational opportunity to re-shape this city,” Wagstaff said.

The Senators were put up for sale on Nov. 7, 2022 after Melnyk died on March 28 of that year.

The sale process took nearly a year to complete, with interest from groups that included rapper Snoop Dogg and Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds. York said his group met with Reynolds and he was “for real.” But the process was “frustrating for a lot of people.”

“I thought our group would enhance any winning bid,” York said. “What I said to our team was that Mike is the best owner, there is no doubt about it. Mike just played the long game and here we are.”

Cyril Leeder, whose return to the Senators front office was a day-one move by Andlauer after being let go by Melnyk in 2017, said through the buy-and-sell process there were a number of conversations with Andlauer about how he could round out his ownership group and do some good things in the community.

Ottawa is a unique market for a sports franchise with the federal government far and away the city’s biggest employer. Public servants are not allowed to accept or solicit any gifts or hospitality, nor can the government purchase season tickets or a suite at the arena. That leaves situations where the team may be gunning for a mid-size law firm to purchase a quarter of a suite for the season — unheard of in a market like Toronto.

But Leeder, the team’s president and chief executive officer, said the re-engagement of the city’s business, political, and charity communities has already begun in earnest. The dozen local owners are already working their connections to make ticket or suite purchases. CIBC was just announced as a key partner and made a $500,000 donation to the Senators Community Foundation.

“To have … ambassadors every weekend out there with their business networks and their social networks saying they’re happy to be an owner, happy to be part of this group, and here’s why you should support the team — that’s really where the value is,” Leeder said.

Others who are part of the new ownership group with local ties include the Malhotra family, owners of Ottawa homebuilder Claridge Homes (Bill Malhotra, the founder and CEO, has a net worth of $1.9 billion according to Forbes), and Melnyk’s daughters Anna and Olivia, who retained a 10 per cent share in the franchise. Olivia, 20, is a student at Queen’s University and is learning the business, according to York.

But regardless of who is involved — and the number — the goal is the same.

“The common thread is that it’s hockey and they all want to win a Stanley Cup,” Leeder says. “And wouldn’t it be great to tell your family and your family’s family and future generations that they won a Stanley Cup, and they brought it to Ottawa?”

Get our email newsletters

Get up-to-date news about the companies, people and issues that impact businesses in Ottawa and beyond.

By signing up you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe at any time.