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Gillett looks at selling Canadiens as part of financial reassessment

NHL.com @NHL

MONTREAL - The Montreal Canadiens may be for sale.

American George Gillett, who bought the NHL team and the Bell Centre in 2001, has retained financial firms in Canada and around the world to "optimize the value" of his holdings in sports, entertainment and other businesses.

That includes the possible sale of the Canadiens, although team president Pierre Boivin said the league's oldest franchise is no danger of going out of business.

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

Gillett owns 80.1 per cent of the Canadiens and the Bell Centre.

He also owns 50 per cent of English soccer giant Liverpool, and owns the Gillett Evernham NASCAR team, event promoter Gillett Entertainment Group, ski resorts, car dealerships and agricultural companies.

Reports say that BMO will study all financial avenues, including selling the club, financial restructuring or bringing in new investors.

Boivin told the newspaper that, due to tough global economic conditions, Gillett has four financial companies in Canada, the United States and Europe involved in sorting out his holdings.

Last November, BlackBerry maker Jim Balsillie said the Canadiens were for sale, but that was vehemently denied by Gillett at the time.

In December, Sports Business Journal reported that Gillett was looking to refinance a US$75-million loan he took out to guarantee his involvement in the purchase of Liverpool FC, which he co-owns with Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks.

Gillett bought the Canadiens and their arena, then called the Molson Centre, for $275 million with the help of $140 million in loans from two banks and the Quebec pension fund, the Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec.

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