The Hockey News - Money & Power

MONTREAL CANADIENS

GEOFF MOLSON

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WHEN GEOFF MOLSON appeared before the NHL board of governors for approval of his purchase of the Montreal Canadiens in 2009, the first question was about the price tag, which was slightly north of $500 million. They pointed out that Molson’s grandfathe­r and uncle sold the team for approximat­ely $10 million in 1971. Molson replied that $10 million represente­d the value of the team at the time, and the money he and brothers Andrew and Justin were putting up reflected the current value.

Despite the additional $490-or-so million increase, it’s been a good buy. The investment has more than doubled in value, with the most recent Forbes evaluation in December setting the team’s value at $1.3 billion, third-highest in the NHL behind the New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

They became the fourth group of Molsons to own the team, purchasing the club from George Gillett, an American businessma­n who paid $275 million to buy the team from Molson Breweries in 2001. The sale was part of Molson’s decision to divest itself of enterprise­s outside their core beer business.

The Molson brothers are direct descendant­s of John Molson, who establishe­d a brewery in the 18th century that is the basis of the family wealth, which is estimated at $1.75 billion. They purchased the team with help from a Quebec government investment fund, Bell, and a number of smaller investors including Michael Andlauer, a trucking company owner who also owns the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.

While Geoff Molson is chairman of Molson Coors, most of his energy is devoted to the Canadiens and Evenko, the entertainm­ent business that was part of the purchase from Gillett along with the Bell Centre. Evenko is among the largest promotion companies in the world by ticket sales.

Andrew Molson serves on the board of Molson Coors but he also heads Res Publica, the parent company for National Public Relations and Cohn and Wolfe. He has lent his expertise in the public relations business to help shape the Canadiens’ recent moves to be more transparen­t for fans and the media. Paul Wilson, the team’s new PR director, moved over from National Public Relations. Justin Molson is a landscape architect in Vermont and is largely a silent partner.

Geoff Molson took on a greater role with the team in 2011 when he replaced Pierre Boivin as team president. He turned to former GM Serge Savard for help in hiring a new GM in 2012, and Marc Bergevin was hired to fill that role. Molson relies on Bergevin to make all hockeyrela­ted decisions, but it’s safe to say Molson had to sign off on the controvers­ial decisions to trade P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty.

Molson was also involved in the decision to open the vault for goalie Carey Price, who was handed an eight-year, $84-million contract in 2017. While Bergevin has come under fire for some of his recent moves, Molson has expressed his confidence in Bergevin’s vision.

The 47-year-old Molson grew up in Montreal as the youngest of Eric Molson’s three sons. He is fluently bilingual and is fiercely proud of his family’s history in Quebec. Earlier in his tenure as owner of the team, he bristled at suggestion­s that he was part of an Anglo establishm­ent. He majored in French and history at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York and earned an MBA at Babson College in Boston. He worked at Coca-Cola and other companies in the U.S. before returning home to work as a sales rep for the family brewery.

Molson played recreation­al league hockey for many years, but the constraint­s of business and a growing family – he has three sons and a daughter –

forced him to quit. He is a frequent spectator at his children’s games, and he says he drives an Audi A7 because it can accommodat­e four hockey bags.

He is active in the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation, which, among other projects, builds outdoor artificial rinks in underserve­d communitie­s. The brothers are involved the Molson Foundation, which provides grants for hospitals and educationa­l institutio­ns, and Geoff is on the board of the St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation. – PAT HICKEY

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