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Labatt's sponsorship deal with NHL in doubt

Friday, 06.03.2011 / 11:31 PM / News

Associated Press

TORONTO (AP) - The most lucrative sponsorship deal in NHL history is in doubt after an Ontario judge ruled in favor of Labatt's claim that the league reneged on its agreement with the beer company.

The Ontario Superior Court ruled Friday in favor of Labatt's, which claimed it already had a deal in place with the NHL before the league committed to a $375-million sponsorship agreement with archrival Molson Coors.

It was called "a monster deal" by NHL chief operating officer John Collins when it was unveiled in February.

"We are pleased that Budweiser's sponsorship of the NHL will continue," Charlie Angelakos, Labatt's vice president of corporate affairs, said in a statement. "Budweiser and hockey are a natural fit. We look forward to a very productive relationship with the league through the 2013-14 season and are actively looking for opportunities on a team and grass-roots level to reinforce that connection."

Labatt took on its beer rival in February when it filed a notice of application to the Ontario Superior Court asking the court to toss out the NHL's new agreement with Coors.

Budweiser is owned by Anheuser-Busch, which is Labatt's corporate parent. Anheuser-Busch is also the sponsor for 22 of the 24 NHL teams currently based in the United States.

The news comes during hectic period for the NHL. Besides being in the midst of the Stanley Cup finals between Vancouver and Boston, the league is also dealing with the pending sale and relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg.

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